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Serge Lifar's Ballets


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#1 DanceActress

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Posted 17 July 2008 - 11:48 AM

I've been watching some beautiful clips on YouTube of Yvette Chauvire coaching Monique Loudieres and Marie-Claude Pietragalla in the ballets of Serge Lifar- "Les Mirages", "Les Deux Pigeons", and "Nauteos". It's such interesting and spicy choreography- very different from Balanchine, Ashton or Tudor- and I would love to see more of it.

I know that the Paris Opera performs his work from time to time- indeed, "Suite en Blanc" is programmed for next season- and since they are my favorite company, I might have to plan a trip! But why isn't Lifar's work performed by American companies? Were his ballets ever performed in America or has he fallen out of favor recently?

#2 atm711

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Posted 17 July 2008 - 02:45 PM

Were his ballets ever performed in America or has he fallen out of favor recently?



I don't think he has ever been "in favor" in the US...Many years ago I saw "Les Mirages" and "Suite En Blanc" and I felt at the time that the only redeeming feature was the performance of Chauvire; but, then, this comes from a Balanchine devotee. :)

#3 Mel Johnson

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Posted 17 July 2008 - 03:42 PM

I really believe that Lifar's reputation in America was poisoned by his remaining in Paris during the Nazi occupation. The French themselves managed a kind of ambivalence (Free French paratroopers called their jump suits "sergelifars") about him, but Americans, in our Manichean way, saw him as a full-blown collaborator, so he didn't get a lot of play here.

#4 Nanarina

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Posted 01 September 2008 - 06:26 AM

:clapping: The Australian Ballet also includes Suite en blanc in their repertoire, could it be anything to do with politics, as part of the Ballet Russe, was stranded in Australia in the second world war. And Lifar had strong connections with both the original and break off companies.

However none of this should detract from the piece itself, it is a genius of brilliant choreography, and when danced with precision which can only be obtained by in depth rehearsal and great musicality, to give the outstanding Lalo score( music from Namouna) it's true effect, it is a wonder to behold. Both stylish, but also lyrical and romantic in the first Pas de deux. To see part of the ballet it is on 40 years of the Australian Ballet DVD.. I do not know if there is a POB DVD, there was, but I believe it was only a excerp and sold out. It would be well worth going to see when it is on in Paris. :P

#5 Estelle

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Posted 02 September 2008 - 02:32 PM

I know that the Paris Opera performs his work from time to time- indeed, "Suite en Blanc" is programmed for next season- and since they are my favorite company, I might have to plan a trip! But why isn't Lifar's work performed by American companies? Were his ballets ever performed in America or has he fallen out of favor recently?


Actually, Lifar's work are not performed often in Paris either- "Suite en blanc" and "Les mirages" were performed two seasons ago, but before that there had been many years without any Lifar performance (except from time to time by the POB school), and I'm afraid many of his works are falling into oblivion, as most of the dancers who performed it are getting very old or passed away :-(

The reasons for this lack of programming in Paris are not very clear (cygneblanc, what do you think about it ?) It seems that Brigitte Lefèvre is not a fan of Lifar (more generally, she is mostly interested in modern dance works, and not especially interested in 20th century classical repertory...), and some of Lifar's works probably look quite dated because of the sets and costumes. There might also have been some copyright or coaching issues (but I'm not sure about it)... Also I think that in the US, the audience was so used to Balanchine's aesthetics that Lifar's works probably couldn't have been well received.

#6 cygneblanc

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Posted 03 September 2008 - 07:10 AM

Well, I'm afraid that the reasons related to the lack of programming in Paris will always be dark, but it has definitively something to do with POB's current AD tastes and with the "politicaly correct" ideology, too.

What's curious is a that lot of variations extracted of Lifar's works are performed during the annual competition.

As for the performing of Lifar's works by american compagnies, I can only agree with Estelle on the aesthetical point.

I think there would be definitively some problems with the copyrights issues. If I remember well, there is only one claimant, not that young, living in Switzerland. I don't know what's her mind on the subject.

#7 volcanohunter

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Posted 03 September 2008 - 08:10 AM

If I remember well, there is only one claimant, not that young, living in Switzerland. I don't know what's her mind on the subject.

Although I don't know for certain, I suspect his widow wouldn't throw up too many barriers to performance. A few years ago she began donating a number of his personal effects to the Theatre Museum in Kiev, and I suspect she hoped that the troupe of the National Opera there would begin performing his works. However, it sticks to full-length warhorses and rarely presents mixed bills. They did perform his staging of Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet, but I don't think that there have been any further acquisitions. The National Opera of Ukraine contents itself with an annual competition/festival that bears his name and coincides with his birthday in April, but which doesn't actually involve the performance of his ballets.

#8 innopac

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 02:35 AM

I really believe that Lifar's reputation in America was poisoned by his remaining in Paris during the Nazi occupation. The French themselves managed a kind of ambivalence (Free French paratroopers called their jump suits "sergelifars") about him, but Americans, in our Manichean way, saw him as a full-blown collaborator, so he didn't get a lot of play here.


I was wondering if Sol Hurok is partly to blame for rumours about Lifar. Apparently in his first book Hurok said things about Lifar which he later recanted.

"I happen to know certain facts about Lifar's behavior during the Occupation of France, facts I did not know at the time of the publication of my earlier book, Impresario. Certain statements I made in that book concerning Serge Lifar were made on the basis of such information as I had at the time, which I believed was reliable. I have subsequently learned that it was not correct, and I have also subsequently had additional, quite different, and reliably documented information which makes me wish to acknowledge that an error of judgment was expressed on the basis of inconclusive evidence."



#9 Quiggin

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 12:25 AM

Apparently in his first book Hurok said things about Lifar which he later recanted.


Estelle posted a succinct summary of a well researched chapter by Sandrine Grandgambe in "La vie musicale sous Vichy" in this earlier discussion.

Is there a good biography on Serge Lifar?

I just took a look at the book (via Google translator) and there seemed to be no ambiguity (as there was with most other artists who collaborated at one point or other), no qualms on Lifar's part in his relations with the pro Nazi Vichy government. He seemed to have hit the water swimming. Lifar's mentor Jacques Rouche' (one of two, the other was Diaghilev) was far more kindhearted to the plight of Jewish musicians than Serge. Grandgambe give this picture of the Opera in wartime:

If the German soldiers come in numbers, it is less to listen to operas, be they German, than to attend ballet performances. Any programming of Rouche' is therefore attuned to this. Over 35% of the Opera performances for the period of the Occupancy are evenings of ballet and 12% are mixed performances. We often talk about the golden age of French ballet, but it would be fairer still to be talking about the Golden Age of Lifar. On essemble representations of ballet, 48% are directed by Lifar and, of nine creations accounted for, eight are by him. Finally, the two ballets most danced are “Entre deux rondes” et “Le Chevalier et la demoiselle,” Lifar ballets on the music of Samuel-Rousseau and Gaubert. This onmipresnce the choreography of the dancer shows the importance Lifar has taken at RTLN (Le Reunion des Theatres Lyriques Nationaux).


As pointed out in the earlier thread, his success was such that his salary was raised eightfold.

#10 leonid17

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 01:35 AM

I found this article written in 2008 in a Ukrainian newspaper that gives a view on Lifar at the Paris Opera which clarifies official French government views on this dancer.

I only witnessed Lifar from a distance and in older age and I did not take to him as he struck me as narcissistic which may, have attributed to the dislike or jealousy he engendered.

http://www.day.kiev.ua/199632/

#11 Quiggin

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 12:01 PM

Thanks Leonid for the link and the overview of Lifar's career and Delouche's comments, though it's odd there's no mention of Jacques Rouche' who hired him at the Opera.

Now if we could only hear Nijinska's version of Lifar's character and what happened!


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