The world-renowned Lyon Opera Ballet is a classical company with a focus on cutting-edge choreographers–Maguy Marin, Angelin Preljocaj, Bill T. Jones, Ralph Lemon–and a stable of top-quality dancers. Headed since 1988 by Yorgos Loukos, the 35-year-old French troupe makes its Chicago debut this weekend with a program of three works. At first William Forsythe’s 1991 Second Detail seems austere, even soulless, but Thom Willems’s purposely mechanistic music begins to sound funny, then gets wilder and wilder, perfectly suiting the escalating excitement of the dancing. Forsythe loves to play with line, often distorting it to humorous effect: women stand twisting one leg back and forth from the hip like a bunch of washing-machine agitators, then a single man goes to each in turn and whirls her around. His work can be a bit dry and artificial, but this piece is juiced up by its allusions to Caribbean and other folk dance and by a dancer in a flowing dress, hair loose, who flings herself headlong about the stage. Jiri Kylian’s 1976 Symphony of Psalms, set to Stravinsky’s 1930 cantata of the same name, is a brilliant showcase for the choreographer’s musicality (also evident in Hubbard Street’s performances of other Kylian works). Performed by eight women and eight men, often in a single line or two lines of four couples, it has a cascading effect that underscores the music’s reverence. The moving conclusion is about as quiet and self-effacing as dance gets. The third work, Russell Maliphant’s twelvetwentyone, premiered just a month ago in Lyon. Fri-Sat 10/15-10/16, 8 PM, Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph, 312-334-7777, $18-$48. Note: Loukos will give a talk at 7 PM each night, and a member of the company will conduct a master class Sat 10/16, 1:30 PM, Lou Conte Dance Studio, 1147 W. Jackson, $15. Call 312-344-8300 for reservations.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michel Cavalca/KR Images Presse.