IN THIS fast-paced fickle society, we're always on the lookout for new and provocative cultural heros. Every season, dozens of fly-by-night celebs dazzle us and then disappear, but the appearance of a genuine artist is a rare event indeed.

Choreographer/dancer Mark Morris is one of those precious creatures, possessed of a startlingly inventive mind and a riveting stage presence.

Most dancegoers first caught sight of his performing skills during his stints with both the Hannah Kahn Dance Company and Laura Dean Dancers and Musicians (he has also danced with the Lar Lubovitch Dance Co., the Eliot Feld Ballet and the Koleda Balkan Dance Ensemble). In each of these very different troupes, Morris stood out, an alluringly androgynous fellow with a bold and voluptuous style.

For the past five years he has proved himself to be a gifted choreographer as well. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Morris has not rejected his art form's history; he is as much a celebrant of early modern dance as he is of post-modern movement and music.

He has created a dance about championship wrestling, another on the death of Socrates, and has even done his own version of a classical Indian dance. He has a daffy sense of humor and a keen sense of rhythm. Add to that the fact that he has assembled some of the most glorious modern dancers -- Teri Weksler, Keith Sabado, Ruth Davidson, Guillermo Resto, among others -- and you can see why the Mark Morris Dance Group is making artistic waves.

MARK MORRIS DANCE GROUP -- Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. Admission $13.50. 393-4433.