Moulin Rouge®: The Ballet

  • Choreographer: Jorden Morris
  • Music: Various Composers
  • Costumes: Anne Armit and Shannon Lovelace
  • Lighting: Pierre Lavoie
  • Set Design: Andrew Beck
  • World Premiere: Royal Winnipeg Ballet, October 21, 2009
  • PBT Performance Date: February 14-17, 2013;

Program Notes


The most famous cabaret in history, the Moulin Rouge has been the subject of many books, paintings, movies and musicals–birthplace of the Quadrille, the Cancan and home to a cast of outrageous dancers known as the Diamond Dogs. When the Moulin Rouge opened, Paris was a city of exquisite contradiction; art was both elevated and abused, pomp and excess ran hand in hand with poverty and hardship, and the heady elixir of personal freedom bred lifestlyes that were often reckless and addictive. Drawn to Paris by the city’s passion, a flame fueled by the hearts of lovers and the souls of poets, Matthew nad Nathalie tempt the fates as they seek love and destiny in the famed cabaret…The Moulin Rouge.

Act One

As Paris awakes for another day, Matthew enters and is immediately robbed of his belongings by Gypsies. Nathalie is waiting for the other launderettes to arrive when she sees Matthew for the first time. As the couple dance together, the spark of love ignites. Zidler, the owner of the Moulin Rouge enters and everyone knows that he is the man who can take you from the streets to the spotlight, so the women dance for him, hoping to attract his attention. Nathalie pretends to be not too interested but she is exactly what Zidler is looking for. He offers her a position at the Moulin Rouge! Nathalie says goodbye to her friends and leaves with Zidler, but gives Matthew her red scarf as she is leaving. Toulouse arrives and sees Matthew sketching. Intrigued he asks to see Matthew’s work and critiques it rather harshly. Matthew does not know who Toulouse is and gets quite upset. Toulouse offers a paintbrush to Matthew and the dueling paint off scene begins.

Zidler brings Nathalie into a cold dark and somewhat frightening rehearsal space, where she is told to wait before rehearsal begins. The other dancers are not impressed that Nathalie is there and try to intimidate her. La Goulue enters and challenges Nathalie to a Cancan competition. At the end Nathalie is victorious. She win’s Zidler’s approval and the tower dressing room.

Toulouse and Matthew are in front of the Moulin Rouge cabaret with their paintings. Toulouse invites Matthew to the cabaret for the evening but Matthew is broke and underdressed, so Toulouse brings in tailors who transform Matthew into a gentleman in a tuxedo. After the first Moulin Rouge show, Nathalie sees Matthew and the two of them rekindle the spark from their first meeting.

Matthew shows her the scarf she gave him and she whisks him away to be alone with him. Zidler notices that Nathalie is gone and is jealous; after searching the Moulin Rouge he closes it down and leaves to find her.

As people are leaving the cabaret, Nathalie and Matthew are on their way to the bridge. Zidler comes searching for her, but Toulouse distracts him to help the couple escape to the bridge where they dance a romantic pas de deux.

Act Two

Toulouse is painting while drinking absinthe, and as the painting continues we see a green fairy appear. She dances with Toulouse and inspires him to finish the painting.

Meanwhile, Nathalie is getting ready to meet Matthew at the Tango Café. She is happy and in love. Zidler has now become obsessed with Nathalie and does not want her to go out. He tries to seduce Nathalie and only Toulouse entering saves her. Zidler has no idea she is meeting Matthew at the Tango Café but follows and finds the couple together. Zidler threatens to kill Matthew so Nathalie leaves with him in an attempt to appease the tyrant and save Matthew from harm. But Matthew is left heartbroken and confused. He drinks absinthe with Toulouse and encounters the green fairies. After he wakes up, Toulouse creates a plan for Matthew to pretend to be a waiter and get back into the cabaret.

At the show that evening, Matthew finds Nathalie and they try to escape through the mayhem of the Cancan. Zidler discovers them together and becomes enraged, stopping the show. He intends to kill Matthew, but Nathalie is mortally wounded instead. Matthew holds Nathalie as she takes her last breath.

Program Notes (February 2013)

The Cancan. The can-can. The can can. However you spell it, the word evokes images of high kicks, swishing crinoline skirts, scandal, eroticism, and intrigue. But the Cancan did not have a glamorous start. The Cancan emerged from the galop, a lively dance in 2/4 meter, amidst the ballrooms of Paris’ working-class in the 1830s. The Cancan follows a similar storyline to ballet’s own history in its evolution, beginning as a couples dance, then moving to a male-dominated form until around 1860, and then becoming an almost exclusively female dance afterward. The female dancers, who initially started off as courtesans, became more and more professionalized as the dance moved from the music hall onto the stage. The rather scandalous antics of the dancers—particularly when they showed their frilly knickers to the audience—attracted people of every socio-economic status to the Bohemian center of Paris, the Montmarte. It wasn’t until the Cancan was imported to the United Kingdom and the United States in the 1920s that the “chorus line” version of the Cancan first appeared. And while the high kicks were always reminiscent of the grande battement in ballet, at this time ballet’s influence in the Cancan becomes solidified through the proliferation of the rond de jambe (quick circles of the lower leg as its lifted in the air) and the grande ecart (flying splits). Jacques Offenbach’s “Galop Infernal” from Orpheus in the Underworld has become the standard tune associated with the Cancan.