The Royal Winnipeg Ballet Moulin Rouge — The Ballet

Dates and Venue 19, 20 & 21 November 2009, 8pm (matinnes on 21 & 22 at 2pm) | The Centre in Vancouver for the Performing Arts

Reviewer RM Pink

Moulin Rouge is a colorful, exciting, riveting ballet that was presented with élan by the illustrious dancers of the RWB under the gifted direction of artistic director, Andre Lewis.Equal to the soaring dance performance was the earlier artistic coup achieved by Lewis and other senior RWB staff in winning the rights to stage Moulin Rouge in North America. 

The Moulin Rouge theatre is a famous and revered cultural icon in France. The fact that the RWB was successful and now has the right to present this outstanding ballet masterpiece is a testament to the great name of the RWB and its leadership under Lewis.Moulin Rouge is the most famous cabaret in history, founded in Paris in 1890. Its life and stories are legendary.

The ballet production of Moulin Rouge has certainly embarked on the right path to achieving dance legend status. Audience reaction thus far is a clear indication.Moulin Rouge is a classic tale of love and loss told with great emotion and vivid characterization.  In the final scenes, the lovers Nathalie and Mathew try to escape but are confronted by Zidler, their nemesis in love, who accidentally wounds Nathalie instead of Matthew. She dies in the arms of her lover, Matthew. The poignancy is profound.

Maureya Lebowitz  was  outstanding in the role of Nathalie. She is graceful, riveting and passionate in her dance.She has the art of expression well defined. Although a native of Montana, she has the stage bearing of a classical Russian ballerina.  Reyneris Reyes was gifted in the role of Matthew. This Cuban dancer, fired up with emotion and talent, exudes energy as he moves across the stage.

Special mention must go to the brilliant scenic design by Andrew Beck and lush, attractive costuming, by Shannon Lovelace and Anne Armit without which the ballet would not be complete.Planning and staging the energetic and frenetic movement of Moulin Rouge, complete with colorful and high energy dance scenes was an endeavor of outstanding talent for which choreographer Jorden Morris deserves singular praise.

It is no surprise that the much heralded Moulin Rouge Ballet was a smashing success which brought the Vancouver audience to its feet for a sustained standing ovation – a fitting tribute to the magnificent Royal Winnipeg Ballet.


Vanessa Lawson. Photo: David CooperInterview with Vanessa Lawson, Dancer

Vanessa Lawson is a multi talented and graceful dancer with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.In the much anticipated and acclaimed RWB version of Moulin Rouge. She dances the signature role of the beautiful and alluring Nathalie. Recently, Lawson spoke with me over the phone:

MP: Tell us about your early start with RWB.

VL:  I joined RWB in 1998 and it has been a wonderful experience.

RWB is the oldest company in North America and does the most touring.

MP: Landing Moulin Rouge is a major coup for the RWB. What are your thoughts about this opportunity?

VL: This is a great opportunity and the first company in North America to present this famous ballet.It is quite exciting. The actual Moulin Rouge theatre was built in the 1890. The ballet is not the same as the film. Moulin Rouge is classical technique but not pure classical ballet like Swan Lake.

MP: Describe your character, Nathalie.

VL: Well, she is a street walker and picked to dance in Moulin Rouge. My character is indifferent to the opportunity but does love to dance. She has a tough exterior but inside loves the dance.

MP: The rehearsal and pressure to present very well must be intense.

VL: We started rehearsal in August. We have been refining since then. We did one show in October in Minnesota with 4000 in the audience. They loved it! I think they see that we spent a lot of time and work on characters and details. At the core, this is a story about love. Also, there is a lot of color and excitement in the ballet.

Interview with Andre Lewis, Artistic Director

MP: How do you feel about performing this great and classic ballet production from Paris?

AL: I feel great! It is such an amazing response that we have had. When we presented in Winnipeg, we had two extra shows that were sold out. You know, Winnipeg has a catchment of only 700,000 people and we drew so many to this ballet so this is quite impressive.

MP: What does dance mean to you?

AL: Our mission is to enrich the human experience. We do dance for people. Rapport with the audience makes it come alive. With Moulin Rouge, we felt that the audience was with us. We had many strong comments.

MP: Is the reaction to Moulin Rouge, better than your expectations?

AL: Quite frankly, yes. I have never seen such a response.  4000 people in the theatre – you feel the pulse. Minneapolis was the North American premiere. Moulin Rouge brought the house down. For me, as the artistic director, I was nervous and excited at the same time.

MP: Do you feel the pressure keeping this great RWB name on top.

AL:  It is always a challenge when you have a great company to uphold. RWB has a brand. It is important to state though that we always do ballet for the people. We feel that we resonate with people. This is important.

MP: How did you and RWB manage this great feat of landing Moulin Rouge which is guarded so carefully by the Paris Moulin Rouge?

AL: Someone on their staff saw RWB perform and thought we should and could do the ballet well.RWB now has the rights to the Moulin Rouge ballet in North America.

MP: This is a big year for the RWB

.AL: Yes, it is our 70th year. We are the oldest company continuously in North America. This is because the San Francisco Ballet stopped for a few years.

MP: You have earned a reputation as one of the finest artistic directors and been in this job with RWB for 13 years and for 22 years as an RWB dancer. You have developed artistically and professionally with this august company.

AL: As the artistic director, we had so much work at first, to overcome the deficit and turn things around to the point now where the company is doing very well. I love the job; it is the best job in Canada. If you are passionate about work, you love the job.

© 2009 RM Pink