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Downtown Reflections. Photograph by Brian Cohen.
Downtown Reflections. Photograph by Brian Cohen. | Show Photo

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Pop Filter Hot Pick: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre debuts local premiere of Moulin Rouge

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Still trying to pull together last minute plans for your Valentine? Thursday, February 14th is the perfect night to spend with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (and to spark Cupid's arrow!), when the company presents its most anticipated show of the season--the local premiere of Moulin Rouge—The Ballet.

Love, ambition, heartbreak, and high-kicking choreography will converge this Valentine's season, as the PBT brings the heady allure of Paris’ famed cabaret to Downtown's Benedum Center stage for four breathtaking nights.

Running February 14-17, Moulin Rouge will take audiences on a magical journey back to The Belle Époque, a time when Paris basked in peace, optimism, industrial progress, and cultural exuberance--and welcomed the opening of the famed Moulin Rouge in the City of Light's 18th arrondissement. A symbol of Paris as a "city of exquisite contradiction," the ballet merges temptation, fate, desire, and destiny as these forces collide in and around the famed cabaret.

So whether you're a fan of the 1950 novel, the films by Sidney Lanfield, John Huston and Baz Luhrmann, or the vibrant paintings by French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, you're not going to want to miss this chance to experience some of the sights, sounds and sagas surrounding the legendary Moulin Rouge.

Desire and dance

Known around the globe as the birthplace of the modern can-can dance, the Moulin Rouge endures as a popular tourist attraction, offering musical dance entertainment for visitors and boasting much of the decor and spirit of a pivotal time in France's history. Co-founded in 1889—the same year that the Eiffel Tower was constructed—The Moulin Rouge was developed by builder Joseph Oller and manager Charles Zidler, and the cabaret's signature red windmill became a symbol of the city’s thriving nightlife.

The Pittsburgh debut places the PBT in a coveted international spot among comanies. "We are only the third company in the world to perform this ballet," says Meghan McNamara, with Pittsburgh Ballet Theare. "So it's very exclusive and this is the Pittsburgh premiere, after Winnipeg and Atlanta."

In the PBT's production of Moulin Rouge, the iconic cabaret, high-kicking can-can and extravagant excesses of turn-of-the-20th-century Paris will come to life within an enduring story of love, ambition and heartbreak, a rousing French soundtrack of original music and dynamic choreography.

The ballet follows struggling artist Matthew and launderette-turned-performer Nathalie, who are drawn to the exuberant city of Paris, where they become entwined in a passionate romance via the intoxicating nightlife of the Moulin Rouge. Heightening the drama and the danger of the love match is the cabaret’s controlling proprietor  Charles Zidler, who casts a shadow over their romance as he traps his newest performer and her lover in a reckless love triangle.

Seeing red

Choreographer Jorden Morris--who created the PBT’s 2011 production of Peter Pan--weaves contemporary and classical ballet with international influences from the lively French cancan to the passionate partnering of the Tango Café. The ballet culminates with an intimate pas de deux set to Debussy’s Claire de Lune and set on a dramatic bridge near the iconic Eiffel Tower.

Also featured in the ballet are several historic figures marking the origins of the Moulin Rouge, such as French painter Henri Toulouse-Latrec, who immortalized the cabaret through his striking oil paintings that depicted the club's performers. The groundbreaking Post-Impressionist painter assumes the role of Matthew’s mentor, while cabaret co-founder Zidler emerges as Matthew’s adversary.

The ballet's score features 27 works by 14 different composers, including well-known titles such as Clair de Lune, La Vie en Rose and the Can-Can, which were selected from the late 19th and early 20th centuries as the Moulin Rouge was rising in popularity.

Helping to express the quintessential vibrancy and vivaciousness of the Moulin Rouge are more than 150 colorful costumes created by Anne Armit, who is head of wardrobe at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and freelance designer Shannon Lovelace. In creating costumes that feature the cabaret's signature feathers, rhinestones and sequins, the designers drew inspiration from both fashions of the era and Toulouse-Lautrec’s influential paintings.

Capping the onstage scenery designed by Andrew Beck will be an illuminated red windmill--which famously perched above the cabaret on Boulevard de Clichy in Paris' 18th arrondissement near Montmartre--as well as the Eiffel Tower. Lighting designer is Pierre Lavoie, and the dramaturge is Rick Skene.

Seen by some 100,000 people across North America, Moulin Rouge—The Ballet made its world premiere in 2009 at Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, where Morris trained and later danced professionally. Today, among other performance requirements, all of the Moulin Rouge’s performers must demonstrate a solid base in classical ballet training.

Moulin Rouge is appropriate for all ages. Due to demand, an extra performance has been added over Valentine's Day weekend. Watch a sneak peek video.

Purchase tickets now.

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