Jean-Guillaume Bart

Danseur étoile, choreographer and pedagogue.

Jean-Guillaume Bart entered the Paris Opera Ballet School in 1983 and joined the corps de ballet of the company in 1988. Promoted Premier Danseur (first soloist) in 1996, he received the Prix Benois de la Danse in 2000, and was nominated Danseur Etoile the same year for his interpretation of Prince Désiré in Nureyev’s Sleeping Beauty. Considered as a pure »danseur noble«, he has danced the major roles of the repertoire choreographed by Nureyev (Swan Lake, Raymonda, La Bayadère, The Nutcracker, Don Quixote, and Cinderella) but also ballets by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, John Neumeier, Maurice Béjart, Pierre Lacotte, Serge Lifar, William Forsythe, and Jiří Kylián.

Since his retirement in 2008, he has been a teacher at the Paris Opera, and often coaches soloists in the classical repertoire. He has also been invited as guest teacher at La Scala in Milan, Tokyo Ballet, Mikhailovsky Theatre of Saint-Petersburg, Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, Roma Opera Ballet, Yacobson Ballet of Saint-Petersburg, and the Royal Swedish Ballet.

From 2012 to 2016, he taught at the Paris Conservatory (CNSMDP).

From 1997, he started creating many short pieces as a choreographer, for students and young dancers – Péchés de Jeunesse (2000), Le Diable à quatre (2001), Javotte (2003), Bergamasques (2006), Lalo Rhapsodie (2014), Ballet Egyptien (2017) – and gave his own versions of Le Corsaire (Federal Theatre of Ekaterinburg, Russia, 2007), and Sleeping Beauty (for Yacobson Ballet of Saint-Petersburg, 2016: revived in Roma Opera, 2017).

In 2011, he created a new production of the forgotten french ballet La Source for the Paris Opera Ballet, with costumes by Christian Lacroix.

Roland Petit

Roland Petit was born in 1924 and started at the Paris Opera Ballet School at the age of nine. In the mid-1940s, however, he lost desire to work in the old institution with its rigid discipline. Like many other young dance artists, he sought a new artistic freedom. Paris after the end of World War II became a very exciting place for dance. Dancers from all over the world came to Paris for inspiration. It created a creative atmosphere where Petit became a central figure. First, in the Ballets des Champs-Elysées in 1945, together with (among others) Janine Charrat. and then in his own Ballets de Paris, in 1948. He allied himself with contemporary artists, composers and poets and thus continued the trend from both the Russian and Swedish ballets in Paris in 1910s and 1920s with a close collaboration between the different art forms.

Petit's dance drama Le jeune homme et la mort in 1946 was as much the poet Jean Cocteau’s work as it was Petit’s. It caused a somewhat shocking effect with its wild sensuality, and its existential theme felt extremely relevant in post-war Europe. Petit’s ballet represented a new kind of realistic dance drama. Modern man, with his social and psychological problems, had already sneaked into the world of ballet, on both sides of the Atlantic, in works where both settlers in the Wild West and a gas station manager could take the lead roles – far from the romantic fairy tale world of the previous ballets. But Petit was the choreographer who gave the new drama a timeliness and a visual design that struck a chord with a large audience.

Petit's ballet version of Bizet's opera Carmen should also be seen in the light of the existentialism of the 1940s. With Petit, Carmen chooses her own destiny and through her he also foreshadows the post-war women's movement and sexual revolution. She is a woman who uses her sexuality on her own terms.

The result was something completely French in character, in its chic elegance and refined eroticism. Petit's choreography is classically based but spiced with other dance forms, almost acrobatic and always with a strong sense of effects. The ensemble is given a leading role, alongside Carmen and Don José – the couple is occupied by dancers who participate most actively in the action, not least purely rhythmically. Petit reorganized Bizet’s music, not haphazardly, but according to the demands of the work, with well-calculated effects, such as Carmen's famous habanera being danced by Don José – one of several ironic winks to Bizet. Catalan visual artist Antoni Clavé's epoch-making scenography was based on reduction of a few important mood-creating elements. The love scene in the morning in Carmen's bedroom, where the morning sun shines in through the blinds of the window and the bed is unmade, is a masterpiece in how to use a classic pas de deux in a new way. Never before had a love affair been portrayed so unabashedly open and naked, and it opened the door to a new kind of ballet.

Carmen created a sensation when it had its world premiere in London in February 1949. On this occasion, the Ballets de Paris made a guest appearance, with Petit himself and his future wife Zizi Jeanmaire in the leading roles. The two dazzled the audience with their cool sexual outbursts. "Sex and more sex", as an American critic once summed up his impressions.

During the 1950s and 60s, Roland Petit became one of the world's most sought-after choreographers. Not just for ballet. Hollywood was alluring, and Petit created the choreography in movies like H.C. Andersen (1951) with Danny Kaye, and Daddy Long Legs (1955) with Leslie Caron and Fred Astaire. He worked with shows, revues and musicals, always with the same elegant imagination and theatrical wealth of ideas. He was a real showman, always French to his fingertips. In the 1970s, he ran the Casino de Paris for a few years with his wife Zizi Jeanmaire. The two became a symbol of chic Paris.

Petit's ability to create both art and entertainment sometimes gave him criticism, but also a large audience, and he declared that he was certainly not ashamed of being popular. In 1972 he was invited to become ballet director in Marseille, created many new works and put Ballets de Marseille on the international map. In total, his list of works includes about 170 works. He often sought references in French literature, with Rostand (Cyrano de Bergerac), Hugo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), Proust (Les Intermittences du coeur), Zola (Nana) or Leroux (The Phantom of the Opera). And he continued to collaborate with famous artists and fashion designers, such as his good friend Yves Saint-Laurent. In 1998 he left Marseille and settled in Switzerland, where he passed away in 2011.

Erik Näslund

Erik Näslund is an author and cultural journalist. From 1989 to 2016, he was museum director of Dansmuseet (the Dance Museum) in Stockholm. He has written biographies of, among others, Birgit Cullberg and Rolf de Maré and librettos for the ballets The Nutcracker (1995) and Gustav III (2008) for the Royal Swedish Opera.

Luigi Bonino

Principal Dancer / Artistic Director. Luigi Bonino was born in Italy and began dancing at the age of 10 with Susanna Egri. He participated in many television broadcasts in Italian television. In 1973, he entered the Cullberg Ballet. As a principal dancer he interpreted the leading roles of the company, such as Adam and Eve and Romeo and Juliet. In 1975, Roland Petit took him into the National Ballet of Marseille and confided him with the role of Coppelius in Coppelia, Le jeune homme et la mort, Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame de Paris, The Phantom of the Opera and Ulrich in The Bat. In 1979, he danced with Margot Fonteyn, Magic of Dance, choreography by Roland Petit. He was also Zizi Jeanmarie’s partner in Parisiana 25 in New York, in the musical Can Can on Broadway, and in September, 1982, he danced with Zizi Jeanmarie in a co-production by CBS, TF1 and the National Ballet of Marseille, I Love Paris. Roland Petit appointed him as assistant and dancer for the creation of Heaven and Hell, in June, 1984, at Palasport in Milan with the company of La Scala. He danced at the Metropolitan in New York, in The Hunchback of Notre Dame as Frollo with Natalia Makarova and Rudolph Nureyev.

After Le jeune homme et la mort with Natalia Makarova and Alessandra Ferri, Bonino was again Zizi Jeanmarie’s partner in the musical Hollywood Paradise, in which he also sang, in Paris, New York, Los Angeles and Milan. Roland Petit gave him the title role of the Puss in Boots. He set the ballet Ma Pavlova for Rome Opera and The Blue Angel for La Scala in Milan. He was the King in Sleeping Beauty created in Marseille. And he also undertook the role of Carabosse created by Zizi Jeanmarie. He danced Cheek to Cheek with Carla Fracci at La Scala in Milan. He created the title role in the new Roland Petit ballet, Dancing Chaplin, with Elisabetta Terabust. He became Roland Petit’s assistant for all the repertoire and set The Bat for the San Carlo Company in Naples, La Chambre for Aterballetto, Carmen and L'arlesienne at Milan La Scala. He started a collaboration with Asami Maki Ballet and with New National Theatre of Tokyo. For Tetsuya Kumakawa, director of the K-Ballet, Roland Petit created Bolero for Bonino and entrusted him with Carmen, L’arlesienne and Le jeune homme et la mort, of which a video was made. Luigi Bonino danced in Duke Ellington, Coppelia, The Bat, Pink Floyd, and many others, for all these various companies.

He assisted Roland Petit for the creation of The Queen of Spades at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. With Alessandra Ferri and Massimo Murru, he made the video of The Bat in Milan. At the Bolshoi Theatre, he danced the latest creation Roland Petit tells. For the Paris Opera he set many ballets: Notre Dame, Carmen, L’arlesienne, Proust, Le jeune homme et la mort, and Rendez-vous – as he also did for the Beijing National Ballet, Wiener Staatsoper, the Mariinski Theatre, the Pennsylvania Ballet, English National Ballet, and the Colon Theatre in Buenos Aires.

The last big production was of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in Astana Theatre, directed by Altynai Asylmuratova with whom he has danced many times. He still dances the role of Coppelius in Coppelia, role that Roland Petit created for himself and gave to him. With Tamiyo Kusakari, and under the direction of Masayuki Suo, he made the film version of Dancing Chaplin. Since July 2011, he is the Artistic Director of the all repertoire of Roland Petit's ballets.