A French choreographer
(1818-1910) who spent almost all his life in Russia, becoming principal dancer at the St Petersburg
ballet in 1847, chief choreographer in 1862, and ballet
master in 1867. He is most famous for creating the choreography
's masterpieces Sleeping Beauty
(1890), The Nutcracker
(1892), and Swan Lake
(1895), but he did more than fifty in all.
Petipa was born in Marseilles on 11 March 1822. His father was also a dancer and choreographer, and his elder brother Lucien Petipa created the role of Albrecht in Giselle. He grew up in Belgium and his first public performance was in Brussels in 1831. They moved to Bordeaux in 1834 and Nantes in 1838, where he became principal dancer. They toured North America in 1839. He partnered great dancers of the era including Carlotta Grisi. After another stint at Bordeaux, where Petipa began doing choreography, he moved to Madrid for four years. After a love affair with the Marquis de Châteaubriand was discovered he had to flee, and took up a post at St Petersburg, where the imperial ballet company was languishing after the departure five years previously of their star Marie Taglioni.
His first production there was Paquita but for many years he was overshadowed. He married Maria Sergeyevna Surovshchikova in 1854 and subsequently created several ballets for her. Their daughter Maria Mariusovna Petipa created the role of the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty in 1890. He had great successes with Don Quixote in 1869 and La Bayadère in 1877.
He married the dancer Lubova Leonidovna in 1882. He retired from St Petersburg in 1903, and died at Gurzuf in the south of Russia on 14 July 1910.