by Tera Freeman
Romance. Drama. Death. The Atlanta Ballet’s production of Moulin Rouge featured all three during opening night Friday, February 5th. The dancing, music, costumes, and set design transported the audience into 1890s Paris and all the happenings at the world famous Moulin Rouge. The Atlanta Ballet first presented this production in 2010 for a Southeastern premiere. The original ballet, choreographed by Canadian Jorden Morris, was transformed into a 2001 feature film starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. The goal of the ballet is to capture the allure and appeal of the Moulin Rouge. By the end of the show, my sister and I were ready to pack our bags and move to Paris!
As a dance instructor, I constantly remind my students of their facial expressions when on stage. A highlight for me while watching the production was studying how they showed emotion throughout the show. Dancers have to tell an entire story with just choreography, body language, and facial expressions. It never ceases to amaze me how this is accomplished and the dancers of the Atlanta Ballet did not disappoint. I felt Matthew’s frustration when he was robbed as a newcomer to Paris, the hurt when his love interest Nathalie leaves with villain Zidler, and the devastation when she dies. The dancers’ story telling abilities was definitely a part of the show I enjoyed.
Of course the ballet featured the world famous French Cancan! As a dance student growing up, I learned the Cancan is a dance from France with high kicks and skirts and this was my first time seeing it live and en pointe! The lines of the dancers were perfection and they were all smiles as they showed off the colorful ruffles of their dresses and beautiful legs. The choreography matched the high energy of the music and the audience clapped along. I was not expecting such a high energy performance during a ballet at all. My sister (the non-dancer who attended with me for the snacks) was entertained as well. Dancer or not everyone in attendance loved the Cancan!
There were also some intimate moments as well. Matthew and Nathalie’s first dance gave me the same butterflies the characters were feeling. The couple’s duet on the bridge was breathtaking and amazing to watch. Not to be outdone, there were several times when Zidler showed off his moves including a pas de deux with Matthew and Nathalie. The scenes with just a few dancers were just as entertaining as the scenes with large groups.
All good things must come to an end and the conclusion of Moulin Rouge was heartbreaking as Nathalie and Matthew had their last dance. The movements were subtle as they attempted to hold on to each other for as long as possible. All the dancers on stage witnessing the tragedy made the feeling of impending death that much stronger in the venue. Everyone in the audience could feel the emotion right along with the performers. I was sad it had to end. The Atlanta Ballet did an outstanding job portraying 1890’s Paris and capturing the magic of the Moulin Rouge. The dancers, choreography, set design, and music were all just perfect and attending opening night was a great way to start my weekend. Au Revoir!
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