POST-WAR JAPAN has spawned some of the most daring and thought-provoking choreographers and performers at work today: tiny, indomitable Kei Takei, the otherworldly Sankai Juku troupe and an audacious couple known as Eiko and Koma.

The last, who make their Washington debut this weekend at the Dance Place, create more than just dances; each of their collaborations conjures up a bizarre, visually arresting world that haunts the spectator long after the event has ended. Eiko and Koma deal with big issues -- birth, death, sex, war -- and the images they employ are exquisitely precise and often shockingly direct.

"Grain," one of two works to be performed here, is one of the most visceral and affecting mating rites imaginable. The piece begins with the duo sprawled face down, naked, far apart from one another. Blackout (the first of many). In the darkness, one hears a rushing, plinking sound: grains of rice pouring out onto the floor. When the lights come up, the couple, now clothed, begin their strange, excruciatingly slow encounter.

There is much rolling, crouching, contortion, violent and gentle play against the floor. Rice falls from the sleeves of Eiko's kimono. She plays the seductress and, after Koma grabs her, the victim. Their most prolonged union is unabashedly sexual, but never just titillating. Theirs is a physicality so fierce and ardent that they become Everyman and Woman, thrashing through a landscape both primordial and contemporary.

EIKO AND KOMA -- Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m., The Dance Place, 2424 18th St. NW; $8 general admission, $7 for students and seniors. Call 462-1321.