Created in 1969 by Lyon Opera Director Louis Erlo, the present Lyon Opera Ballet was established in 1984 when Mr. Erlo invited Françoise Adret to create a new ballet company committed to contemporary choreographers. When Ms. Adret retired in December 1991, Yorgos Loukos, who had been the company's associate artistic director since 1984, was appointed artistic director and Maguy Marin was appointed resident choreographer, a position which she held from 1992 to 1994.
In 1987, the company made its United States debut with a two-week season at City Center in New York, where it presented Maguy Marin's Cendrillon, a magical transformation of the Cinderella story, which became an instant success. The company returned to New York later that spring to present the ballet for an additional two weeks. France's most well-traveled ballet troupe, the company has subsequently made twenty cross-country tours of the United States.
Committed to showcasing contemporary choreography, Lyon Opera Ballet has, to date, acquired and commissioned ballets by a wide range of international dance makers including William Forsythe, Jirí Kylían, Nils Christe, Nacho Duato, Mathilde Monnier and Jean-François Duroure, Louis Falco, Mats Ek, Christopher Bruce, Ohad Naharin, and Angelin Preljocaj, among others. The company's repertoire features works by many American choreographers as well, including Trisha Brown, Ralph Lemon, Karole Armitage, Lucinda Childs, Susan Marshall, Stephen Petronio, and Bill T. Jones, who served as resident choreographer of Lyon Opera Ballet from 1994-1997.
In 1995, Lyon Opera Ballet was named Opéra National de Lyon, elevating the Lyon company to the same level as the 328-year-old Opéra National de Paris, the only other national opera house in France. That same year, the company performed as part of the United Nation's 50th Anniversary Celebration in San Francisco. One year later, Lyon Opera Ballet was invited to open the 1996 first Lincoln Center Festival in New York, with Maguy Marin's Coppélia. In 1999, it presented the American premiere of Mats Ek's production of Carmen and traveled to Moscow, where it was the first modern ballet troupe to perform at the historic Bolshoi Theater.
The past few years have been busy with new productions including Trisha Brown's Astral Converted, Jirí Kylían's Un Ballo, Mats Ek's Fluke and a new work by John Jasperse. France's most well-traveled ballet troupe, the company has made twenty tours of the United States, most recently performing in New York at New York City Center's Fall for Dance Festival in 2007.