MANASSAS is getting closer to the big city all the time. Where there used to be just a battlefield, now there's a Borders, a Barnes and Noble and a new amphitheater -- with a growing dance company on its stage.

Led by Artistic Director Amy Wolfe, the Manassas Dance Company is made up of students and professional guest artists who put on a few performances a year in local high schools. This weekend, however, marks a notable exception -- the troupe performs a program of new choreography, accompanied in most cases by live music, at the brand-new Mary Louise Jackson Amphitheater on the Manassas campus of Northern Virginia Community College. (Since the seats have not yet been installed, patrons can either sit on the lawn or bring their own chairs.)

The new theater, says Wolfe, is key to her ongoing plan of building her company. "I want to transition to a professional ballet company, instead of dancers hired on a per-performance basis," says Wolfe. "I want to have dancers on a weekly contract, with live musicians when possible."

It's not surprising that Wolfe has such high expectations in her new position; she has longtime ties to the company. She danced with the ensemble for eight years, then two years ago became associate director under founder Leslee Gearhart. Gearhart resigned last spring.

Wolfe has aired her desire for a professional company before, striving each year to pay season-long contracts to the dancers and to raise more money. Though she hasn't yet fulfilled these goals, she remains doggedly determined to get there. And this Sunday's performance, she says, is another step in that direction. Eighteen dancers are slated to perform on the upcoming program. While many of them are local ballet students, among the guest performers are Philip Deal, who was a silver medalist at the Paris International Dance Competition last year; Dimitry Tuboltsev, formerly of Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet, and Oscar Hawkins, who dances with the Cleveland/San Jose Ballet. The program includes works by local choreographer Lucy Bowen McCauley, Hawkins and Wolfe, among others.

Wolfe says she'll stick to the group's somewhat eclectic identity -- mixing classical and contemporary works -- and she says she hopes to incorporate other forms of art such as paintings and projections into her company's performances.

"That way it's more of a living, breathing form of art -- there's a connection between these arts that's much more exciting," she says. "Once you have that environment, then the magic begins to happen."

All of which is another boon to the spurt of growth in her home town, says Wolfe. "Manassas was considered out in the country and now it really is changing a lot," she says. "It's really flourishing."

MANASSAS DANCE COMPANY -- Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at the Mary Louise Jackson Amphitheater on the NOVA campus, 6901 Sudley Rd. (Rain date: Sept. 18 at 7:30.) Call 703/368-6621.