From the name, you would think that the Lyon Opera Ballet is a traditional French dance company. But last Tuesday night, the troupe demonstrated why they are billed as contemporary dance. Departing from everything classical, the Lyon Opera Ballet, under the direction of Yorgos Loukos, showcased a myriad of progressive elements exploring the furthest reaches of dance.

However, don’t consider Lyon Opera Ballet to be any old contemporary group. In fact, it may be more appropriately described as a constant experiment, sometimes succeeding and other times failing. Praised for its masterful reworking of classics such as Carmen and Coppelia and its innovative original Tricodex, the Campbell Hall performance somewhat disappointed with its trio of works: Steptext, Fantasie and Grosse Fugue. The three pieces failed to link together in any way and left the audience with no sense of fluidity, save for the continuous use of classical music.

Set to the dance-based “Violin Sonata in D Minor” by Johann Sebastian Bach, William Forsythe’s Steptext proved to be the most stimulating piece. Somewhat austere like other works by Forsythe, Steptext echoed the syncopation and alternately fast and slow tempo of the music through its static to quick movements, but without letting the choreography be determined by Bach’s score. The dancers, classically trained and proficient in modern technique, committed themselves to the movements so that the dance was an extension of simple steps, pushing the body to greater limits.

This evolution fell short in the second work, Fantasie, by German choreographer Sasha Waltz. The most recent work of the trio, created in February 2006, lacked the athleticism and suspense of Steptext, and turned out to be a bit boring as the dancers crisscrossed the stage with arms widespread like children pretending to be airplanes. The most worthwhile element would have to be the comical murder scenes within the piece, which were its most entertaining part.

Dressed in blood red, the female quartet in Maguy Marin’sGrosse Fugue set out to replicate Ludwig van Beethoven’s quartet of the same name in physical movement. Marin’s description of the choreography and music “giving birth to a state of irrationality” holds true, but her explanations of enthusiasm, desperation and torrent don’t quite make the cut. The women danced the steps perfectly, but did not portray to the audience a sense of emotion or climax. The flow of movement worked well together but the piece somehow lacked the critical feelings that inspired the choreography.

It would be a mistake to discount this company on Tuesday’s performance alone. The dancers and choreographers have so much more talent and forward momentum in the future of dance than was expressed. Hopefully the next performance will be a true display of their abilities.