Marius Petipa


The name of perhaps the most important choreographer of the 19th century seems so closely associated with the Russian tradition that one almost forgets his French nationality. Marius Petipa (11 March 1818-14 July 1910) was born in Marseille. His father and brothers were dancers. From the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels to Bordeaux, and then in Nantes, Marius Petipa worked as a dancer and choreographer. After an unhappy attempt in New York (1839), a stay in Paris where he worked with Auguste Vestris, and in Spain (1845), he was engaged as first soloist in St Petersburg in 1847, but proved himself as ballet master by rehearsing Mazilier's Paquita. In 1850 he assisted Jules Perrot with Giselle and in 1858 produced his first ballet in Russia: Un mariage sous la Régence. He then becomes second ballet master in 1862, officially succeeds Arthur Saint-Léon as first ballet master in 1869 and works as a choreographer. He makes a name for himself as a creator of great spectacular ballets, with which he succeeds in combining the purity of classical dance coming from France with Italian virtuosity: an academic form of dance that also incorporates folk dance traditions in the inclusion of character dances. Petipa's Russian oeuvre comprises no fewer than 50 ballets, including La Fille du Pharaon (1856), La Belle du Lebanon (1863), Le Corsaire (1863/1868/1899), La Floride (1866), Le Roi Candaule (1868), Don Quixote (1869), La Carmargo (1872), Le Papillon (1874), Les Bandits (1875), La Bayadère (1877), Roxane, La belle Albanaise (1878), La Fille des Neiges, Mlada (1879), Les Pilules magiques, L'Offrande à l'Amour (1886), Sleeping Beauty (1890), Nutcracker (1892, libretto only), Cinderella (1893), Swan Lake (together with Lev Ivanov, 1895), Raymonda (1898), The Seasons (1900), and his last ballet The Magic Mirror (1903). Ageing and ill, the master wanted to spend his last years in a milder climate and left St Petersburg in 1907 to settle on the Black Sea. He died in Gurzuf in the Crimea at the age of 92.