The Petipa Dynasty

Jean Antoine Petipa (1796-1855) a French dancer, choreogapher, and teacher in Paris. He became ballet master in Mareilles in 1819. Jean took his family with him, he later went to Brussels and stayed for 12 years. Jean was the founder of Brussel's Conservatorie de la Danse. He also worked in Bordeaux and Madrid. In 1848 he went to St. Petersburg and became a teacher at the Imperial Ballet Academy, he stayed in Russia until his death. He was the father of Lucien and Marius. The Petipas dance in the United States in 1839. The tour in the U.S. proved to be a disaster because their manager absconded with the box office receipts.

Lucien Petipa (1815-1898) was a student of his father and he made his debut with the Paris Opera in 1840. He partnered Fanny Elssler in "La Sylphide." Lucien was very good looking and a fine dancer. He danced the role of Albrecht in "Giselle" opposite Grisi. Lucien in 1865 became maitre de ballet of the Paris Opera.

Marius Petipa (1818-1910) was one of the great choreographers of the nineteenth century. His first teacher was his father Jean Petipa and he spent his chilhood touring Europe with his family. Marius was 16 when his family toured the United States. When his family return to Paris his brother Lucien became premier danseur of the Opera and Marius studied with Auguste Vertris. Marius greww more and more unhappy working in his brrother's shadow. He left Paris and went to Bordeaux for a year performing away from his family, and four years in Madrid. He finally got a contract to dance in Russia in 1847. He was not an emmediate success, he spents 12 years as a dancer, actor, and assistant ballet master. Marius worked under the direction of Jules Perrot and Arthur Saint-Leon and they would not share their glory with this lowly aide. In 1854 he married the dancer Marie Sourvshikova, and they had a daughter named Marie also.

Marius' first success came when he choreographed a ballet in six weeks for the visiting Carolina Rosati. The ballet "The Pharaoh's Daughter" was a tremendous success and made an impression on the management. When Saint-Leon left for good they made Petipa ballet master of the St. Petersburg Bolshoi Theatre. He proved to be adept at pleasing the audiences and dealing with the bureaucracy and yet keep some measure of artistic integrity. He ruled the ballet for the next 30 years. He produced 50 new ballets and revived 17 older ones, and arranged the dancing in 35 Operas.

We know many of his ballets today: Don Quixote, La Bayadere, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and Raymonda. Once he hit on a formula he applied it automatically, soon it became hackneyed and predictable.

Because of his rapport with Ivan Vsevolozhsky, the director of the Imperial Theatres, he had a free hand to do what he wanted. But when Vsevolozhsky was replaced by Colonel Telyakovsky, Marius found that he was being presured to change. The last ballet Maruis choreographed was The Magic Mirror, was not received with enthusiasm. He resigned and to add to the insult he was not allowed to enter the theater. Seven years after he resigned he died a bitter and unhappy old man.

Maria Surovshchikova Petipa (1836-1882) studied at St. Petersburg Imperial Ballet academy. She Married Marius Petipa after graduation and enter the Bolshoi Theatre. She created many roles in her husband's ballets. In travestie parts she made her biggest success. After her divorced from Maruis in 1869 her career went down hill. She is probably remembered more for being Marius' wife and Marie Petipa's mother.

Maria Mariusovna Petipa (1857-1930) Maruis' daughter studied with her father and Johannson. She was much admired as a charecter dancer creating many natioasnal dances in ballets and Operas. She was the first Lilac Fairy in her father's Sleeping Beauty.

(First published October 1993)

Next: Paul Petroff (1906-1981)