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Posted on Thu. Feb. 27, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

'Moulin Rouge: The Ballet' a love story told through dance

Performance a hybrid of classical ballet, Broadway.

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What: The Royal Winnipeg Ballet's touring production, “Moulin Rouge: The Ballet,” uses music and dance to tell a story of love and ambition at the famous Paris cabaret.

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Embassy Theatre, 121 W. Jefferson Blvd.

Cost: Tickets are $35, $45, $55 and $65. They are available at the Embassy box office, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays and before the show, at Ticketmaster outlets, www.ticketmaster.com and 1-800-745-3000.

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While the Moulin Rouge is renowned in France as a historical cabaret, it is also the namesake for a decades-old romance story that has been adapted into movies and musicals. Now the Royal Winnipeg Ballet from Canada will come to Fort Wayne's Embassy Theatre to give audiences a chance to see Moulin Rouge portrayed as a ballet at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The ballet's choreographer, Jorden Morris, is a retired principal dancer who has studied choreography. For 15 years, he has found success in adapting stories such as “The Three Musketeers” and “Peter Pan” into ballets. “Moulin Rouge: The Ballet” is the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's biggest box office success to date, according to the company's website, www.rwb.org.

The plot follows Matthew, a young English painter who lives in Paris at the turn of the 20th century, as he falls in love with the cabaret's most talented star, Nathalie. A dangerous love triangle forms when Zidler, the owner of the legendary dance cabaret, becomes possessive of Nathalie and attempts to prevent her from seeing Matthew.

Morris initially found inspiration for writing the ballet while working in Paris and immersing himself in not just the art and the music, but also the society.

“The Moulin Rouge cabaret is all about dance, so it's not a stretch to envision dance as being the medium to telling the story,” Morris said.

According to Morris, adapting Moulin Rouge to a ballet is similar to producing a movie or theatrical production where it starts with a storyboard and characters, which will later be developed into a script and soundtrack. The process of compiling music for the soundtrack alone usually takes one to two years.

However, the biggest challenge came from getting the approval from the Moulin Rouge in Paris because it is strict with its label for productions outside of Paris. “Moulin Rouge: The Ballet” is the only dance production that has an affiliation with the Moulin Rouge cabaret.

“They wanted to see storyboards. They wanted to know what French composers I was using. They wanted to hear the soundtrack, look at the script and make sure they agreed with the characters I was using,” Morris said.

The resulting work, with artistic director Andre Lewis, was respected and admired by the Moulin Rouge. The cabaret could have denied permission at any time.

The ballet premiered in 2009 and has been touring ever since. Throughout its run, the ballet has made technical changes to improve the story and flesh out characters. The roles are also altered when a new cast is introduced every year.

Because of Morris' extensive theater background, the ballet is designed to be a hybrid of a Broadway show and classical ballet. Morris attributes the accessibility of this crossover to the ballet's success.

Next season, the ballet will perform in China, which will be a first for one of Morris' own productions.

What is especially inspiring to Morris is who he sees viewing the performances.

“You see a lot more young people and couples going to 'Moulin Rouge: The Ballet,' which I think is great,” he said, “because that's getting younger people into the theater for a live performance rather than watching Netflix at home.”


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