CITYDANCE ENSEMBLE calls its upcoming performance the "Originals Series," and it doesn't just mean new choreography. The local company has commissioned two compositions from area musicians for the program -- a practice it hopes will become routine.

Collaborating with composers is "a much more exciting and dynamic process" than using recorded music, says CityDance director Paul Emerson. "It gives us a new chance to cross-pollinate."

Emerson hooked up with pianist Matt Jones and his band Bottomland to create "Peregrine," a dance that centers on flight. "Listening to the music was incredibly inspiring," Emerson says. "We'd go down a certain path with some steps and they'd say, `Let's try these rhythms with it.'" What emerged was a score marked by transitions -- shifting rhythms, voices drifting in and out, saxophones melting into percussion.

"It pushed us outside our normal box, which is great," says Jones of the collaborative process.

One of the new works provided a musical outlet for the dancers as well. Tara Pierson Dunning's "Life's Longing" also uses a new score, composed by Bottomland member Clifton Brockington and CityDance member Francesca Jandasek. Another dancer, Jodi Staub, sings on both this soundtrack and the one for "Peregrine."

There's another reason for turning to original music. With costs for the rights to recorded music often unaffordably high, commissioning works makes financial sense as well as artistic sense -- especially for a company willing to take creative risks.

"It's tougher to write music and choreograph as you go," says Emerson, "but it's a lot more fun."

CITYDANCE ENSEMBLE -- Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 4 p.m. at Dance Place, 3225 Eighth St. NE. $15. Call 202/269-1600.