MANY young, black dance companies performing today use the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre as a role model.

The dancers tend to be well versed in jazz, modern, ethnic and social dance, and imbue all that they do with a very particular kind of urgency and verve. And the dances -- by a grab bag of choreographers, many of them black -- range from lightweight athletic displays to ultraserious statements about cultural heritage.

Philadenco, also called the Philadelphia Dance Company, fits that profile to a T. Founded in 1970 by Joan Myers Brown in response to that city's need for a minority/student performance ensemble, the troupe has blossomed into one of Philadelphia's many artistic attributes.

When last seen here three years ago, the dancers shone brightly, but the repertoire left something to be desired. For their performances this weekend at the Publick Playhouse (a splendid theater in which to experience dance), they've cooked up a much more intriguing bill of fare. The six pieces on the program showcase a variety of artistic styles and musical choices. Anybody familiar with the Ailey company's work will recognize the names Billy Wilson, Milton Myers, Talley Beatty and Elisa Monte, all of whom are represented here. The first three are among the brightest black choreographers working today; the latter, a former member of Martha Graham's company, now directs her own troupe and has concocted a series of highly sensual and hypnotic dances.

Wilson's "I Told Jesus" is a solo set to the song stylings of Roberta Flack; Myers' "The Element in Which it Takes Place" sets 11 dancers moving to scores by Philip Glass and Meredith Monk; Beatty's "A Rag, a Bone and a Hank of Hair" features the sound of Earth, Wind and Fire and Prince. Monte's "Dreamtime," for female soloist and a six-member corps, is set to the ultracontemporary aural musings of David Van Tieghem. Rounding out the program will be two group works: Tobin Green's "Bound to be Free" and Robert Weiss' "At the First Stroke."


Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8. Publick Playhouse, 5445 Landover Road, Hyattsville. Tickets $12, $8 to $10 for students and seniors. 277-1710.