Kei Takei's Moving Earth is a modern dance group that melds the choreographer/dancer's experiences in both Japanese and American cultures. Performances use objects from nature -- rocks, tree roots and the like -- to illustrate the rituals of daily life.

"Her choreography has its source in life -- all of her performances work towards the completion of her life's work, 'Light,' " explains Deborah Riley of the Dance Place. "The movement techniques, arrangements of the body that result from her progression toward that goal -- that's what makes her dance so beautiful to see."

Takei's troupe will be the first of three dance companies featured in the "Japan-America Dance Project," a month-long festival starting this week at the Dance Place.

Moving Earth will give free sunset performances at the Washington Monument at 6 on Thursday and Friday and on Oct. 8 and 9, and at the Washington Harbour on Oct. 8 at 9 p.m. There will also be performances at Dance Place, 3225 Eighth St. NE, on Saturday and on Oct. 4, 10 and 11, Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. and Sundays at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $11 ($7.50 for students, seniors and professional artists).

Other troupes in the festival are Yoshiko Chuma and the School of Hard Knocks, Oct. 15-18, and Eiko & Koma (a husband-and-wife dance duo), Oct. 24 and 25. "Each group consists of Japanese-born Americans," says Riley. "But the dances they've created out of their dual heritage are completely different from one another."

For more information call 269-1600.