Royal Winnipeg Wins With Moulin Rouge
THIS THOROUGHLY SATISFYING production is like no other ballet that you will see with its combination of light entertainment, pantomime, â€śballet theatreâ€ť (with operatic elements), and pure classical dancingâ€”with some contemporary spice thrown in for pizzazz.
Couple all this with well-cast soloists, a strong corps de ballet, seamless choreography, stirring music (29 pieces), and a stellar crew (staging, lights, costumes), and you have a crowd-pleasing winnerâ€”a nice way for the Charleston Concert Association to conclude the 2011-2012 season (its 75th).
But donâ€™t let the entertainment value of Moulin Rouge fool you. These Royal Winnipeg Ballet dancers are excellent, starting with the charming and delicate Jo-Ann Sundermeier in the lead role of Nathalie. Jo-Ann exudes an appealing blend of femininity and strength, not only in her crisp technique but in her acting. Even the best soloists can fall out of character when they concentrate on their steps, but Jo-Ann did not. She was in charge at every turn and with each little character nuance.
She was also nicely matched with lead male dancer, Harrison James, who displayed just the right touch as the naĂŻve painter, Matthew, who falls in love with the tragic Nathalie. The two together gave the nearly-full Gaillard audience a pleasant, vicarious taste of innocence, romance, and passionate tension.
The tension, especially, was delivered by Eric Nipp dancing Zidler, the domineering owner of the Moulin Rouge who wants (and takes) Nathalie for himself. As predictable as the love triangle was, these three (along with the emotional variety of the music) made it palpable and pleasing. They also got helpâ€”and balanced contrastâ€”from the demure Toulouse-Lautrec himself, danced by Dmitiri Dovgoselets.
The other soloist who stood out with her brief but spectacular dancing was Emily Grizzell in the role of Mome Fromage, one of the four prostitutes in the Moulin Rouge who proves to be Nathalieâ€™s main antagonist. To say the least, Emily was captivating with her technical control, physical range, and underplayed cattiness.
The colorful, almost circus-like costumes were delightful, as were the professional sets: the arched bridge, the spiral staircase and steps, the twinkling Eiffel tower, and the Moulin Rougeâ€™s signature windmill (turning at a leisurely, non-distracting pace). These few but significant props, along with splendid lighting, provided an effective array of moods to suit the music and plot scenes.
One such scene of note was the young couple standing on the bridge at night, alone in Paris, with the Eiffel Tower behind them as they proceeded to dance a Pas de Deux to Debussyâ€™s romantic Claire de Lune. Needless to say, the house got quiet as they swept gracefully across stage in embrace.
That tender moment proved to be the prelude for an operatic climax in the mode of Alexander Pushkinâ€™s novel (and libretto for) Eugene Onegin. Notwithstanding the tragic ending, the crowd loved it and let the dancers know.
Some may say that this was not serious ballet, but you could have fooled meâ€”as the producers and dancers of this highly recommended production did last night. TouchĂ©.
Just in case you missed it, expect to see the Canadian Royal Winnipeg Ballet again when the Charleston Concert Association (CCA) returns to the renovated Gaillard Auditorium for its 2013-2014 season. In the interim, of course, CCA will move to the College of Charlestonâ€™s Sottile Theatre.