In scientific circles, Pilobolus is a genus of phototropic fungi. In artistic circles, Pilobolus is the name of a very imaginative dance troupe.

Now celebrating its 16th anniversary, this rowdy, gymnastically oriented ensemble began as a collaborative effort among several male Dartmouth students and their female dance instructors. Today, five veteran Pilobolites serve as directors, and leave the performing to younger dancers.

"Earlier in our career, the company tended to be more athletic and abstract," explains Michael Tracy, one of that elder quintet. "Lately, there's been a trend toward more theatrical pieces, pieces with story lines. Some of the work springs from literary sources -- Henry James' 'The Golden Bowl,' for example." The much-acclaimed "Land's Edge" -- which Washingtonians will see performed on the company's one-night-only program Thursday at the Warner Theatre -- is a mysterious, disturbing study of the varying effects a strange woman has on the residents of a seaside village.

Longtime fans shouldn't worry, however; Pilobolus has not entirely abandoned its oozing sculptural style. "Day Two," also on the program, is a tribal rite filled with risky, playful maneuvers.

Tracy himself is experiencing a real change: He just danced in his last performance. "It's a new phase, a different view," he muses. "It's disappointing not to take part in the movement you invent, but it's also easier to really see the pieces when you're watching from the outside."

Call 783-0360 for information and ticket prices.