Background of Nicolas Petrov

Ballet Master and Choreographer


Nicolas Petrov began his training at age 12 at the state school in Yugoslavia. He progressed so rapidly that by the end of the year he was already dancing with the Yugoslav National Theater. He graduated from the government school and promptly became an active member of the Opera Ballet of Belgrade. Encouraged by his professional associates and the promise of a blossoming career, he went to Paris to study with Mme. Olga Prebrajenska. During that year he was discovered by Janine Charrat, and with her company, Ballet de France, completed an extensive European tour.


Back in Paris in 1955, he joined the Ballet Russe of Grjebina and later that year auditioned for Leonide Massine. He was then engaged by Massine with whom he performed as guest artist in Sweden. Back in Paris he performed with Janine Charrat in the French Provinces, and in the meantime continued his training with Mr. Gsowsky, Mr. Pereti, Mms. Rozanne, Mr. Knazeff, and Mme. Yegorova.


In 1957 he began a three-year engagement with Theatre d’Art de Ballet as first dancer and toured the Middle and Far East. While in Paris, between tours, he made several films, performing as actor and dancer. The films he appeared in were “Plane Soleil” of Jean Renoir with Alain Delon and Elvire Propesco, “I Killed Rasputin” of Robert Hossein with Geraldine Chaplin and Gert Froeb, “The Lovers of Teruel” of Raymond Rouleau with Ludmila Tcherina, “La Ronde” of Roger Vadim with Catherine Deneuve, “Lorenzo’s Oil” of George Miller with Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, and Peter Ustinov, etc. Subsequently, in 1958, he toured with Ludmilla Tcherina’s company, appearing as soloist at the Summer Film and Dance Festival in Spain.


He was back at work with Leonide Massine in 1960 as leading dancer with Milorad Miskovitch, Duska Sifnios, Paulo Bortoluzzi, Carla Fracci, and others at the International Festival de Nervi in Italy and appearing in the Edinburgh Dance Festival and on Italian and German television. Petrov became well known for his character interpretations of Basilio in “The Barber of Seville,” as Lord Edward in “Ball de Voulour,” and as Joseph in “Laudes Evangelii.” The latter was filmed by the BBC in the UK and distributed in Europe and America.


In 1961, he joined ORTF, French Television, where he worked for six years as leading dancer and choreographer for single star shows and variety programs such as “The Felix Martin Show,” “Raymonde Siozade,” “Marie Vincent,” etc. At the same time he continued working with Massine in ballets such as “The Nutcracker,” “The Three-Cornered Hat,” “Blue Danube,” and “La Boutique Fantastique.” As a dancer he also performed the choreography of Jean Guelis and Dick Sanders and he did “Joan of Ark” with Milko Sparenblek. He worked with French singers Maurice Chevalier, Yves Montand, Gilbert Becaud, Charles Aznavour, etc. Also during this period he organized his own dance company, Ballet Petrov, which performed with great success in Paris, Vienna, Bolen, Lyon, Lisbon, and Brussels.


In 1967, after crisscrossing the world, Nicolas Petrov came to Pittsburgh to take over the direction and development of the Pittsburgh Playhouse Ballet Department. His arrival marked the beginning of a new era for the performing arts in Pittsburgh. The establishment of a professional dance company enriched this city. From a few performances at the Playhouse and one season at Syria Mosque, the company then made its home in the newly opened Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts.


From 1969-1973, he brought the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) to its highest level and established the company as one of seven United States professional companies. Such critics as Ann Barsel, Walter Terry, Clive Barnes, and many others acclaimed Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.


Petrov brought an unlimited number of the finest dancers to Pittsburgh such as Natalia Markova, Violette Verdy, Edward Villella, Peter Schaufuss, and many others. He brought to this town such great choreographers as Leonide Massine, Ruth Page, and John Butler, to name a few.


He has choreographed over 100 ballets, 8 of which are full-length productions. Of his American premieres, there are Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet,” and “The Prince of Pagadas.” World premieres include “Maria Sabina,” “Steel Symphony,” and “Americana R.F.D.,” just to name a few. Clive Barnes wrote, “Mr. Petrov with ‘Scenes de Ballet,’ ‘Rite of Spring,’ and his full evening ‘Romeo and Juliet’ emerged as a choreographer of taste and talent.”


Parallel to his work developing the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, he served as Chairman of the Dance Department, which he founded at Point Park College (PPC). Point Park College was also the place where he founded PBT.


From 1974-1986, after the restructuring of PPC, he served as Director of the Dance Division of the Fine, Applied, and Performing Arts Department of PPC. In 1977, founded under the same roof as PBT, he founded the American Dance Ensemble of Point Park College. The goal of the new company was to have a contemporary repertoire to supplement the standard repertoire of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. The company toured extensively with the “Nutcracker” and “Homage to Stravinsky”. He also brought to Pittsburgh teachers such as Edward Caton, Frederic Franklin, Valentina Pereyaslavec, Vitale Fokine, and many more. He created new ballets in collaboration with Rod McKuen as composer and librettist such as “Americana R.F.D.”, “Black Eagle”, and “The Man Who Tracked the Stars”. He brought in internationally known teachers such as Marina Stavitskaya, Asaf Messerer, Jean Guelis, Vasili Sulich, Mikhail Korogodsky, Gabriella Komleva, and Lillia Sharapova. In 1983, he revived Ballet Petrov as a concert group, consisting of guest dancers and Point Park College faculty, to supplement American Dance Ensemble.


            From 1987-present, he served as a Senior Professor at PPC teaching and choreographing for the students of the college. He guest taught at the Chautauqua Institute, in New York, for Jean-Pierre Bonnefous and Patricia McBride. He also taught for Pittsburgh Youth Ballet, Lorell Youth Ballet, and Ballet Westmoreland. He held the post of traveling artist in residence in West Virginia for two years. He choreographed “Coppelia” for Ballet Baroque and a Mozart divertissement for Ballet Westmoreland. For Point Park College he created ballet sequels called “Green Apples I” and “Green Apples II”, which had comical substance. The most important piece he did for PPC was Stravinsky’s “Pulcinella”, which was also a Pittsburgh premiere, and he revived “Peter and the Wolf” for the children’s theatre. For summer dance courses he staged a suite of character dances, which included the “Tarantella”, “Spanish Suite”, “Hungarian Czardas”, “Mazurka”, “Jota”, and the “Russian Suite”. This is just an overview of the many works he has created. He is now working on a new technical expression called “Technique Totale of the human body” and he is writing the history of dance in Pittsburgh, PA connected with his association with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Point Park College. 


            Pittsburgh’s dance scene will never be the same. The town, which was once a stranger to the dance, became a dance-loving town with the help of Petrov’s efforts.