Dance Les Grands Ballets Canadiens Sadler's Wells

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The Independent Culture
There is nothing grand about Les Grands Ballets Canadiens despite its 39-year heritage. This month the company makes its first British visit in 10 years with a programme of promising-looking choreography. Unfortunately, they don't have the technique to do more than sketch the works they have acquired. Tuesday night's programme opened, unexpectedly, with Mark Morris's Quincunx (normally one would save the hottest choreography till last). This was a potentially interesting piece that created playful geometry for nine dancers to taped Donizetti. Unfortunately they were unable to do it justice. Maybe they would be better in a less classical idiom? A vain hope.

Itzik Galili's Double Time was two chaps in shirtsleeves in what the programme described as "a brutally frank portrait of the relationship between two men". Brutal it wasn't and, frankly, if Mr Galili thinks that two men lying on the floor in unison is a relationship he should get out more.

It got worse. Kevin O'Day's Principia was a study for four couples in brown trousers whose self-conscious mix of jazzy shrugs and pointe work reminded us that O'Day danced with Twyla Tharp: not for long enough, unfortunately. By now it was clear that the artists lacked the equipment to do justice to good work or to make mediocre work bearable.

The evening reached a more than welcome conclusion with Hans van Manen's Black Cake, created to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Nederlands Dans Theater. No doubt it was charming in 1989 when danced by a fine company enjoying its birthday party; in 1996 in the hands of a second-rate outfit it was merely an embarrassment. Various Peggy Spencer-ish ensembles finally dissolve when a waiter's entrance with a tray of champagne glasses leads ineluctably to a drunk scene of cringe-making awfulness. The audience, grateful for anything to lighten the gloom, became a little hysterical at this point. The evening ended when a dancer approached the footlights and raised his glass to the dress circle. We deserved it.

To Saturday (0171-713 6000)