THE DANCE FESTIVAL known as Washington Dance Directions is becoming something of a summertime tradition. Now in its third year, this two-weekend tribute to local choreographers and dancers provides audiences an extensive sampling of contemporary works.

This year, the festival consists of nine premieres -- three on each program -- selected by a panel of area judges. Many of the artists represented work independently of the more well-known companies. Beth Burkhardt, for example, one of this city's most gifted costume designers and accomplished dancers, has also devised some provocative pieces over the past fifteen or so years -- many fanciful, others ritualistic and severe. Her newest work should be no exception.

Lucinda Weaver Hall is a solo performer who revels in the subtle shifts and shadings that a highly controlled dancer can bring to light. And Ron Paul and Dianne Hunt, collectively known as Upright Vertebrates, are interested not only in finding compelling movement qualities but in exploring various social conventions and deviations. Other participants in this year's proceedings include Akqua Femi Akouate, Michelle Ava's Lightmoves collaborative, Contemporary Dancers of Alexandria, Alcine Wiltz, Jan Taylor Dance Theatre with Alvin Mayez, and Momentum Dance Theatre. WASHINGTON DANCE DIRECTIONS '86 -- Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. (plus next weekend), Marvin Center Theatre, 21st and H NW. Tickets $8, $6 for students/seniors. 676-6577.