Around 4:30 on Friday afternoons, seven youths stretch, twist, jump, sweat and complain. They whine about sore muscles and exhaustion. They beg for compassion and mercy.

Seated close by with her hand near the play button of a cassette tape player, Dawn Givens listens respectfully but unmoved."It's up to you," she says with a shrug. "We're not going to leave until you get it right."

Over and over, the roles are played out until the dancers finally give their instructor a flawless routine that lives up to their name, Something Special.

For 31/2 years, under the unrelenting yet nurturing instruction of Givens, Something Special has been dancing without charge at nursing homes, talent shows and anywhere else folks in the Bluegrass are willing to watch.

The group consists of six girls - Tamika Lee, 10; Phillina Black, 12; Willena Beattie, 13; Delmar Black, 13; Tracey Walker, 13; Rebecca Davis, 14 - and one male, Tony Jackson, 18.

The draw for the members to the regimented rehearsals is an overwhelming desire to dance, and to dance well.

"I would like to make a career of it," says Delmar, one of the three original members still dancing.

The dancers unanimously agree that Givens is a taskmaster.

"She works you real hard so she can get you where you want to go," Tracey says, "and that's the top."

Givens, 29, moved to Lexington about four years ago. Before long, she discovered there was no outlet for her freestyle dance except at nightspots where the patrons were not appreciative of her hard work.

While attending a rehearsal for the Little Mr. and Miss Black Lexington Pageant, Givens noticed three girls who were using dance as their talent. She began working with them, and word of her abilities got around. Soon she was teaching dance to all comers.

"At first the parents thought I was too hard on them," Givens says. "We had a meeting, and I let them know that my situation was not going to change, and I asked them to stay out of it, to let the girls decide if they wanted to continue. Now the parents are supportive."

The group hopes one day to dance before an audience of millions on the syndicated television program "Star Search."

The dream is not unrealistic. A similar group Givens taught in Chicago several years ago did just that, winning twice before being eliminated.