KEI TAKEI has become a leading avant-garde choreographer in New York in the 16 years since she left Tokyo to study and create dances in New York. ''Light,'' a dance begun in 1969 and her signature work, is stark ritual set on stage with a photographer's sense of spatial composition and sequence and a child's sense of immediate identification with ordinary objects. Wednesday, Miss Takei and her Moving Earth Company presented the latest episodes of ''Light'' at the Performing Garage, and the accent seemed to be on animal behavior and humor.
Her new ''The Daikon Field,'' a solo from ''Light, Part 16 (Vegetable Fields),'' had Miss Takei crouching into a huddle, chattering with her torso, limbs and voice, and finally stalking like a hunter unsure whether his prey might be a possession of the gods, to an unobtrusive sound score adapted by Lazuro Brezer from Buddhist chant. All this was in response to white radishes tossed from the wings - the first a carved one that came apart as Miss Takei probed it, then many papier-mache ones. Dressed in blousy white pants and shirt and carrying a walking stick, Miss Takei could have been a peasant having a dream about a wildly productive crop. The radishes, designed by Tetsu Maeda, provided a welcome note of casual wit in an evening of relentlessly earnest performance.
Communal ritual is celebrated in ''Light, Part 15 (The Second Windfield),'' choreographed in 1980, and ''Light, Part 17 (Dreamcatcher's Diary),'' which was commissioned by the American Dance Festival and received its premiere there in June.
In the first, set to a voice and sound score by John Wilson and a Japanese folk song, the company creeps and bolts in small broken processionals across a white cloth studded, like their white coveralls, with splotches of tan. In the dancers' case, the splotches were strips of Velcro to which mysterious lumps - designed by Richmond Johnstone and the company and resembling stuffed leafy branches and small many-legged animals -could adhere when dancers collided or rubbed against one another.
In ''Light, Part 17'' the dancers battled one another for the bargain-basement clothes that tumbled out of the white cloth sacks they had brought in and deposited at the back of the stage, as Mr. Wilson sang and breathed his way through a score by Norma Reynolds Dalby. Half relay race, half comic look at dressing up and down, the dance also had the performers, ranged in a circle, make music from the steel bowls and simple percussion instruments enclosed in black sacks at the back.
That latter sequence had some of the stark simplicity of the company's circling dance with stones in ''Light, Part 12 (The Stonefield).'' For this observer, it is in such moments of simplicity and pictorial force that Miss Takei is at her best. Her work has impressed many as having the quality of an ''anthropological dig,'' as one critic put it, but it sometimes seems a chill, exclusive lunar tribe that serves as subject for her dances.