fri 03/12/2021

Master of French Ballet Chic Roland Petit Dies | reviews, news & interviews

Master of French Ballet Chic Roland Petit Dies

Master of French Ballet Chic Roland Petit Dies

Creator of outrageously sexy ballets dies a week before London fêtes him

Roland Petit: he lived long enough to be brought into the fold of the legendary choreographersThomas Peter Schultz/Wikimedia Commons

Roland Petit died this morning aged 87, a world choreographer of chic and erotic theatricality who blew away the French classical ideal in a roar of post-war sexual liberation. He created an all-male corps of swans for Swan Lake long before Matthew Bourne, and his roles for his exquisite wife, Zizi Jeanmaire, repositioned ballet drama upon the femme fatale rather than the virgin. Arguably, though, for British ballet-goers he was above all the seducer who almost lured Margot Fonteyn away to France (and who got her to have a nose job) just as she was leading the Sadler’s Wells Ballet to international glory. Had Fonteyn done so, the history of Britain’s ballet would have been different.

Roland Petit died this morning aged 87, a world choreographer of chic and erotic theatricality who blew away the French classical ideal in a roar of post-war sexual liberation. He created an all-male corps of swans for Swan Lake long before Matthew Bourne, and his roles for his exquisite wife, Zizi Jeanmaire, repositioned ballet drama upon the femme fatale rather than the virgin. Arguably, though, for British ballet-goers he was above all the seducer who almost lured Margot Fonteyn away to France (and who got her to have a nose job) just as she was leading the Sadler’s Wells Ballet to international glory. Had Fonteyn done so, the history of Britain’s ballet would have been different.

Petit maintained Margot Fonteyn and Zizi Jeanmaire as simultaneous lovers, one for tenderness, the other for sexual passion. It was the sexual passion that he married

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters