Seattle's dance card is filling up fast for the first months of the new decade. Not only are local Terpsichoreans trotting out new dance pieces in Busby Berkleyan proportions, but dance outfits in British Columbia, Portland and San Francisco - top art stops for Northwest travelers - promise great things.
This weekend, for example, the January edition of On the Boards' popular, anything-goes series, ``12 Minutes Max'' - that's all the time each act gets - devotes its informal showcase almost exclusively to dance arts. ``Pathways,'' the Afro-Brazilian dance piece by Elisio Pitta and Company, traces a river journey to the sea; ``Shake the Rainbow Sword'' by Gao Li Ting blends tai chi and contemporary forms, while Patt Dobrowolski's piece explores the theatricality of back flips.
Show times for these OTB shows at Washington Hall Performance Gallery, 153 14th Ave., are 8 p.m. today and tomorrow ($4; 325-7901).
Working Space/New Dance City features all manner of local choreographers trying out in-progress works, Jan. 10-14 and 17-21 at New City Theater, 1634 11th Ave. ($4; 323-6800). An extra week of dance shows Jan. 24-28 features pieces by Tasha Cook and Karn JunkinsSmith ($5).
Modern-dance classics, as well as faculty-created dances, are showcased at 8 p.m. Jan. 12 and 13 in the University of Washington's Meany Theater ($4-$7; 543-4880).
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Dance Notation Bureau, two works by Gertrud Bodenweiser (``The Demon Machine,'' 1923) and by Helen Tamiris (``Negro Spirituals,'' 1928-42) have been reconstructed from Labanotaion, a dance-depicting shorthand.
Also on the UW bill is a piece by new faculty members William Whitener and Michael Geiger, a work of mime to the music of Paul Hindemith, and ``Dance in Memory of Five Children'' by 1989 Student Choreography Award-winner Ken Thompson.
Seattle-trained William Whitener, an alumnus of the Joffrey and the Twyla Tharp companies, is one of four finalists contributing ballets for the Boston Ballet's International Choreography Competition this month. Whitener's ballet, developed in part on Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Deborah Hadley, premieres Feb. 8-11 and 15-18 at Boston's Wang Center.
Ethnic dance joins ballet and modern on the local dance roster this month. Ballet Folklorico Ollin, a local ensemble, presents a Mexican Folk Dance show spanning ancient to modern times at 7 p.m. Jan. 16 at Seattle Art Museum in Volunteer Park ($2-$4 at the door).
And Allegro! dance festival presents Radost Folk Ensemble, specializing in Balkan and Appalachian dance and music, at 8 p.m. Jan. 18-21 in the Broadway Performance Hall ($9.50-$11.50; 32-DANCE). The show's highlight may be the premiere of ``Hungarian Dances,'' choreographed by Timar Sandor, artistic director of the famous Hungarian State Folk Ensemble from Budapest.
In keeping with Radost's ability to conjure distant lands, colorfully costumed ushers will direct viewers to their seats. Chris Bennion's photo exhibit will show East European and company history. And, at 7 p.m. each evening before the show, the lobby will sell East European delicacies, including baklava, dolmathes and Turkish coffee.
Seattle's lively, crowd-pleasing Spectrum Dance Theater marks its eighth year in business, with concerts at 8 p.m. Jan. 19-20 and 26-27 at Intiman Playhouse, Seattle Center ($12.50; 325-4161). The programs are distinguished this time around by choreography by Merce Cunningham Studio-teacher Brenda Daniels, Seattle's uncompromisingly innovative Llory Wilson, and Spectrum artistic director Dale A. Merrill.
Daniels, a New York native of extraordinary technique and wit, contributes ``Three Arias,'' a trio of dances performed to three famous tenor arias. Brenda created the dance in collaboration with her father, an opera singer.
Rounding out January's dance attractions is the East Coast's Momix Dance Company, at 8 p.m. Jan. 25-27 in Meany Theatre ($16-$19). The Pilobolus-clone sextet mixes dance, mime and gymnastics for a super-airborne, physical show using TV sets and stilts as props.
Moving into February, Pacific Northwest Ballet premieres a pas de deux by Kent Stowell to Franz Lizst's ``Orpheus,'' Feb. 7-10 and 15 in the Opera House ($9-$44; 628-0888). Also on the program are George Balanchine's ``Harlequinade Pas de Deux'' (Drigo music) and ``Stravinsky Violin Concerto,'' as well as Pat Graney's ``Light Years'' (Arvo Part music).
And New York's theatrically inspired Bebe Miller and Company, said to be leading the dance world into the 1990s, performs at 8 p.m. Feb. 8-11 at the Washington Hall Performance Gallery (325-7901).
To the south, Oregon Ballet Theatre, directed by James Canfield and Dennis Spaight, offers its first program of the new year at 8 p.m. Jan. 26 and 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 27 in Portland's Civic Auditorium ($8-$37; 503-227-6867). The shows launch the troupe's Columbia Artists tour of Western states, and feature works by Spaight, by Canfield and by Bruce Marks - the lovely ``Lark Ascending.''
San Francisco Ballet opens its 1990 season with a gala at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 27 in SF's War Memorial Opera House ($10-$52; 415-762-BASS). The company performs Balanchine's ``Serenade,'' two world premieres by SFB artistic director Helgi Tomasson, and Lisa de Ribere's ``Harvest Moon.''
And to the north, the exciting Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal returns to the Vancouver, B.C. Queen Elizabeth Theatre for shows Feb. 9-10 ($12-$24; 604-280-3311). Scheduled are works by Mauricio Wainrot, by Brian MacDonald, and by Robert North.