New 'Moulin Rouge' ballet perfect love story for season
By Mark Kanny
Published: Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Location is said to be the key to success in the retail business. Timing is the comparable exaggeration for the performing arts.
Variety is essential in arts programming, too. With many old favorites to choose from, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's artistic director Terrence Orr decided on a new romance, “Moulin Rouge,” for this year's Valentine's Day. The ballet takes place in Paris and was created by Jorden Morris, whose version of “Peter Pan” the company presented in 2011.
“Moulin Rouge,” which will be presented Thursday to Sunday at the Benedum Center, Downtown, was the result of a commission for a full-length ballet for the 70th anniversary season in 2009 of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in Canada. The company's director and executive director wanted something very colorful and on a big scale.
“They wanted a romantic love story with lots of different styles of dance, audiences accessible and friendly — all those things they think are so easy to do,” Morris says.
The choreographer, who'd been working in Paris a bit, began wondering how to make a love story set in Paris that could be told through dance. He went to the Moulin Rouge and realized it would be a perfect setting because it's been a dance institution for such a long time.
The Moulin Rouge opened in 1889, the same year the Eiffel Tower was constructed. The vibrant and quickly changing shows, ample champagne and beautiful women dancing the can-can were a big success.
As Morris began storyboarding his ideas, he chose music, as he had done with “Peter Pan,” by composers from the period being depicted. In the case of “Moulin Rouge” that's 1885 to '89 and the first world's fair. There are 27 compositions by 17 composers, including “Claire de lune” and “La vie en rose.”
The production features 150 colorful costumes created by Anne Armit at Royal Winnipeg Ballet and freelance designer Shannon Lovelace based on fashions of the time and the paintings of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
“Everything had to be vetted through the people at the Moulin Rouge, so it became a team effort,” Morris says. “They were very happy to see a story told with more classical dance and historically correct.”
Morris decided to have prologue introducing the leading female role, Nathalie, after he learned from historical research that “a lot of young beautiful girls working as launderettes or selling flowers on the street would be auditioned by club owners.”
In the first act, Nathalie wins an audition to dance at Moulin Rouge and meets Matthew, a struggling, young artist who's come to Paris to be influenced by the belle epoch.
The third major character is the club owner, Zidler, whose interest in Nathalie ignites a love triangle in the second act.
Alexandra Kochis, who will dance Nathalie, says Morris' language is “very much based on classical-ballet vocabulary. He's created a lot of hybrid movement with can-can type dance. I think it's maybe demonstrative of that period in time — full of excitement and joie de vivre.”
But if Nathalie, in the first act, is a dancer's technical tour de force, Kochis says the second act is more about interior acting challenges.
“In a way, she feels she could have put the Moulin Rouge on a pedestal, thought it would lift her to a glamorous life,” Kochis says. “When she gets there, it's full of competition and lust — not what she was expecting. She thought she made it on dance, and it turns out people want her. She's torn between two elements in her life. It's a challenge I love. It's awesome.”
No historically aware story about Moulin Rouge could leave out the famous people who adored the club. Morris decided to include painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as an actor to play off Matthew.
Joseph Parr says it's the most challenging role he's undertaken.
“For everything else I've done, there was some part of me to draw on,” says Parr, who is a healthy 5 feet 9½ inches tall. Parr has done his research on the role and knows his character was “a huge alcoholic,” 5 feet tall with deformed bones and a great painter.
“This guy, I don't relate to at all,” he says. “I have to be a completely different person, which is a fun challenge, artistically.”
“Moulin Rouge” has been seen by more than 100,000 people since its premiere in October 2009. Extra performances have had to be added to every run or tour. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre added a Saturday matinee.
“What I've really enjoyed about this as a creator, director, is to have a creation that's been living for five years,” Morris says. “I get to massage and update characters, and play around with scenes. Every time I have a new cast, it's like giving birth again. Everywhere I go, having something that's a success, that's had this life span, is really wonderful for a creator.”
Mark Kanny is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- UPMC doctor killed trying to help at 50-vehicle pileup
- Expert: KO doesn’t mean ‘worst’ concussion for Pens’ Orpik
- Penguins’ Neal suspended five games for Marchand hit
- Kovacevic: Enough of these Steelers already
- Steelers WR Brown says ‘I thought I had it clean’ after wild, near-miss finish
- Pittsburgh diocese extends peace offering to Catholics, non-Catholics
- Stove topples, injures Somerset County toddler
- Woman accused of assault over rap music to attend anger management classes
- Penguins players are not out looking for fights
- Pa. transportation bill may breathe life into Mon-Fayette Expressway project
- CMU names Kovacevic department head at engineering school