FRENCH CHOREOGRAPHER ROLAND PETIT DIES AT 87



FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Acclaimed choreographer ROLAND PETIT, whose creations dazzled stages from Paris to Hollywood and inspired dancers, writers and designers has died.

He was 87.

THE PARIS NATIONAL OPERA said Monsieur Petit’s wife ZIZI JEANMAIRE informed them that the choreographer died on Sunday in Geneva. No cause of death was given.

Ms. Jeanmaire, ballerina turned music hall performer who collaborated with her husband and their daughter VALENTINE, saluted Monsieur Petit as “not only a great innovator…but also an incomparable creator who marked and will mark all generations.”

ROLAND PETIT took his first dance steps aged nine at THE PARIS OPERA’S SCHOOL OF DANCE “and never truly left the house,” they said in a statement.

While opening several ballet companies in Paris after its liberation from occupying Nazis and the Marseille ballet house, Monsieur Petit maintained ties with PARIS OPERA, offering 11 creations, including NOTRE DAME DE PARIS.

His reputation grew well beyond France in the 1950s during a four year stint in Hollywood, collaborating with ORSON WELLES in THE LADY IN THE ICE (1953) and choreographing classics like DADDY LONG LEGS with FRED ASTAIRE and LESLIE CARON (1954) or ANYTHING GOES with BING CROSBY and ZIZI JEANMAIRE (1955).

Famed American dancer ALVIN AILEY said in 1970 that he owed everything to ROLAND PETIT.

French Culture Minister FREDERIC MITTERAND, paying tribute, said that some of his works brought together designers like YVES SAINT LAURENT for costumes, PICASSO for decor and writer/poet JACQUES PREVERT.

Notable pieces included CARMEN or LE JEUNE HOMME ET LA MORT (THE YOUNGMAN & DEATH). The latter was the stunning opening sequence – danced by MIKHAIL BARYSHNIKOV – from the 1985 film WHITE NIGHTS.

ROLAND PETIT choreographed for RUDOLF NUREYEV and MARGOT FONTEYN among other great dancers during an eclectic career that saw him spend six months at the head of THE PARIS OPERA in 1970 then moving to the CASINO DE PARIS for music hall creations until 1976. He then settled in Marseille and lent his name to the company in 1981, now known as NATIONAL BALLET OF MARSEILLE ROLAND PETIT.

In 1998, after 26 years there, he made a break, travelling the world to create new ballets or mount old works with the likes of THE SAN FRANCISCO BALLET, THE BOLSHOI in Moscow and LA SCALA in Milan.

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