If the Oakland Ballet Company had brought us some of the more distinctive items of its regular repertory, such as Eugene Loring's "Sisters," John Clifford's "Fantasies," or its own version of "Rite of Spring" to the Stravinsky score, the troupe's appearance at Lisner Auditorium last night (first in a run of four performances) might have made some sense. This is potentially interesting ballet material that cannot be seen elsewhere, and it would have shown off the dancers in contrasting idioms.

But what a company of this level -- not substantially different from several Washington-area troupes that could have just as well used the exposure -- is doing here with its "Hansel and Gretel," a mediocre 90-minute children's confection, is hard to explain.

For the record, the ballet, choreographed by company director Ronn Guidi to a pastiche score including portions of the Humperdinck opera music, has the homemade look of many community productions.

The story is set forth in a few brief mime passages; most of the piece consists of short, rudimentary divertissements and pas de deux by birds, angels, fireflies, candy canes and the like. The company of some two dozen seems to have some attractive dancers, and the dancing last night was secure and neatly disciplined, if far from polished stylistically.

On the whole, the event must be put down to a rare error of judgment by the sponsoring Washington Performing Arts Society, which ought to be striving to maintain the standards of its admirable modern dance series of the past, instead of watering them down.