Creating a special piece for the anniversary celebration of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet led choreographer Jorden Morris to create a show that incorporated a love story, and was appealing to a diverse audience. In addition, it needed to be colorful and energetic.
“The idea came from talking with the director here, who wanted a new, full-length ballet for the 70th anniversary season,” explained Morris in a recent telephone interview. “I asked him what sort of parameters he wanted. ... We talked about a lot of different ideas and topics, and as I was thinking about something very colorful and vibrant, I was sort of thinking about Paris and the Moulin Rouge. When he said he wanted a love story to be incorporated, I thought that would work centered around the Moulin Rouge, as well. That’s how we came down to choosing that story line.”
And “Moulin Rouge — The Ballet” was born.
The production premiered in 2009 at Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Its score is made up of well-known French music as well as music by composers such as Offenbach, Ravel, Strauss, Debussy and Piazzolla. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet was the first company in the world to be granted permission by the Moulin Rouge cabaret to use its name.
The story of “Moulin Rouge — The Ballet” focuses on Nathalie and Matthew, who fall in love at first sight. Nathalie is approached by Zidler, the owner of the Moulin Rouge, to perform at his club. She leaves, and after several hurdles, wins Zidler’s approval.
Matthew meets Toulouse-Lautrec one day when sketching. Toulouse criticizes Matthew, and they engage in a “paint-off.” They take their paintings to the Moulin Rouge, and Toulouse invites Matthew to the cabaret.
Nathalie sees Matthew again at the Moulin Rouge, and their spark is revived. Zidler now is obsessed with Nathalie and tries to thwart the budding romance.
Morris said the ballet “is really about the journey of Nathalie and Matthew.”
“There is Nathalie’s journey getting into the Moulin Rouge, and how that unfolds with the other girls and Zidler himself,” he explained. “And there’s the relationship with Matthew through that process. We see how Matthew’s (journey) as his artistic career unfolds.”
The ballet has an entertaining story about a great time and place in history, Morris noted.
“I think if anybody has any sort of desire to see Paris in the late 1800s, this is a great production to sort of go back in time and experience Paris and what it was at that time.”
IF YOU GO
Moulin Rouge — The Ballet
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Norton Center for the Arts, Centre College
Cost: $28, $41, $55
Tickets: (877) 448-7469