Roland Petit, French dancer, choreographer and ballet director was born on January 13, 1924 in Villemomble, near Paris. He studied with Serge Lifar and at the Paris Opera Ballet School from 1934, and entered the corps de ballet of the Paris Opera Ballet in 1940 together with Maurice Bejart, Violette Verdy and Leslie Caron. In 1944 he left the company to strike out on his own.
In 1945 with Boris Kochno and Irène Lidova he founded Les Ballets des Champs-Elysées. For this company he created Les Forains and Le Rendez-vous (1945), and Le Jeune home et la mort (1946). In 1948 he formed Les Ballets de Paris, where he created Carmen (1949). This company was eventually disbanded, but it was periodically brought back to life in order to present Petit´s newest choreography.
From 1951, Petit worked in Hollywood providing the choreography for several musicals such as Daddy Long Legs with Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron, and Anything Goes with Bing Crosby. The 1960 film Black Tights featured shortened versions of four of Petit´s ballets.
In 1955 he married the dancer Renée (Zizi) Jeanmaire.
For the Paris Opera Ballet Petit created Notre Dame de Paris (1965), Schéhérazade (1974), La Symphony Fantastique with M. Denard (a Benois de la Danse jury member) and Zizi Jeanmaire (1975), The Fantome of the Opera (1980), Passacaille, Rythme de Valses, Camera Obscura, (1994) and Clavigo (1999). For the Royal Ballet — Paradis Perdu with R. Nureyev (Benois de la Danse first jury member) and M. Fonteyn, (1967) and Péléas and Mélisande (1969). For the Scala of Milano — Estasi with R. Nureyev. For the Ballet of the Staatsopera Unter den Linden — Dix oder Eros and Tod with M. Denard (1993) that for Petit won a Benois de la Danse.
In 1970 for six months he was Director of the Paris Opera Ballet. In the same year he bought Le Casino de Paris and until 1975 had been staging revues, which starred his wife, Zizi Jeanmaire.
Petit founded Ballet National de Marseille in 1972, and remained there for 25 years. For this company he created numerous ballets including L´Arlésienne (1974), Ma Pavlova (1986), Le Guépard (1995) with D. Khalfouni (a Benois de la Danse jury member and laureate), and his own Sleeping Beauty with Jeanmaire as Carabosse (1990).
In 1992 he opened the Marseille National Dance School.
In 1998 he created his own version of Swan Lake, left Ballet National de Marseille and moved to Switzerland, to reside in Geneva.
Chevalier de la Legion d´Honneur (1974).
French National Prize for Dance (1979).
Benois de la Danse (1994).