He was the dancer she fled to when post-War England grew too austere, and he gave the great ballerina indelible lessons in love.
Roland Petit, whose death was announced today, aged 87, was a 1949 refuge for Fonteyn from domestic fame and insular taste. He was only her second lover, after the composer/conductor Constant Lambert, and he transformed her outward appearance during their affaire.
He dressed her at Maison Dior and persuaded her to get a nose job. ‘In Margot’s life, I was just the right person who, at the right time, opened the door,’ he said, far too modestly (I quote him in my book, Covent Garden: The Untold Story, p, 117). Months later, she took America by storm.
Petit created 176 choreographies and left a memoir, J’ai dansé sur les flots. He was a quiet giant of his genre.
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Petit (r), with Nureyev and Fonteyn (Scala Archives)