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The Patriarch of the Russian Ballet: March 11th marks 200th anniversary of the birth of Marius Petipa


March 11th marks the 200-year anniversary of the birth of Marius Petipa, renowned ballet dancer and choreographer. For more than 50 years he lived and worked in St. Petersburg. Here he created a unique style of the academic ballet and raised many generations of outstanding dancers. There’s no exaggeration in «the epoch of Petipa» saying, as it has never ended. That is what those who praise the glory of Russian ballet and raise a new generation of artists say. Tatyana Bazhenova continues.


This kind of art requires a huge sacrifice. Young students of the ballet academy spend at least 6 hours a day in class. Harsh discipline, hard work, sore feet - that is how a way to the big stage is earned. Paradoxically, the larger part of their repertoire is created by the hands and the feet of Marius Petipa, the French performer who was called the Patriarch of the Russian ballet.

Irina Sitnikova, head of the Department of classical dance at Vaganova Academy of the Russian Ballet:

«This is our basis, Petipa. He made the Russian ballet, and now it has become global. He staged about 60 ballet shows in Russia. Not all of them have survived, but still this is our basis. Agrippina Vaganova created her method based on Petipa’s repertoire».

The amateur ballet dancer from France was invited to St. Petersburg in the middle of XIX century. Marius Petipa was already on his way up to the pinnacle of dancing in his homeland, but never hesitated accepting the Russian invitation. First he danced himself, being, as people said, a very strong and charismatic performer. Years later he became Maître de Ballet of the Imperial Theatres. He had served in this position up until 1903. Emperor Nicholas the I granted choreographer a ring for staging his first ballet «Paquita» at The Bolshoy Kamennyi Theatre of St. Petersburg.

— On May 29th 1847 I arrived to St. Petersburg on a ferry. 60 years of service on the same position, in the same institution is quite a rare occurrence, which falls to only a handful of mortals.

«Institution» is the name that Petipa used for a theatre. During the years of service, he had created the future masterpieces of ballet. They were «Swan Lake», «Sleeping beauty», «La Bayadere», «Don Quixote», «Raymonda» and many more.

Yuriy Fateev, vice head of the Mariinsky Theatre troupe: «He was able to present feminine beauty on stage with delicate taste and big talent. With the same unbelievable talent he created corps de ballet».

For the ballet legend’s jubilee, the Mariinsky Theatre has prepared a series of performances, directed and staged by Petipa. Performances based on his choreography will be held there through March. On the ballet maestro’s birthday, March 11th, there’s a big gala to be held.

Nikolay Tsiskaridze, president of Academy of Ballet: «He started to change the esthetics. Therefore the movements were changing. If you remove his repertoire from the theaters all over the world, they will be empty. He created the very style of performances, which is still considered classical».

A scientific conference is held at Vaganova’s Academy to mark Petipa’s jubilee, dedicated to his work. The memory of the maestro has been commemorated in stone – a memorial plaque will be unveiled at Zodchego Rossi street.

Tatyana Bazhenova, reporter: «The phenomenal dancing technique meant a lot for Marius Ivanovich. But his choreography succeeded not only because of perfect pas and plies. His contemporaries claimed that being a French by blood, the ballet master still managed to discover the true Russian character».

Interestingly enough, the ballet master did not command Russian language, mostly communicating with the dancers with gestures. But the language he created still lives on, centuries later.