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Biography

Jump to: Overview (2) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (7)

Overview (2)

Date of Birth 13 January 1924Villemomble, France
Date of Death 10 July 2011Geneva, Canton Geneva, Switzerland  (leukemia)

Mini Bio (1)

Roland Petit was born on January 13, 1924 in Villemomble, France. He is known for his work on Black Tights (1961), Hans Christian Andersen (1952) and Le chat botté (1986). He was married to Zizi Jeanmaire. He died on July 10, 2011 in Geneva, Canton Geneva, Switzerland.

Spouse (1)

Zizi Jeanmaire (1954 - 10 July 2011) (his death) (1 child)

Trivia (7)

A student of the Paris Opera Ballet at age 10.
Created the Ballet de Champs-Elysees in 1945.
Made musicals in Hollywood from 1951-1955, including Daddy Long Legs (1955) with Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron, and Anything Goes (1956) with Bing Crosby and ballerina Zizi Jeanmaire, who later became his wife.
Won the French National Prize for Dance in 1979.
Was nominated for Broadway's 1981 Tony Award as Best Choreographer for "Can-Can."
Acclaimed choreographer Roland Petit, whose creations dazzled stages from Paris to Hollywood, inspired dancers, writers and designers. died of leukema at 87 on Sunday, July 10, 2011, in Geneva, Switzerland. Petit's wife Zizi Jeanmaire, a prima ballerina assoluta turned music hall performer who collaborated with her husband, and the couple's daughter Valentine saluted Roland Petit as "not only a great innovator -- but also an incomparable creator who marked and will mark all generations. Roland took his first dance steps at age 9 at the Paris Opera's School of Dance and never truly left the house".
For a period of time in the 1940s to late 1950s, the Hughes Tool Company ventured into the film and media industry where it then owned the RKO companies, including: RKO Pictures; RKO Studios; RKO Theatres, a chain of movie theatres; the RKO Radio Network, a network of radio stations. In 1948, multi-millionaire businessman, film producer, film director, and aviator, Howard Hughes gained control of RKO, a struggling major Hollywood studio, by acquiring 25 percent of the outstanding stock from Floyd Odlum's Atlas Corporation. Universal Studios acquired the American distribution rights in 1951 of the 1948 J. Arthur Rank-Archers feature film "The Red Shoes," originally released in a small London art house movie theater in September of 1948. Hughes, so impressed with Michael Powell's dance film starring the Sadler Well's Ballet principal dancers Moira Shearer, Léonide Massine and Robert Helpmann, that Hughes wanted his own ensemble corps de ballet company. So impressed with the English Michael Powell dance film -- "The Red Shoes" -- Hughes just decided to buy himself a ballet-dance company, in an effort to expand the creative base of his RKO film studio acquisition. Hughes had been impressed with the success of "Les Ballets de Paris de Roland Petit." An outstanding classical dancer as a youth, Roland Petit swiftly decided on a career as a rebel against the traditionalism of the Paris Opera Ballet, and before the age of 25 had created three of his most iconic ballets, "Le Jeune Homme et La Mort," world premiere on 6/26/46, Les Ballets des Champs-Elysee, Theatre des Champs-Elysee, Paris; the Jean Cocteau ballet "Les Demoiselles de La Nuit," world premiere Theatre Marigry, Paris 5/21/48, Les Ballet de Paris de Roland Petit, featuring Margot Fonteyn; and the ballet "Carmen," world premiere in London, Prince's Theatre, on 2/21/49, with the sultry young Jeanmaire as the lethal female destroying a hapless male. These ballets caused a sensation worldwide and Petit and Jeanmaire swiftly became the most exciting names in French dance, closely associating with Jean Cocteau, Edith Piaf, Yves Montand and the new intellectuals of Left Bank Paris. Hughes contracted Roland Petit, his Parisian based "Ballet de Paris de Roland Petit" for film assignments, including all personal appearances in North America. Roland Petit and his core dance company's flight from Paris to Los Angeles' airport was on Hughes' owned Trans-World-Airlines (TWA). Howard Hughes acquired control of TWA in 1939, and after World War II led the expansion of the airline to serve Europe, the Middle East and Asia, making TWA a second unofficial flag carrier of the United States after Pan Am. The dance troupe, housed in a Culver City hotel, were assigned a film stage for intense preparatory work-outs and dance rehearsals. After six months of isolation in Culver City, the dance troupe's enthusiasm for their new North American venture had dwindled, with their intense serious practicing, rehearsing, exercising and with no stage nor film scheduled assignments, the core of dancers became extremely mutinous. In mass, the Parisian rebels packed their luggage arriving at the TWA Los Angeles air terminal, with their round trip tickets in hand, checking-in for their return flight to Paris. The troupe of Francophiles did not know that their boss Howard Hughes owned TWA. The TWA passenger agents alerted Hughes that a horde of 'French speaking gypsies' were at the TWA air terminal, demanding a return flight to Paris with their original TWA round trip flight tickets in hand. RKO's studio security division immediately descended upon the air terminal with a fleet of bus' to round up Hughes' herd of cattle -- "the RKO - Ballet de Paris de Roland Petit" dance company, confiscating all of the ticket bills the TWA ticketing agents had collected. Returning to their hotel, the dance troupe were assured that they would be put to work on a Hollywood musical film. Samuel Goldwyn, his production company located at RKO's "The Lot," 1041 North Formosa Avenue, in Hollywood, was in pre-production to star Danny Kaye in an original musical film based on Hans Christian Anderson, with a story by Myles Connolly, a screenplay by Moss Hart and Ben Hecht, with words and original music composed by Frank Loesser. Samuel Goldwyn had initially offered the film's ballerina role to Moira Shearer. Since producer Samuel Goldwyn was under an RKO contract, Hughes ordered Goldwyn to use Roland Petit, Zizi Jeanmaire and Petit's Ballet de Paris dance troupe. Roland Petit insisted on his French stage production scenic and costume designer Antoni Clavé be flown to Hollywood as his film design collaborator. RKO costume designer Mary Wills joined the art department; Barbara "Madam" Karinska was brought from New York City to supervise and construct all of the film's ballet and principle's costumes. Art director Richard Day, another RKO film designer, collaborated with Antoni Clavé on all of the feature film's stage and ballet sets. Petit insisted hiring Danish danseur noble Erik Bruhn, one of the greatest premier male dancers of the 20th-century, noted for his outstanding classical technique, immense stage presence. Erik epitomized the ethereally handsome prince and cavalier on the international ballet stage. The film's director Charles Vidor was cursed with Roland Petit's creative driving force, stimulus, momentum, Petit contributing in every scene and camera set-up. Roland Petit was the impetus for the movie's visual magic.

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