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He will remain in my heart forever. As with all the geniuses that I’ve had the fortune to work with, you think that they’ll never die, that they can’t disappear.
When I was just 17 or 18 years-old, he chose me to dance with him in his ballet “Le Loup”. Then came “Les demoiselles de la nuit”, “La chambre”, “Rhapsodie espagnole”, “Chéri” and many others. There was a feeling between us. He was very fond of me.
I talked to him for the last time at Christmas. His great regret was that we were unable to film his ballet “Chéri” for French television, but there were a series of difficulties, even when a French TV crew came to film at La Scala. ‘A shame!’ Roland always said when we spoke. However “Chéri” is a ballet that will remain, with other ballerinas. He was keen that some sort of record would preserve it.
He wasn’t the easiest of people to work with; he was very precise, and worked slowly. He had a difficult character and there were misunderstandings between us, usually over small things. He created some extraordinary choreography, he was ahead of his time. Two years ago, when I was the director of the Rome Opera Ballet, I wanted to organise an evening in his honour, but it didn’t work out.
Along with choreographers John Cranko, Maurice Béjart, and George Balanchine, Petit is one of those extraordinary people that I’ve had the fortune to know, and with whom I’ve worked and been a friend. I even lived in Cranko’s house and one night, when he was very sad, I slept beside him. But times change, and things evolve; but they were truly great. It is sad to lose them, but that is life, we’re not immortal. I shall miss him terribly.”