I love the Dash, find the hud to be cool, hates the launcher and loathes the panel! So is there a way that I can run the Dash alone and use Gnome or Cinnamon or whatever as a window manager?
If you don't like the unity launcher, you can use GNOME 3. It might be what you're looking for.
Just go to the Software Center, and find the GNOME Desktop Environment. After you download it, log out. At the log in screen click the little Ubuntu circle logo to chose gnome, then enter password to log in.
You can pretty much do the same for the other desktop environments out there. Or you can use other tools like Ubuntu Tweak to change the appearance of your desktop.