Thursday, November 3, 2011


Does the name, ring a bell? Roland Petit, age 87, died in July. If I were writing about Alvin Ailey. you'd probably nod, but Petit?

Who is/was he? Why am I writing about him?

He was a French choreographer, a creator of 176 works, who continuously reinvented his style and became a master in the arts of pas de deux, dramatic ballet, as well as abstract ballets. He was married to dancer "Zizi" Jeanmaire, who performed in a number of his works as well the films he choreographed.

Petit is gone. My mom is gone, my dad's been gone for a long time. My brother was drowned, and others -- professional dear friends like Todd Bolender, Sophie Maslow, and Robert Joffrey are gone -- as well as others who aren't famous people, who' have made a mark on the world.

What's a "mark?" Something they built, did, or created that you admire because it defined something you wished you could do, or maybe it was a vague something or other, undefined in your mind.

Roland Petit collaborated with other very famous creators, designers, composers, performers -- names you'd recognize. He made them more famous, and, I think, he made their stardom and his own, vaster, more important.

When I was an up-and-coming dancer, I knew his name, but he was in a far-away land. Of course, I secretly wondered if he'd discover me -- my compelling face, the special concentration that I have, that makes an audience focus on me. (I've seen me in movies. I had a powerful something or other -- I don't know what it is. )

His stars (the ones he discovered and the dancers whom he used as guest artists), all had an animal sensual radiance. Petit saw bodies, especially perfectly proportioned females. And somehow, in working with these various girl/women -- he imbued them, their souls -- with deeper elements of whatever was already there -- humor, curiosity, joy, lovingness, rage, despair. He made them more fascinating, more radiant.

I write about him because the effect he had on the art world lingers, like the Aztec, Mayan, Inca chiseling.

For instance Leslie Caron. That Petit found her, directed, shaped, and launched her, is one of the reasons why I'm not able to put the fact that he's gone out of my mind. Okay, Fosse did that too, with Gwen Verdon and maybe with Ann Reinking, (whom I don't include on my personal list of special/favorite/ radiant performers, but she was powerful in Fosse's "All That Jazz.")

I am searching for a way to express what I feel about Roland Petit, and others, those whom you knew, who affected you and are gone. They live -- really live on — their words, gestures, deeds.

They are not gone. Pay attention, nod, acknowledge any moment, anything about them that you remember.

Do it -- remember them, the people who made a MARK on you. Do it intentionally.

I am thinking about how I'll feel at the end of my life. I could be there in a minute. So I'm saying to you, though you may not hear it, hold on to whatever MARK I might have made on you and your world.


Kaye Francis said...

Beautiful EM, well done, well said!

You educated me about people I did not know, others I've seen a few movies ~ (having hazy vagueness of recall).

I've only known you for a few days & you certainly have left a quality 'mark' with me. I know 'special' when I see it & am blessed to say it right to you!

I'm @grammakaye on twitter. LUVYA EM :)

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed learning about Roland Petit and I have heard and seen of Leslie Caron in movies and liked her. Roland certainly had the greatness to enhance dancers and stars abilities and make them rememberable. Em-you have surely made your mark of importance with me in so many wonderful ways. I could write a blog full of your brightness, goodness, and ways you have touched many lives with your talents, gift for dancing, writing, etc. God bless you for filling my life with Em's world!
kam Kathleen Ann McGee

Linda Phillips said...

I have wonderful memories of watching both Zizi Jeanmaire and Leslie Caron on film and was very much aware of the work of the great Roland Petite.

I too had a dance mentor. Not famous, but he touched the lives of so many people. His name was Dick Andros and he was my dance teacher all through my teen years. We remained friends for 54 years. He passed away almost 2 years ago.

He inspired my love of dance and helped introduce me to all of the wonderful dancers and dance companies that I saw throughout the years in my native NY.

Carola said...

You have made a million marks (well maybe thousands) on MY life. P.S., I love it when you write about dancing.