Several hundred people took to the streets of Washington yesterday on a mission that had nothing to do with either pressing national issues or world conflicts.

"Fun," was organizer Henry Posner's rationale for the 12th annual Dancin' in the Street celebration at Dupont Circle.

For six hours, on a blocked-off stretch of 19th Street NW between Q St. and the circle, throbbing strains of live rock and roll and the tangy smoke of grilled cajun food fought to break through the thick August cloud cover that enveloped the city.

It was billed as a kick-up-your-heels, neighborhood block party. And dance they did -- men with women, women with women, men with men and people all by themselves -- as if to ward off the summer doldrums.

"This is a great day for dancing," said Evey Cherow of Bethesda, "but you've got to be willing to work up a sweat." Then she wiped her brow, drew a breath and returned to the street.

Her partner, Lamar Carlson, took off his blue long-sleeve shirt and boogied in his undershirt -- a Commerce Department procurement officer cutting loose.

Tom Koerner and Tina Conner jitterbugged in saddle shoes ordered specially from Florida.

"I can't play golf, I can't play football, I can't play tennis, I'm too short for basketball and I'm not a very good lover -- so I dance," said Koerner, an Arlington lawyer, who was slightly winded, his grey T-shirt drenched in sweat.

Revelers washed down bayou turkey breast, cajunburgers and watermelon slices with iced tea, lemonade, margaritas and draft beer at the event sponsored by Kramer Books & Afterwords Cafe that has become a Dupont Circle tradition.

"This is just a way for us to thank the neighborhood," said Mark Kutcher, bar manager of Afterwords.

Posner, an owner of the cafe, said the event started 12 years ago as a roller skating block party, but when "too many people fell down," he switched to dancing.

Yesterday, Michael Covert, age 3, was having such a good time dancing that his feet barely touched the ground as he bounced in the arms of Tess Roy of Takoma Park.

Hundreds watched from the sidelines, sipping drinks and swaying to the music. Visitors staying in the Dupont Plaza Hotel, which overlooks 19th Street peered out the window to watch the hubub.

Jackie Mildner of Rosslyn, who stood on the sidewalk, watched the lively scene with a tinge of envy.

"I wish I could dance," she said.