Matthew Bourne's Early Adventures, Sadler's Wells, London; Ballo della Regina/La Sylphide, Royal Opera House, London

Smile and wave, boys, smile and wave: that's the Bourne legacy

It's not just the humour of Matthew Bourne's early work that makes it so remarkable. It's also the gayness. Emerging from dance training in the late 1980s, Bourne set up his fledgling company in a world still sniggering behind its hand, pre-Section 28, at the notion of male love.

To judge by Matthew Bourne's Early Adventures, a collection of pieces revived to mark his company's 25th birthday, he was happy for his audiences to laugh too: at the discreet pick-up tactics of a pair of Brylcreemed, tweed-suited hotel guests in Town & Country; at the preening of a bunch of male underwear models in Spitfire; at a merman fluttering his tailfins at a trio of sailors in The Infernal Galop. But Bourne's jokes invite laughter of an open-hearted kind – easy and affectionate, confident and unthreatened.

What's just as interesting is how other Bourne hallmarks were in place long before the career breakthrough of Swan Lake. Here is the bent for parody, the referencing of old films and ballets, the sometimes startling economy of means. A highlight is a five-minute rendering of Brief Encounter, in which not one but two bashful couples meet in the railway refreshment room. To the familiar swell of Rachmaninov, they speed through their affair in duplicate, complete with an illicit trip to the flicks, from which they make an embarrassed early exit, edging along the imagined row of knees.

Spitfire, from 1988, is a double parody, merging the styling of 1950s men's underwear adverts with a historic pas de quatre made for four famous 19th-century ballerinas. With its clench-fisted, macho posings to Minkus's pompous ballet music, it should be hilarious. But there are only so many times a quizzically raised eyebrow can be funny, even when delivered by a man struggling to retain his dignity in single-flap-access briefs.

You may smile at Mr Bourne's early adventures, then, and marvel a little. But best save your cheers for the superior sophistication of his Play Without Words, next up for revival.

The Royal Ballet, meanwhile, continues its pick of the pops in Dame Monica Mason's final season. The current double bill has everything – speed, history, underwater swimming, kilts – in the Balanchine spritzer Ballo della Regina and Bournonville's love-in-a-glen La Sylphide . These two ballets, 140 years apart, show the company at the top of its best form, beaming in the face of extreme technical challenge (Ballo) and rendering a hoary relic as fresh as the dew.

'Early Adventures' tours until 30 Jun (www.new-adventures.net). Royal Ballet double bill (020-7304 4000): 7, 12 and 15 Jun

Critic's Choice

Drawing on English and global folk traditions and involving 50 local people plus professional artists and a live band, The Ballroom of Joys and Sorrows celebrates the rituals of life reinvented for our times. Directed and choreographed by Kate Flatt, it opens at Watford Palace Theatre (Mon to Wed) then tours to Greenwich Dance (Fri & Sat) and beyond.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam