THIS SEASON there will be a little bit less, and a little bit more, of the kind of dance we're used to seeing in WashingT ton. We will see less ballet, fewer imported companies, less schlock folk. There will be more avant-garde dance and performances in a variety of spaces as the city becomes less Kennedy Center-conscious. Native dance is taking a firmer, less provincial stance.


Performance activity, after a near lull at the end of summer, resumes casually later this month with a group based at the University of Maryland's College Park campus, Meriam Rosen's Improvisations Unlimited (Sept. 17-19). Dance Exchange, founded here 10 years ago, will celebrate that anniversary on the 19th with parodies of its greatest hits -- exactly the kind of irreverence one would expect from founder Liz Lerman, who dreamed of turning the Washington Monument into a Maypole and taught senior citizens to dance.

The company of Joyce Trisler, whose work has become "historical modern" due to her untimely death, will be the first event on the Kennedy Center's and Washington Performing Arts Society's joint Dance America series (Sept. 26-29). As the second event, Erick Hawkins follows Trisler into the Terrace Theater on Oct. 2-3. Hawkins has survived his early ballet training to become recognized as the vigorous granddaddy of avant-garde.


Washington Ballet's first set of the season (Oct. 7-10) includes a "Golden Gala" on the 9th. On this occasion, a new work by Choo San Goh to Samuel Barber's Piano Concerto will be danced on the Washington Ballet program by an American Ballet Theatre cast, including Mikhail Baryshnikov and Marianna Tcherkassky. There will also be a new ballet by John Meehan for Washington's Moscow winners Amanda McKerrow and Simon J. Dow. In the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, McKerrow will be partnered with ABT's Kevin McKenzie, who, like Tcherkassky, is a Washington Ballet graduate. The company is bidding for new audiences by pricing tickets as low as $1 for week-night performances, although Gala tickets cost $50.

One of the few European dance companies to appear here this season, Pauline de Groot's modern group from the Netherlands will be presented by Carla Perlo's Dance Place Oct. 10-11. A joint performance by Washington-based Rose Nolen and Linda Gattozzi follows Oct. 17-18.

"Ninth Street Crossings," a series emphasizing the collaborative process among avant-garde artists of various media, is to be collaboratively sponsored by a consortium of impresario organizations: WPAS, District Curators, Washington Project, Performing Arts Services and the Smithsonian. Dance in the series includes "Stall," a work created in collaboration with musician John Driscoll by soft-focus choreographer Maida Withers, scheduled for Oct. 20; on Oct. 29-30, hard-edge choreographer Lucinda Childs, of the revolutionary Judson Church generation, will show "Dance," created with composer Philip Glass and graphic artist Sol DeWitt. Childs' performance is to be part of her group's three-week work-and-show residency in D.C.


A month for ethnic dance. The first of the Smithsonian's high-quality Far East imports, a group from Okinawa, will be here on Nov. 5. Washington-based Spanish dancer Raquel Pena, who has appeared on several past City Dance programs, will perform at Dance Place Nov. 21. Dance Place will also present the decidedly nonethnic Nancy Galleota and Tish Carter Nov. 14-15.


The month begins with Paul Taylor and Merce Cunningham -- two of the giants of modern dance. Taylor -- of the American realist tradition -- brings his latest hit, "Arden Court," which achieves a new courtliness and virtuosity. Washington will also see a preview of his "La Cre'ation du Monde" to Milhaud's music.

Cunningham, who hasn't performed here in a decade, will be in the Smithsonian's American Dance Experience series, which is also focusing on collaborations. There will be video retrospectives of Cunningham's work on Dec. 5 and a showing of his "film-dances," created with filmmaker Charles Atlas, on Dec. 7.

American Ballet Theatre is to be here again in winter, but only in winter this year (Dec. 9-Jan. 3). It may treat us to two whole weeks of "Nutcracker"; or it might devote some of that time to a little more repertorial variety. Promised is a new Kenneth MacMillan ballet for Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov; rumored are Ashton's "Rhapsody," created for Baryshnikov's guest appearances with Britain's Royal Ballet; Roland Petit's "Carmen"; Petipa's "Jardin Animee"; and other looks at Goh's new piece.

Cathy Paine, who some think is one of her generation's most promising, is scheduled for Dance Place on Dec. 12-13 and 19-20. Mary-Averett Seelye's unique movement constructions on word texts are scheduled throughout the fall. And, at Christmas, the plenitude of "Nutcracker" will be furnished, not only by ABT, but also Washington Ballet, Dance For Washington, Virginia Ballet, and undoubtedly others.