Petit’s Carmen, a study in seduction

The Australian Ballet was only 11 years old in 1973 when it took something dramatically different into the repertoire – Carmen – choreographed by Roland Petit.

The ballet created a sensation at its world premiere in London in 1949 when Petit himself danced as Don Jose with his future wife, Zizi Jeanmaire, as Carmen.

Her cropped hair and corset costume, designed by Antoni Clavé, caused much excitement and Jeanmaire went on to a very successful show business career.

Petit, who died last Sunday – July 10, 2011, – aged 87, did not come to Australia to set his ballet on the national company.

Instead, he sent the Frenchman, Olivier Klementieff, his assistant. At the time, Klementieff was ballet master and soloist at Les Ballets de Marseille de Roland Petit.

(Thanks to the long-standing member of the Australian Ballet, Colin Peasley, for this information).

The two dancers cast as Carmen – were Lucette Aldous who danced with Rudi Bryans, a member of the Marseille ballet company, and Ai-Gul Gaisina, who danced with John Meehan.

Gaisina remembers the ballet as “very, very sexual and very new for Australian dancers brought up on the whole Royal Ballet style – a little bit reserved”.

In 1973, the Russian-born and beautiful Gaisina had recently married Andrew Guild, (Michael Edgley’s business partner) and was in her first year at the Australian Ballet, dancing as a soloist.

Since Carmen’s Australian premiere at the Elizabethan Theatre in Newtown, Sydney, the Australian Ballet has performed it only twice, in 1974 and again in 1981.

As danced by Alessandra Ferri and Laurent Hilaire in this clip, the bedroom pas de deux still looks as erotic as ever.

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Lucette Aldous and artists of the Australian Ballet, Carmen, photo, Walter Stringer, National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an24783900

Roland Petit, photo, Thomas Peter Schultz/Wikimedia Commons

Antoni Clavé 1949 drawing for Carmen costume