In December, 38 local choreographers leaped at the chance to display their talent at a Prince George's County Park & Planning Commission preliminary dance competition. On Saturday, Feb. 15, at 8 p.m., the seven finalists will perform in the Third Annual Choreographer's Showcase at the Prince George's Publick Playhouse in Hyattsville. "It takes a tremendous effort to see single choreographers' work," says Meriam Rosen, a dance professor at the University of Maryland and contributor to the showcase. "There are a lot of people doing interesting work you don't get to see."

The six additional participants range from well-known Washington talent to fresh composers of dance. The pieces to be presented by Rosen, Maria Castello, Richard Dunston, Alvin Mayes, Ron Paul, Elly Porter, Cynthia Thompson and Kate Trammell will include some with live accompaniment and original scores. The modern dance presentations will encompass a variety of solos, duets and company performances, several danced by the choreographers themselves.

The aim of the showcase, according to Carolyn Tate, dance specialist with the Park & Planning Commission, is to "encourage creative dance and artists in the area to produce -- and it's worked!" Participation in the contest has more than doubled in three years, and "the range and quality improve each year," says Tate.

* The Maryland State Arts Council has contributed $1,200 in prize money for the top three choreographers. But, as Rosen insists, "just getting a piece on the program is to win." For ticket information call 277-1710.