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Roland petit, renowned choreographer, dies

PARIS -- Acclaimed choreographer Roland Petit, whose creations dazzled stages from Paris to Hollywood and inspired dancers, writers and designers has died. He was 87.

The Paris National Opera said Petit's wife, Zizi Jeanmaire, informed them that the choreographer died on Sunday in Geneva.

No cause of death was given.

Jeanmaire, a ballerina turned music hall performer who collaborated with her husband, and the couple's daughter Valentine, saluted Petit as "not only a great innovator . . . but also an incomparable creator who marked and will mark all generations." Petit took his first dance steps at age nine at the Paris Opera's School of Dance "and never truly left the house," they said in a statement.

His reputation grew well beyond France in the 1950s during a four-year stint in Hollywood, collaborating with Orson Welles in "The Lady in the Ice" (1953) and choreographing classics like "Daddy Long Legs" with Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron (1954) or "Anything Goes" with Bing Crosby and Zizi Jeanmaire (1955).

Famed American dancer Alvin Ailey said in 1970 that he owed everything to Petit.

Petit choreographed for Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn among other great dancers during an eclectic career that saw him spend six months at the head of the Paris Opera in 1970 then moving to the Casino de Paris for music hall creations until 1976.

He then settled in Marseille and lent his name to the company in 1981, now known as National Ballet of Marseille-Roland Petit.

-- AP

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