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Marius Petipa

Biography

Marius Petipa (1818–1910) is one of the most influential figures of classical ballet. His choreography forms the basis of The Royal Ballet's productions of The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Giselle, Don Quixote, La Bayadère and Coppélia, among others.

Petipa was born in Marseilles. His father was a dancer, in whose travelling company Petipa began dancing aged nine. Aged 16 he joined Théâtre Nantes, where he also created a number of ballets. He studied in Paris with Auguste Vestris before going on to work as a dancer around France. In May 1847 he arrived in St Petersburg and two months later made his debut as principal dancer and ballet master, starring in his re-staging of Mazilier's Paquita. His breakthrough as a choreographer came in 1859 with his production of La Fille du pharaon, and in 1869 he was made Chief Choreographer. In addition to creating original works such as Don Quixote (1869) and La Bayadère (1877), he restaged such pre-existing works as Coralli and Perrot's Giselle (1884) and Saint-Léon’s Coppélia (1884). Petipa's 1890 production of Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty was followed by productions of The Nutcracker (1892) and Swan Lake (1895), both created with Lev Ivanov. His last great work was Raymonda (1898) before he retired in 1903.

Petipa's ballets were grand spectacles that made magnificent use of the corps de ballet and placed the lead ballerina centre stage. His theatre and school became a model for all ballet around the globe throughout the 20th century.

Videos

News and features

Dance Highlight: Giselle's Mad Scene

Dance Highlight: Giselle's Mad Scene

27 January 2014

Captivating choreography and gripping storytelling come together in a pivotal moment in ballet history.

A Spoonful of Sugar: Tchaikovsky's use of the celesta in The Nutcracker

A Spoonful of Sugar: Tchaikovsky's use of the celesta in The Nutcracker

12 November 2013

How Tchaikovsky used an entirely new instrument to score the Sugar Plum Fairy's famous solo.

The Spirit of Don Quixote: A history of the ballet

The Spirit of Don Quixote: A history of the ballet

14 October 2013

How a colourful Spanish novel became a great ballet classic.

The Bolshoi in London 2013: Big, bold and brilliant

The Bolshoi in London 2013: Big, bold and brilliant

29 July 2013

A look back at the history of Moscow’s great ballet company and its relationship with Covent Garden.

Spring Season 2013/14

Spring Season 2013/14

10 April 2013

Helpful links and information on booking for forthcoming performances.

Ballet in film

Ballet in film

22 March 2012

Five examples of ballet on the big screen.

Photos