Down by the bridges of Paris with Roland Petit in ’53

Long before today’s photographers took their cameras outside to capture dancers posing alfresco, the stars of Roland Petit’s Ballets de Paris, posed by the Seine in their tights and showgirl leotards.

Within the collection of theatre programs at the Mitchell Library in Sydney, I found a 1953 program for the company established by Petit in the late 1940s.

The seasons of his Ballets de Paris took place in 1948–50, 1953–54, 1955, and 1958.

Verdy was only 20 when these photos were taken by the Seine. She went on to a stellar career as a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, from 1958 to 1977.

Colette Marchand, both a dancer and actor, was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in the Academy Awards for her performance in Moulin Rouge in 1952.

Petit founded his company after he left the Ballets des Champs-Elysées.

In the Dictionnaire du Ballet moderne, Paris, 1957 Irène Lidova wrote:

“He was lucky enough to find a patronage from the young prince Alessandro Ruspoli…

“The stars were Janine Charrat, Colette Marchand, Renée Jeanmaire, Wladimir Skouratoff, Serge Perrault and Gordon Hamilton.

“For this first season opening, Margot Fonteyn had accepted to create Les Demoiselles de la Nuit. With the aim of strengthening his program, Roland Petit had summoned well known painters and musicians: André Derain, Leonor Fini, Jean Françaix, Darius Milhaud.

“Massine came for the occasion for the remake of his Beau Danube and Janine Charrat took at her charge several choregraphies, amongst which [were] La Femme et son ombre and Adame Miroir.”

These charming photos remind me of the movie, Funny Face (1957) starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire and its songs like S’Wonderful and He Loves and She Loves.

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Ballets de Paris, program cover 1953

Colette Marchand

Serge Perrault, Ursula Kubler, José Ferran

Claire Sombert and George Reich

Violette Verdy