Among dance forms, tap is the great equalizer. At Saturday evening's Tap Dance at Dance Place, adults and kids alike enjoyed the sights and sounds of this home-grown American genre. For the sold-out weekend of the sixth annual festival, four local companies--students, semiprofessionals and professionals--pounded and brushed, shuffled and time-stepped, beating up the bare wood floor for an appreciative crowd.

The program focused on rhythm and jazz tap with nothing too flashy or experimental this year, aside from a final fusion number by Toni Lombre's Taps & Co. that blended hip-hop and flamenco with traditional hoofing. Nancy Newell's TAPestry introduced her former student Artis Mooney, formerly with Manhattan Tap and the American Tap Dance Orchestra of New York, to Washington. "Point/Counterpoint," a collaboration between Newell and Mooney, showcased the standard tap skills of the semiprofessional troupe and Mooney's flashier, heartier solo work.

Step Aside gave tribute to jazz great Miles Davis and spotlighted the sophisticated and crystalline tap of guest choreographer and performer Artis Brienzo of the National Tap Ensemble. Brienzo again took center stage in TAPestry's "FourPlay" with a smooth and smart solo. Step Aside's resident dancemaker Byron Chen tried a duet to Led Zeppelin's "Black Mountain Side," but it didn't exactly jell. Chen's exaggerated facial tics and legs-and-arms akimbo style, however, consistently draw audience approval.

Taps & Co., made up of young teens and adults, impressed the crowd with "Paved Wood," an a cappella number featuring a noncompetitive solo for each of the 10 dancers. Fresh-faced Lisa Troshinsky reveled in the movement; Heidi Schultz with her alternative look--mohawk and braids--found syncopated rhythms; large, barrel-shaped Jerry Blasenstein tapped as lightly as a fluttering butterfly; while young Quiana Hampton concentrated on her sounds. Gangly Desmond Holeman was all arms, legs and feet, while Jameson Perry, billed as hip-hop consultant, let his loose joints take off. Lombre's peppery, flash-in-the-pan style was lightning-quick and hot.

The young dancers of Tappers With Attitude presented works by two guest choreographers. Robert Reed, of the St. Louis troupe Six Feet of Rhythm, gave the kids something to show off their urban cool looks with "Dream On Dreamer." And although technical problems marred Germaine Ingram's "Sit Down Servant," the 10 youngsters restarted the piece for the full dynamic effect of Imani's heartfelt vocals and the rhythmic interplay of hands, bodies and feet, an unusual blend of tapping and gospel. The tautness and restraint of dancing while sitting in chairs was the show-stopper.