With 34 D.C.-based troupes on the lineup, the fifth annual VelocityDC Dance Festival is delivering more pre-professional and nontraditional acts than ever before. So timing is everything.

Each main-stage event of the three-day festival at the Shakespeare Theatre will feature acts — ballet, hip-hop, traditional folk dance and more — from a dozen or so D.C. companies, with tap- and hand-dancing interludes.

The acts are doled out in easy-to-swallow, 10-minute portions “so newcomers won’t be overwhelmed,” says Samantha Pollack, programming director for the Washington Performing Arts Society, which puts on the festival with Dance Metro DC, the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and Shakespeare Theatre Company.

Each of the four performance slates scheduled for Thursday through Saturday starts with a “RAMP!” program, which presents works in progress along with discussions about the choreographers’ intent.

“A lot of times you have dance newbies see a performance and say, ‘Well I don’t get it,’ ” Pollack says. “These discussions explain why the dancers are doing it that way.”

Three to WATCH!!!

D.C. dance companies are so excited about their acts that they garnish their troupe names with exclamation marks or all caps. Here are three troupes that earn the punctuation:

Step Afrika! (pictured)
Three of the troupe’s soloists will showcase “all the exciting elements of traditional and contemporary stepping,” says C. Brian Williams, Step Afrika!’s executive director. The result is a cross between African folk dance, tap and modern, with a hip-hop edge, with the dancers turning their bodies into drums through footsteps, claps and body slaps. Main stage: Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.

Airborne! DC
“A Newton’s Cradle desk toy was my first inspiration,” Ann Behrends, above, says of the work she created for Airborne! In this aerialist take on the Executive Ball Clicker, five dancers hang from ropes, toes barely scraping the stage. Under black light, their white-clad bodies become glowing orbs. Rather than knocking into each other, the aerialists move in tandem as they tumble, stretch and change shapes. Main stage: Thu. and Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.

The characters in DEVIATED THEATRE’s latest dance-based story look like a cross between synchronized swimmers and creatures from the deep sea. “Their movement is both familiar and strange … an echo of the industrial world against the backdrop of our digital age,” says Kimmie Dobbs Chan, the company’s choreographer and co-founder. RAMP! series: Thu. and Fri., 6:30 p.m.

Shakespeare Theatre’s Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW; through Sat., all shows $18; 202-547-1122. (Gallery Place)