Performing Arts
© Mike Keenan

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet's Moulin Rouge

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet - Moulin Rouge

Sitting in the warm comfort of Cineplex Odeon Niagara Square's Theatre while the winds howl outside amidst snow drifts, I'm magically transported to the city of light, Paris, thanks to the remarkably gifted dancers of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet who present the movie version of their ballet, Moulin Rouge.

For me, the Royal Winnipeg often conjures up images of former luminous prima ballerina Evelyn Hart, who seemed like a dancing flame - bright, intense and feather-like all at the same moment. Hart danced many a memorable pas de deux with other fine principal artists such as the National's Rex Harrington.

Amanda Green, photo by Wikimedia Commons However, today for 130 minutes, I watch The Royal Winnipeg Ballet's colourful dance production captured in a full-length HD film with new stars as they combine classical ballet "en pointe" with high-kick choreography, a stirring French soundtrack and a tragic story of love and ultimate disaster for two young paramours, Matthew ( Christian Clark) and Nathalie ( Amanda Green) at the legendary nightclub, the Moulin Rouge® owned by the evil Zidler ( Amar Dhaliwal), a lecherous villain who carries a gun.

Besides colourful costumes and sets and superb choreography, there is addictive music, popular pieces such as, La Vie En Rose, Under Paris Skies, Cortege, Danse Slave, Final Apotheose, Galop, Golliwogg's Cake Walk, Divertissement and, of course, the rousing Can-can.

Choreographer and former RWB dancer Jorden Morris originally created the work for the Manitoba Company's 70th anniversary in 2009. All 26 members are involved. There are big group dances, kick lines and a tender romance between the young painter Matthew and the dancer Natalie, just hired by the Moulin Rouge.

The Moulin Rouge has been the subject of numerous books, paintings, musicals, and movies, including the 2001 Baz Luhrmann film starring Nicole Kidman. Morris wanted this production to reflect 1819 Paris, and he constructed the story based upon historical characters such as Zidler, actual owner of the Moulin Rouge and famed painter, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, who occupies a key role and challenges Matthew as a painter. To receive permission from the Moulin Rouge in Paris, Morris submitted the choreography, storyboard and character structure for approval.

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet , Moulin Rouge   Moulin Rouge,  company dancer, photo by Bruce Monk   Moulin Rouge,  company dancer, photo by Bruce Monk   Moulin Rouge,  company dancer, photo by Bruce Monk    Moulin Rouge,  company dancer, photo by Bruce Monk

The film is directed well by brothers Pierre & François Lamoureux of Cinemusica. There is always a danger in film to get the right shot, and they adeptly combine close ups, low and high shots along with the occasional Hitchcock overhead omniscient view to achieve stunning results. The gorgeous and colorful costumes are by Anne Armit and Shannon Lovelace. Andrew Beck designed the Parisian set, and what could be more romantic than to finish act one with a pas de deux to Claude Debussy's enchanting "Claire de Lune" under moonlight with a lit Eiffel Tower glowing in the background? Pierre Lavoie created the lighting, an effective mix of bright and dark as befits the Moulin's intrigue and the sultry tango that kick-starts act two. In fact, the tango scene is one of the best. It and Amar Dhaliwal almost steal the show, he with his exquisite grand jetés and nasty twists and turns.

As usual with the Front Row series, at intermission we get interviews with the principals that certainly enrich our enjoyment but cut down on our snack and toilet time.

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet is one of the world's premier dance companies, Canada's oldest ballet company and the longest continuously operating ballet company in North America. It was granted its royal title in 1953, the first granted under the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. A notable distinction for the Royal is that it is the first to present a theatrical or dance production of the works of Leonard Cohen.

Check your Odeon listings and keep your eyes open for future Front Row dance productions!

  • Read The Story Synopsis

    Moulin Rouge® - The Ballet - Royal Winnipeg Ballet

    40 Years of One Night Stands: The Story of Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet

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