Ballet choreographer Roland Petit dies aged 87

July 10, 2011

Breaking Ballet News

French ballet choreographer Roland Petit dies at 87

Pushing ballet boundaries

French choreographer and dancer Roland Petit, who created over 100 ballets during his career,has died in Geneva at the age of 87. The dance company he helped to set up in 1945, Les Ballets des Champs-Elysees, is said to have been responsible for choreography that pushed the boundaries of that time.

Petit married & choreographed on dancer Zizi Jeanmaire. Petit joined the Paris Opera Ballet at 9 yrs, but left when he was 20 to create and perform his own works at the Theatre Sarah Bernhardt in Paris.

After forming Les Ballets des Champs-Elysees, Petit danced as a principal for three years as well as taking the roles of ballet master and choreographer. He then formed the Ballets de Paris in 1948, where he created The Young Girls of the Night for Margot Fonteyn.

In 1949, it was Jeanmaire’s performance in Petit’s production of Carmen in London that thrust the dancer into the spotlight, and Petit spent several years in Hollywood choreographing films for the stars, including Hans Christian Andersen.

In 1965 he returned to the Paris Opera Ballet & created two ballets – Adage et Variations and Notre Dame de Paris. For six months he was artistic director for the company but resigned to buy the Casino de Paris concert hall to showcase revues starring Jeanmaire.

Petit became a director again, in 1972, this time with the Ballet de Marseille, which he directed for 26 years, eventually leaving to tour his ballets internationally.

Petit is survived by his wife Jeanmaire and daughter, dancer Valentine Petit.

1924 – 2011

English National Ballet will stage three of his ballets later this month at the London Coliseum.

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