We tend to gloss over the negative aspects of colleagues who are no longer with us, and are usually discreet about their shortcomings when they are still alive. It is left to the gutter press to dig up unsavoury titbits. However ballet dancer Massimo Murru bucked the trend and gave a very frank opinion of choreographer Roland Petit in a radio interview last week.
Roland Petit was a great stronzo!
Translate that as “piece of shit” or “asshole” according to your mood.
Elisabetta Terrabust, Carla Fracci, Roland Petit, even if it was… er, difficult. It was not something you expect from a classical dancer, it was appalling. Roland Petit was a great stronzo… if you'll excuse the expression… to whom I owe a great deal; for better or for worse.
The interviewer, evidently surprised at his frankness, tried to smooth things over. Maybe Petit sometimes hurt someone for a good reason?
Or bad! I can say that Roland Petit was a great choreographer but on a human level he was harsh.
Murru's not the only dancer to speak frankly (and probably take the flak for it). Carla Fracci had balletomanes clucking their disapproval when she dared mention that Rudolf Nureyev often went cruising in a famous public park in Milan after a performance, even if she concluded by saying that, even so, he was always at the barre on time the next morning. Everyone knew, but no one – and certainly not the world's most famous Giselle – spoke about it to journalists.
While knowing such things hardly changes our view of watching a Petit ballet, they can help illuminate the creative mind and process. Petit and Nureyev didn't spend all their time gazing at prints of Taglioni and listening to Tchaikovsky just as Fracci isn't made of tulle and satin, as she famously proved when she publicly attacked the mayor of Rome. The general public were amazed; her colleagues were not.
Murru has his secrets too, but he just might be the type who will let them out before others do it for him.
* Petit composed many works for Massimo Murru including Chéri with Carla Fracci, Bolero, Le Lac des Cygnes et ses malefices (Swan Lake and its Evil Spells), and the solo Les Feuilles mortes.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.