Lyon Opera Ballet explores new realms

Wednesday, May 1, 2002

The Lyon Opera Ballet made a return trip Tuesday night to the Lied Center. It marked the second visit in two years, but the two performances differed considerably, demonstrating the artistic range of the dance company.

Last season, in addition to a classic ballet and a modern dance, Lyon Opera Ballet brought a saucy, cigar-smoking "Carmen" to life � in a fashion that concertgoers still talk about.

This year, the fare � all set to the music of Maurice Ravel � was even more daring. The trio of dances provided a mix of provocative subject matter, elegant lines and muscular strength.

The 1 1/2-hour concert opened with "Un Ballo," a work featuring seven pairs of dancers dressed in black costumes that harkened back to the days of the minuet. The piece, like the costumes, seamlessly blended the classic and the modern. Under a bank of overhead lights, flowing lines and pointed toes gave way to angled ankles and quirky, quick steps. A touch of whimsy added to the work's enjoyment.

"Gaspard" was the most controversial offering of the night, and its content nearly overshadowed the dancers' movements. The work seemed to explore man's struggle � perhaps inability � to break free of behaviors that disrespect and harm women. The male dancers were menacing; the piece was at times disturbing.

The concert ended on a lighter note with "Bol�ro," an entertaining, Latin-inspired piece that used lights, shadows, projected photographs of architecture in Lyon, France, and the movement of silhouetted dancers to create kaleidoscope-like images on a scrim. Again, humor came into play as headless bodies moved in unison.

Lyon Opera Ballet never disappoints. It is thought-provoking at its least, flawlessly intelligent at its best.