When a ballet company is brand new, one tends to give it the benefit of many doubts. There are so many start-up factors to consider -- choosing repertory, trying to mold dancers trained by many schools into a single style, and, above all, financial woes -- that it takes at least a season for a troupe to settle in.

The Harbor City Ballet, a Baltimore-based company that gave three performances at Prince George's Publick Playhouse this weekend, is in its second season now, but seems to have progressed little beyond its first. The problem can be stated simply: Although its dancers are conscientious and very well rehearsed, their technical abilities are rudimentary, and this severely limits what repertory they can perform.

Friday night's program consisted of four works by company Artistic Director Phillip Carman. The dances -- a lyrical piano piece, a virtuoso pas de deux, a dramatic trio and a unitard-clad work danced to various popular composers -- sound more contrasted than they looked. In all but one, the steps were mostly bourre'es and genteel turns.

The virtuoso piece, which bore a striking resemblance to Balanchine's "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux," although it was called "Rhapsody Pas de Deux" in the program and the choreography was credited to Carman, was beyond the technical abilities of the dancers. In the other works, the company got to show its main strengths -- a sense of style and an awareness of upper body movement, which are in short supply among American dancers today.

Carman's chief contribution seems to be that of a coach, and Harbor City Ballet is, as yet, of more value to its dancers than to its audience.