Moulin Rouge- RWB Style - Right en Pointe

Moulin Rouge 1

By Natasha Slinko

‘Moulin Rouge - The Ballet’ is in town & they are doing it Cancan Style and right en pointe.  In celebration of their 70th Anniversary The Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB) is doing a central Canadian tour.  I had the opportunity to sit down with Artist Director Andre Lewis, who said they were looking for something very special for the 70th Anniversary of the RWB.  He wanted to honour the 1939 founders of the RWB, Gweneth Lloyd and Betty Farrally, who believed in creating versatility, technical excellence and captivating style and the RWB continues their vision of thinking outside the box - to create artistic tradition with a twist. Their goal is to reach a wider audience to draw them into the world of art, of dance, ballet and they have succeeded as they are the longest continuously operating ballet company in North America.

So for this special 70th Anniversary Levis approached Jordan Morris, Choreographer to submit a series of ideas for the production, one of which was Moulin Rouge. 


I then had the privilege and the delight of sitting down with Jordan Morris, who said one of the challenges with Moulin Rouge is that rights to the name, the concept and production are owned by Paris, and if not approved they issue a cease and desist order.  Morris wanted the production to truly reflect the era of 1819 in Paris, France and built the show upon true historical characters such as Zidler, owner of the Moulin Rouge and Toulousse, the absinthe drinking brilliant painter-artist.  To receive approval they had to submit the choreography, the storyboard and the character structure for approval.  It was quite a celebration  when they received the very rare approval.  The only other approval was given for the film right for the award winning Moulin Rouge movie starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. 


Moulin Rouge Cast Ballet Class on stage at the Sony Centre of the Performing Arts - Photo Credit Natasha SlinkoMoulin Rouge Cast Ballet Class on stage at the Sony Centre of the Performing Arts - Photo Credit Natasha SlinkoMorris also shared that when the Moulin Rouge ballet was first launched, officials and representatives flew in from Paris, with the understanding that if there was something that they didn`t agree with, it would have to be changed, to the extreme situation that they could even pull the full production off the stage.  Talk about pressure.  Thankfully on opening it was smiles all around and joyful jigs were danced, and now this incredible production is here in Toronto, Ontario. We were also kindly invited to attend one of their ballet classes right on the stage of the Sony Centre with the set up for Moulin Rouge.  As with all dancers, there is a commitment and work ethic to their art form, and that takes many hours of practice, working through the pain to reach that excellence. The RWB showed us that their hard work has paid off.

Opening night  on February 10th at the Sony Centre of the Performing Arts in Toronto was powerful, colourful, vibrant and yet also emotionally raw and touchingly moving all in the same breath.  Its all about Romance  - a reminder for the absolute power and passion of love at first sight and the sweet tenderness and sacredness of true love and what lengths the human heart and spirit will go to protect those that we love the most.  

Nathalie, principle dancer RWB Vanessa Lawson and Matthew, guest principle dancer RWB Gael Lambiotte fall in love in the streets of Paris set early 1800s and the chemistry and the emotion flew right off the stage right into our hearts, and even more importantly, into our souls.  A reflection of true love, a reminder of what is possible, shone in this incredible production that brought many to tears, as we were overwhelmed by emotion of both the beauty and the heartache.

So many breathtaking dance scenes set behind the stark but stunning scene of Paris up in lights and up on the bridge of the Eiffel Tower, Nathalie and Matthew dance a romantic pas de deux Claire de Lune that left us breathless, again, and feeling the beauty of true love.

Jorden Morris, Choreographer Extrodinaire of Moulin Rouge the Ballet - Photo Credit Natasha SlinkoJorden Morris, Choreographer Extrodinaire of Moulin Rouge the Ballet - Photo Credit Natasha SlinkoIn speaking with Vanessa Lawson she was thrilled to have the opportunity to perform Moulin Rouge and the pas de deux is one of her favorite scenes for the beautiful choreography and the connection that Nathalie and Matthew portray, but on a more personal note, Claire de Lune is the song that her father use to play for her every night as she went to bed until she was 6 years old.  That truly is a lovely memory.

The scene where Nathalie tries to protect Matthew from Zidler was a difficult piece to watch for we see thet absolute love and complete fear of the loss of her beloved.  In protecting her beloved, Nathalie agrees to go with Zidler with the understanding Matthew not be harmed in any way.  Matthew`s performance of losing his love, was absolutely heart wrenching - and we watched helplessly as the emotion truly overwhelmed us with his pain and suffering.  Brilliant choreography and performance.

Zidler, performed by Eric Nipp was riveting and truly menacing and brought out emotions of distaste as he obsessively tries to buy, own, control and claim Nathalie.    But the heart wants what the heart wants, and love cannot be bought or claimed, it can only be given freely and shared.   Nathalie`s performance as she dances with Matthew is lightness of being whereas when she is forced to dance with Zidler, she is stiff, removed, repulsed and frightened, and you feel the absolute heartaches that rather than living in the light, she will have to live in that darkness for the rest of her life.

When Zidler realized he couldn`t truly have Nathalie, he set out to destroy Matthew and draws his pistol and fires, but rather than shooting her beloved,  instead he fatally shoots the one person he wanted to obtain - a true reflection that obsession is not love, its about control and trying to claim something that can never be owned.

Warm up - Moulin Rouge Cast - Ballet Class on stage at the Sony Centre of the Performing Arts - Photo Credit Natasha SlinkoWarm up - Moulin Rouge Cast - Ballet Class on stage at the Sony Centre of the Performing Arts - Photo Credit Natasha SlinkoToulousse, performed by Yosuke Mino had a lightness of being - the joy and angst of the creative artist- painter, but there was also such a generosity of spirit that would take in a young painter and  helps to hide the lovers from Zidler at every turn.  His caring and protection of the both Nathalie and Matthew was so touching - always a helping hand, a decoy or someone that would outfit a young artist in gentleman`s clothes so that the young man could see his true love.

The scenery took us back to the era of 1819 in its greyness, in its light, in is simple beauty.  Costume designers Anne Armit and Shannon Lovelace filled the stage with colour and light and brilliance for performances in the Moulin Rouge and yet on the streets of Paris, the grim reality of the poverty that existed at that time.

 The tango was full of passion and fire filled with such vibrancy.  The Cancan en pointe was definitely a sight to be seen - with all the colour and flounce of the costuming, the precision and balance all the while doing it with courtesan style of being both sexy, sultry and yet cute.  The Green Fairies probably made many an audience member wish they could have indulged in Absinthe at that moment.

It was a stunning, moving ballet.  It is a reminder that true love can be so beautiful that it can truly take your breath away.  Thank you Jorden Morris and Andre Lewis and to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet company, cast and crew for making us so absolutely breathless. Please visit Toronto again!

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