#TBT: Zizi Jeanmaire in Roland Petit's “Carmen” Variation (1961)

Updated on 8/5/2020

French ballerina Zizi Jeanmaire first gained fame when she premiered the titular title role in Roland Petit's Carmen in 1949, opposite Petit as Carmen's lover Don José. With her famously cropped hair (and cropped tutu!), Jeanmaire's performance as the seductive gypsy took the world by storm, catapulting her and Petit's careers.


The couple, who married in 1954, were partners in life as well as onstage. They spent several years working in Hollywood, and later reprised their roles in Carmen for a version of the ballet in the 1961 French film Black Tights. This clip of Carmen's variation immortalizes Jeanmaire's sexy sophistication and brilliant commitment to a role.

Emerging from a back corner of the bar in the tavern scene, Jeanmaire toys with her fan as a tantalizing rhythm begins to build. The turned-in-and-out swivels and precise footwork in Petit's Latin-infused ballet vocabulary accentuate her long legs. Jeanmaire, who passed away last month, is equally astonishing with each coy profile and shoulder shrug as she is in the variation's finale of rousing fouettés. A duo ahead of their time, Petit's choreography and Jeanmaire's performance are still every bit as iconic as they were in the '60s. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

Latest Posts


Getty Images

What's Ahead for Ballet Companies in the Age of COVID-19?

Let's be frank: No one knows what's ahead for the performing arts in the U.S. With COVID-19 forcing the cancellation of nearly a year of performances so far, including many Nutcrackers, ballet companies face a daunting path ahead with no roadmap for how to survive. While schools can offer classes online or in small groups, what does the future hold for companies when it's not safe to gather large audiences or corps de ballet?

"We are in for a very hard set of months," says Michael M. Kaiser, chairman of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland. "Nothing will change until there's a vaccine."

Pointe set out to find out what the new normal looks like while the virus is with us.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Sylvie Guillem and Éric Vu-An in "Mouvement, Rythme, Étude" (1985)

Sylvie Guillem and Éric Vu-An, two former leading dancers with the Paris Opéra Ballet, were both muses to Maurice Béjart. The boundary-pushing choreographer created several roles for each of them throughout their careers, including the 1985 duet "Mouvement, Rythme, Étude," when Guillem was just 20-years old and Vu-An just 21. In this excerpt from the ballet, the pair juxtapose technical brilliance and finesse with Béjart's playfully absurd post-modern movement.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Boston Ballet

Tips for Fitting into a Company Setting When You’re in the Junior Ranks

Landing a spot as a second company member or trainee is thrilling—your dream is starting to come true! While you'll still be training intensely, you'll also have opportunities to perform in company productions and take company class. But the newness of professional life can also be nerve-racking. To learn the ropes quickly, you'll need to know what will be expected of you, both in the studio and in your interactions with other dancers and staff. A few simple tips can keep you from making common missteps.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks