Moulin Rouge: The Ballet | Touhill Performing Arts Center

dance moulin-rouge_smCanada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet does an excellent job of portraying emotion through dance and set interaction, and also through facial expressions.


dance moulin-rouge

I had never been the ballet as an adult. I have certainly never written a review for one. So stick with me, folks, and be gentle as I tell you about the time I took my grandma to see Moulin Rouge: The Ballet.

As the curtain rises, we meet an array of typical Parisian characters: lovers, painters, bakers, and Gypsy thieves. Enter Matthew (played by Tristan Dobrowny), our protagonist. He is an obvious newcomer, foreign to the big city, and quickly begins to interact with the people of Paris. He buys bread, attempts to talk to pretty girls, and immediately is robbed of all his belongings. The stage settings and music perfectly embody the essence of French culture, making it feel as though we are in a windowsill watching the activities take place. The costumes are fantastic and the way the characters interact with them is something I wouldn’t have expected from a ballet.

As poor Matthew is being robbed, he locks eyes with the woman he will grow to love, Natalie (Amanda Green). They dance a romantic tale of blossoming love and Matthew is not even concerned with his missing possessions. Not long after they fall in love, the owner of the Moulin Rouge walks through and is impressed with Natalie’s dancing. Zidler (Amar Dhaliwal) invites her back to the club, and she can’t resist the opportunity. She is a skilled dancer but must fight with La Goulue (Sarah Davey) to claim the spot as number one. Matthew is heartbroken and enlists the help of local painter, Toulouse (Dmitri Dovgoselets), to win her back, but not before they participate in a rather humorous painting duel with each other to decide whether or not they will remain friends.

The cast (Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet) does an excellent job of portraying emotion through dance and set interaction, and also through facial expressions. It was as if you could hear exactly what they were thinking without a single word being spoken. Pretending to be wealthy patrons of the Moulin Rouge, Matthew and Toulouse are able to enter the building and see Natalie perform. What followed was the liveliest, most entertaining rendition of the can-can I have ever seen. The whole theater was clapping and whistling as the dancers on stage twirled about in their multi-colored costumes, dancing flirtatiously and flashing their bums. I hope every performance gets a little rowdy at this point, because it made for that much more of an experience. After the dance and a few pitfalls, Toulouse and Matthew are finally able to get Natalie away from the slimy Zidler. The lovers finish the first act dancing passionately on a bridge, cloaked in white costumes and moonlight.

As the second act begins, we find Toulouse painting and drinking absinthe. The effects of the drink are personified as little green fairies dancing around him, filling him with artistic inspiration (which, speaking from experience, is a pretty accurate description of how absinthe works…). Meanwhile, Matthew and Natalie are preparing to meet at a café. Zidler, who is now obsessively possessive of Natalie, tries to seduce her before she goes. Toulouse comes to the rescue and she is able to meet with her beloved.

The stage settings and costumes have changed drastically from the first act and are far dingier and more depressing. When Zidler finds Natalie and Matthew, they are in a dark, poorly lit part of Paris and Matthew is forced to give her up to save their lives. Being heartbroken, he partakes of Toulouse’s absinthe and has a green fairy experience of his own. His, however, is tortured and confusing, the fairies overwhelming his senses until he passes out from drunken exhaustion.

Once again, the two friends hatch a plan to get Matthew into the Moulin Rouge to rescue the now-miserable Natalie. Dressed as a waiter, he enters and makes contact with her. Unfortunately, Zidler finds out quickly and pulls a gun on our hero. During the scattered hustle and bustle that ensues because of the weapon, a shot is fired. Matthew checks himself for wounds but finds none. That is when we see that Natalie is the one that has been shot in the heart. Her last dying moments are spent professing her love to Matthew and condemning Zidler for his selfish and murderous actions. Everyone is stunned; Toulouse and the other dancers stand back and watch, Matthew is distraught, and even Zidler seems to be full of remorse. As Natalie dies, Matthew holds her in his arms until her last breath.

I am thrilled that this was my first proper ballet experience, not only because the story was easy to follow (having already it known the premise helped greatly), but because it was so lively and not at all what I have always assumed ballet to be. It was neat watching a tragic tale of love and loss told through dance instead of song or spoken word. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet did a wonderful job and, who knows, maybe I’ll just keep going to the ballet. | Nicole Madden

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