The Oklahoma City Ballet revisits the Paris of the early 1900s in Paris Rouge, a triple bill choreographed by the troupe’s artistic director, Robert Mills.
While the three pieces differ greatly, he said they are tied together by a “European sensibility.”
Set in a sultry Parisian nightclub, Mills’ Paris Rouge was inspired largely by Gaîté Parisienne, a 1938 ballet choreographed by Leonide Massine, to the music of Jacques Offenbach.
Mills said he wanted to create something more modern for today’s audiences, so he drew elements from Moulin Rouge, both John Huston’s 1952 movie and the 2001 musical starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.
“The John Huston film had a large part in inspiring the feel of the inside of the nightclub and how raw the dancers’ energy is,” Mills said, noting that the latter-day version provides Paris Rouge with many of its comedic elements.
“It is a fun, costumed piece, and it’s very romantic,” Mills said. “It’s perfect for this time of year.”
The lead role of the courtesan is played alternatively by seven-season veteran Stephanie Pitts and Elzimar Dortolina, a newcomer from Venezuela. Pitts called her character complex.
“She’s coy, but she’s flirty with the high-paying customers,” Pitts said. “She’s a well-rounded, in-depth character that’s difficult to capture in just 30 minutes.”
Dortolina said the role was a particular challenge.
“It’s very exciting to do something like this, because the audience can see how the dancers can switch from one style to another,” she said.
The show begins with Napoli Divertissements, originally performed for Denmark’s Royal Ballet in 1842.
The second piece is Pushing Pennies, a contemporary ballet set to the music of Philip Glass.
“Pushing Pennies is an exciting piece,” Mills said. “It’s something really sleek and modern.”
At each performance, a .25-carat solitaire diamond necklace will be given away. Attendees can take home memories, courtesy of a free, Paris Rougethemed photo booth in the lobby.
“Ballet is like opera,” Mills said. “You can go in with no understanding of the craft and you can simply appreciate the sheer talent of the performers.”