Marius Petipa (1818-1910)
Marius Petipa (1818-1910) was a French dancer, teacher and choreographer who created and revived dance works that have become vital elements of the ballet repertoire. His father Jean Petipa, a renowned Ballet Master and teacher, exposed Petipa to ballet from a young age and Marius Petipa himself said ‘At seven I started instruction in the art of dancing in the class or my father, who broke many bows on my hands in order to acquaint me with the mysteries of choreography.’ (Petipa, 1958) During his sixty year long career in Russia at the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatre, Petipa acquired experience from French Premier Maître de ballets Jules Perrot and Arthur Saint-Leon who were influential in his works. Petipa renewed the art of ballet, preserving ballet’s classical technique at a high level earning him the title of the ‘Inventor of Modern Ballet’.
To expose and discuss Petipa’s development of the ballet repertoire it is necessary to select evidence that outlines for and against of his contributions. To do this we must first define the state of Classical ballet before Petipa, how he changed and developed ballet, his influence and impact, and his contribution to the canon of the dance form.
Prior to Petipa, Classical Ballet was in the ‘Romantic Period’ of which concerned itself with the idea of aggrandising ‘senses and emotion over reason and intellect’. (Llopis, 2014/2015) Ballet works in this period were based on literati and were deeply imaginative.