DANCE

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Cirque Baroque: Leith Links, Edinburgh (0131-477 7200) to 31 Aug; Three Mills Island, Bromley-by-Bow, London E3 (0171-494 5491) 5-21 Sept; Chorlton Park, Manchester (0161- 236 7110/832 1111) 24 Sept-5 Oct

As a child, the chief attraction of the circus was the promise of candy floss (if you were a nice child) or the chance of being an eyewitness to a tragic accident (if you were a very nasty one). Clowns piling in and out of small cars as a prelude to splattering each other with whitewash was never quite as funny as everyone said it would be, and elephants standing on their hind legs seemed pointlessly cruel even in those unenlightened days. The Chinese visits injected new life into the business with their widely publicised ability to balance huge vases on their foreheads. The Moscow State Circus, apart from the inexplicably adored Oleg Popov who beguiled audiences with his ability to burst small paper bags, was pretty much standard fare. The acrobats beefed things up a little with remarkable feats of strength. I'll never forget sitting there in the Dominion Tottenham Court Road as a large man in tights picked up his lovely assistant by her heel and, without further ado, raise her clean above his head until they formed a muscular human pillar. Remarkable, but only so interesting.

Then came Archaos. Rude, French and apparently rather dangerous, they got in touch with the inner child in all of us and promptly held a chainsaw to its throat. Christain Taguet, a former member of the troupe that evolved into Archaos is continuing this tradition of French circus theatre with Cirque Baroque, currently performing their Candides as part of the Edinburgh Festival. Voltaire's story of uncrushable optimism in the face of serial catastrophe provides a handy narrative structure on which to hang the multiple acrobatic talents of the troupe. It's mime, dance, pretty pictures and ugly ideas. Billy Smart it ain't.

And what of dance? There isn't any, really. The major companies are either going into rehearsal for new work or taking a well-earned rest. Cable TV owners can stave off the withdrawal symptoms this Tuesday when the Performance channel shows the Kirov's happy-ending Swan Lake starring the steely but inexpressive starlet Yulia Makhalina and the mesmerising brilliance of the Maryinsky corps de ballet. And no need to fight for a gin and tonic in the interval. From 9pm, Tuesday.

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