The Montreal-based Eddy Toussaint Dance Company, which made its American debut at the University of Maryland's Tawes Theatre last night, is a troupe of 15 exceptionally attractive, sleek, versatile and vivacious French-Canadians. Their single major artistic drawback is one shared by many contemporary dance ensembles -- the dancers far outclass the choreographic material they work with. Still, the verve and polish of the dancing, together with the obvious company rapport, make them a pleasure to watch.

The 8-year-old troupe, classically trained but stylistically electric, is directed by its founder and chief choreographer, Haitain-born Eddy Toussaint.

Easily the most intriguing item of the evening was Toussaint's own "Alexis Le Trotteur," a dramatic piece based on a factually derived Quebec tale of a man who imagined he was a horse. Unfortunately, "Alexis" is infested with some of the same psychosexual mumbo-jumbo as "Equus," and with equally dubious results. The first scene, in which Alexis has a seizure in the midst of a country dance, is extremely promising in its roughneck rusticity. But the sequel, in which the hero envisions himself "saved" by a girl who flirted with him at the dance, is a banal pas de deux that simply can't carry the emotional weight of the story. The brisk exposition, a nicely serviceable score by Dominique Tremblay, and wonderfully vivid portrayals of the tormented Alexis by Louis Robitaille and the girl by Dominique Giraldeau almost erase this disappointment.

Two other Toussaint offerings, both neatly constructed but forgetable -- "Turbulence," a study in plastic eroticism, and "A Simple Moment," a maudlin duet -- showed off the dancers beautifully, especially Robitaille and Annick Bissonnette in the latter. Oscar Araiz's "Preludes," with its inscrutable neo-Gothic characters and shenanigans, looked like a spoof on the piano-ballet genre, but no one laughed. It, too, was spendidly danced.