🩰 From heels to point shoes: Orlando show transforms Moulin Rouge cabaret into ballet

Moulin Rouge: The Ballet runs through Feb. 12, incorporates Orlando Ballet, Orlando Philharmonic and Opera Orlando

ORLANDO, Fla. – The artistic director of the Orlando Ballet, Jorden Morris, is currently the only choreographer in the world who is allowed to have a production called Moulin Rouge with a strong partnership with the franchise in Paris.

But this production is unique in that it turns a romantic love story typically shown through film into a ballet performance.

“They [Paris Moulin Rouge] were very interested in how I would take the can-can choreography, which the ladies over there do in quite high-heeled boots, and how I would translate that into point shoes. When I would go through the experimental phase, some things look better in point shoes and some things are impossible to do in point shoes. So I had to make a hybrid language of can-can meets point shoes,” Morris said.

Morris said he spent years working on this production in Paris before it originally premiered in 2009. He said Moulin Rouge: The Ballet is timeless. So how does the French cabaret romance storyline translate into dance?

“It’s really the music that becomes the voices of the dancers. I try and find music with a signature melody of that character, and every time that character comes back that melody comes back so the audience gets to hear in essence they know that voice and know it’s that character,” Morris said. “That’s what sculpts the character without having to speak.”

Guest conductor Julian Pellicano traveled from Canada to make it happen. He’s conducting the music performed live by the Orlando Philharmonic.

“In this case, we have mostly French music. A lot of it is music from the late 19th century, music that would have been heard in Paris around that time. Some of it unfamiliar to this day. Some of it we don’t play in orchestras so it’s a pleasure for the orchestra to play this ballet because there’s a lot of great music they don’t get a chance to approach playing in a symphony orchestra,” Pellicano said.

Pellicano said it’s a process to get the melodies just right.

“The best way to do it is in the studio with the dancers and to really feel how a particular dancer or company dances the work, and then try to adapt my music making on the spot to what they’re doing on stage,” Pellicano said.

Pellicano attends dance rehearsals and takes notes to make sure the music and choreography blend into perfect harmony to tell the story.

This performance is unique in that Morris incorporated an extended version of Moulin Rouge: The Ballet with a twist.

“Having to throw another challenge at the cast: not only do they have to do can-can on point and be top hats or tailors, there really is almost 35 minutes of straight Argentinian Tango choreography that I’ve blended with with ballet and everybody has to put on their heels and go into the tango café and really show the audience the versatility that they have as artists,” Morris said. “That closeness of the bodies and dropping the center of gravity, it’s quite tricky. In that way it’s wonderful to see them flowering with another vocabulary of dance.”

It’s no coincidence the Orlando Ballet is performing Moulin Rouge during Valentine’s Day weekend.

“You think of Paris, you think of romance. The combination of Paris and a love story and this beautiful music, it’s a really great date night and people enjoy celebrating this story around Valentine’s Day,” Morris said.

There are several shows scheduled through the weekend at the Dr. Phillips Center.

What’s really cool about this production is that there is also a guest singer from the Opera Orlando, so it really is a trifecta of talent from Orlando Ballet to Orlando Philharmonic and Opera Orlando.

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About the Author:

Crystal Moyer is a morning news anchor who joined the News 6 team in 2020.