French choreographer Roland Petit died in Geneva on Sunday 10th July at the age of 87. In a career that spanned over six decades Petit created over 100 ballets including Carmen and is credited with revolutionising modern ballet with his dramatic choreography.
In 1945 Petit founded Les Ballets de Champs-Elysées and took on the roles of director, principal dancer and choreographer. After the success of this first venture Petit went on to found the Ballets de Paris in 1948 and created works for prima ballerina assoluta Margot Fonteyn.
His enterprising didn’t stop there however and he went on to help found the Ballet de Marseille in 1972 and consequently served as artistic director there for 26 years.
Petit’s personal life was also ballet-centric as he married dancer Zizi Jeanmaire in 1954 and together they had a daughter Valentine Petit who is also a ballet dancer.
The choreographer will also be remembered fondly by the film industry after choreographing films including Hans Christian Andersen, The Glass Slipper, Daddy Long Legs and Anything Goes.
In a tribute to the choreographer Culture Minister for France Frederic Mitterrand said: “Il était un des chorégraphes majeurs du XXe siècle” (He was one of the major choreographers of the 20th Century.)
The minister added: “Il a bâti une oeuvre d’une grande richesse, réunissant notamment les créateurs les plus inventifs de son temps” (He created rich works, notably uniting the most inventive choreographers of his time.)
Petit’s death makes English National Ballet’s upcoming tribute to the choreographer even more poignant. The company are dedicating four days (21-24 July) to three of his most celebrated works – Carmen, La Jeune Homme et La Mort and L’Arlésienne. Click here for more information.