DEREK JAY-SON came to this country as a Vietnamese orphan, barely a year old. He was adopted by a white family and grew up in a suburb of Milwaukee--not exactly a multicultural mecca. He never learned who his biological parents were, though he's had recurring nightmares that his natural mother was raped.

His history, and his lack of it, have been poured into a program of dances to be presented this weekend at Dance Place.

"Most of my choreography is based on emotions, touching a lot of stuff I haven't touched in my past," says the soft-spoken Jay-Son.

Jay-Son, who's pursuing a master's in dance at American University, has crafted four works for the program. "Country" is drawn from his violent dreams about his mother, assaulted and then forced to remain with her attacker. "White Noise" is inspired by what Jay-Son says is his dual capacity for calm and turbulence. "Lost Soul," a solo, is about Jay-Son's attempted suicide when he was in high school. "Diminishing the Line" is the only non-autobiographical work; it's a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., which the company performed last week at the Lincoln Theatre.

Heavy material, for the most part. Yet Jay-Son says that though his works deal with his own pain, their meaning is far more universal.

"I actually think that they'll touch a lot of subjects in people's lives," he says. "If people have their own meanings, I'll be happy."

The concert also features choreography by local artist Kristen Kelley and former Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company member Sean Curran, whom Jay-Son credits with spurring him on to create his own dances.

JAY-SON DANCE COMPANY -- Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at Dance Place, 3225 8th St. NE. Admission is $5-15. Call 202/269-1600.

CAPTION: Reggie Glass (far left), Derek Jay-Son, Ebony Day and Kristen Kelley of the Jay-Son Dance Company.