Dance lovers take notice: you've got a new resource to tap. Balletap U.S.A. is making its premiere in Washington this month at Ford's Theater. The dance company was cofounded in April by Maurice Hines, who starred in "The Cotton Club," and Mercedes Ellington, granddaughter of Duke Ellington.

Hines says he started Balletap "really out of necessity. I wanted to choreograph, and I couldn't choreograph on Broadway because of the racism."

Hines and Ellington, with guest artist Carmen de Lavallade and a company of 16 balletappers, perform the original dances. "The show is mostly tap," says Larisa Wanserski, director of public relations for Ford's Theater. "It takes a modern approach to ballet, and all the music is very upbeat."

The music is a very important feature of the show, explains Hines. The dancers "didn't know you could tap to contemporary music. The audiences go wild, and young kids can relate to it."

Balletap U.S.A. first performed in Philadelphia, and has toured around the country. It will travel to Japan and Europe later this year. "I am trying to show the greatness of tap dancing," Hines says. "Most people feel it is just making a lot of noise. There is no margin for error with tap, because you can not only see but hear mistakes."

The program consists of seven works, including a 35-minute "showpiece" entitled "Pretty and the Wolf," which is performed by the entire company and features music by Duke Ellington. The show runs from Jan. 8 to Jan. 20.