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Serge Lifargrowing wealth of video of him on Youtube


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#16 Quiggin

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Posted 27 August 2012 - 12:34 PM

Balanchine was a defender of Lifar's dancing -- for example in Apollo --


Balanchine fashioned his own choreography around a dancer's strengths and weakeness and so perhaps in Apollo and Prodigal Son Serge Lifar was at his best - and most beautiful. And maybe the rest of his career was an attempt to recapture that moment of great beauty – as with those moments of our the pasts that many of us try to restore.

So the later ballets are static and make the dancers look "pompous" - as Edwin Denby notes - and are perhaps similar in spirit to fascist productions, such as Albert Speer’s, that want to monumentalize something and freeze it in time. That’s maybe where Lifar’s real collaboratist tendency lies.

In 1950 Denby also says that with exception of Suite en Blanc, Lifar’s ballets have an “antimusical and desperate pound” and none would last. He does say earlier that Lifar in Icare has a a kind naturalness "that goes beyond the gestures required," and that his dancing moves him (this is in 1938).

Denby also tries to get a handle on the Paris Opera style, and maybe this is a key to Suite en Blanc and some of the others. An Open Letter About the Paris Opera Ballet:

Their conception of rhythm and of phrasing inclines away from that of music and toward that of speech. The dancer shapes her phrases by giving them point, as one would in speaking. She selects a step in the sequence and points it up, giving it a slight retard and a slight insistence, and she lets the other steps drop around it, casually and a shade hastily ... [There are] virtuoso subtleties and ingenuities in the phrasing of rhetoric, tiny gusts of inspiration that hurry her forward ...

The Paris style doesn’t mean to transport you so far from the appearances, the awkward graces and characteristic reserves of normal sedentary city life. The point ... is to make the dancer look less like a marvelous vision and more like an opinionated Parisian with all her wits about her whom one might meet in a room full of conversation.


And here is an announcement (I don’t know if it’s been posted here before) of another bit of foolishness:

New York Times Oct 15, 1949 Garbo May Appear in Ballet

Greta Garbo, film star, may appear at the Paris Opera House in the title role of Phedre new ballet by Jean Cocteau, Georges Auric and Serge Lifar. Auric, composer of the music, said today, “Miss Garbo, who is at present in America, has accepted in principle. She is at present in possession of the manuscript. * * * We are awaiting her definite decision. If she accepts she will mime the role. She will not dance.”



#17 dirac

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Posted 27 August 2012 - 02:41 PM


Balanchine was a defender of Lifar's dancing -- for example in Apollo --


Balanchine fashioned his own choreography around a dancer's strengths and weakeness and so perhaps in Apollo and Prodigal Son Serge Lifar was at his best - and most beautiful.


My impression was that Balanchine didn't enjoy composing for Lifar - it was Diaghilev's casting and not his and even though it was very early days Balanchine didn't like that, although obviously it didn't affect his creativity or his ability to make Lifar look good. I think it was William Weslow in "I Remember Balanchine" who recalled the master saying of Lifar (from memory): "He was like woman. And so I liked him because he was like woman. He was very pretty, very girly, beautiful legs and feet and poses. I used to pose him. Like I do with girls. I used to pose him." That's praise after a fashion, I suppose, but if I were Lifar I wouldn't use it as a blurb for my bio.

wow...such hate and animosity toward him.


Nureyev told Gore Vidal there was a Lifar Room at the Paris Opera Ballet that he tried to avoid entering. "Bad ghost."

#18 Helene

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Posted 27 August 2012 - 02:59 PM

Some of Balanchine's praise for Lifar was reported by Lifar himself.

#19 Drew

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 12:04 PM

I have also read that, asked if Lifar "really" performed certain difficult passages in Apollo (with the implicit suggestion that he could not possibly have done them because they were too difficult), Balanchine said yes.

I have always had reservations about Apollo in performance. I have never doubted its historical importance, but I've never seen a performance that seemed 100 percent alive to me. The leads in Apollo and Prodigal Son still remain two of the the most important male roles in the repertory and have been danced by major dancer after major dancer in the generations following their creation. Lifar was their originator. That doesn't mean he gets the credit that rightly goes to Balanchine (and notably Stravinsky in the case of Apollo and Rouault in the case of Prodigal Son), but in my eyes, it counts for quite a bit more than nothing when I assess Lifar's place in ballet history and importance as a dancer.

It's very true as Dirac and several others have noted that Balanchine was a master at working with dancers' strengths and weaknesses and knew how to make Lifar look good, but it's not as if Villella, Baryshnikov, Nureyev, D'Amboise, Martins, Hallberg, Stiefel, Gomez, etc. have not found these roles interesting and challenging to dance and interpret. And not because they were too easy or only required good looks and girly poses. Nor have I ever read that the male roles were massively re-choreographed for these dancers or others.

For the rest, I don't think anyone -- certainly not any American ballet fan I know of -- has ever doubted that Lifar comes through as more than a tad ridiculous in anecdote after anecdote. (Worse in some other respects already discussed above.) As originator of Apollo and Prodigal Son--for me, not so ridiculous.

#20 Helene

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 12:24 PM

Are these particularly technical roles, though? And given the time period -- much lower expectations for turnout and extension, for example -- would his technical flaws have been that apparent? There are no other men to whom to compare him in "Apollo," and only the troglodytes (dancing and characterization) and the Father (characterization) in "Prodigal Son." Apollo as Greek god only represents the second half of the ballet's history, and which shows him as a work-in-progress, not fully formed and sprung from the head of Zeus. To look at "Serenade" we'd never think that the original three movements were made for adult students at SAB "to teach them to dance" based on the performances we've seen for decades. Almost every major ballerina whose company has performed "Serenade" has found the roles interesting and challenging.

There's a lot of characterization in both -- self-absorption being primary -- especially in the full-length "Apollo," and perhaps this, and the contrast to the women, is what Balanchine exploited.

#21 bart

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 05:33 PM

And here is an announcement (I don’t know if it’s been posted here before) of another bit of foolishness:

New York Times Oct 15, 1949 Garbo May Appear in Ballet

Greta Garbo, film star, may appear at the Paris Opera House in the title role of Phedre new ballet by Jean Cocteau, Georges Auric and Serge Lifar. Auric, composer of the music, said today, “Miss Garbo, who is at present in America, has accepted in principle. She is at present in possession of the manuscript. * * * We are awaiting her definite decision. If she accepts she will mime the role. She will not dance.”

Fascinating story, Quiggin. Dirac has already responded to your post on the newest Hollywood's Golden Age thread.

Alas, Phedre was fated to open in 1950 without Garbo -- but with Tamara Toumanova. .

I was encouraged to do a little Google research, and came across some interesting material on the danzaballet.com site, including a ghastly photo of Toumanova and Lifar emoting -- and a gorgeous head shot of Claude Bessy -- from this production. There's a summary of Cocteau's libretto, as well as a selection in which Lifar discusses his choreographic ideas, such as they were. Google Translate does a respectable job of turning Lifar's pompous French into comprehensible -- if sometimes unintentionally comic -- English. The concept of a "deaf theatre dance" is priceless..

http://www.danzaball...e=News&sid=4820

BALLET BY SERGE LIFAR
We presented Phaedra in 1950. It was not my first encounter with Phaedra. This theme has long attracted me by its plastic values ​​and the contrast made between purity Athletic Hippolyte and tragedy of Phaedra.

Having composed myself a book by Euripides, I settled in 1938, the opera, a ballet choreography called Hippolyte, carrying wreaths, with music specially written by Vittorio Rieti. Various circumstances, then the war, prevented my job to face the public. In 1942 and 1944, during demonstrations devoted to dance and poetry, I remembered my drafts and I returned to the own of Racine, including the story of Theramenes.

These were the preliminary choreography that I composed for a "cutting" by Jean Cocteau, with music by Georges Auric, whose simple power chords and accentuate the dramatic action with happiness. It is a "choreographic tragedy" and a true reflection of Racine's Phaedra. The verb declaimed, almost incantatory poet, replaces the body that speaks, the gesture that says. All this is possible only with a high concentration, tighter, very thorough recount regarding dances soloists highlighted - effect of contrast - the dynamic sets.

The faces of the dancers is a screen, a series of tragic masks: it not only mimics, but he dances. Most of the time, part expressive "narrative" in a way, is confirmed in the facial features, which, in a sense separates from the body, plastic and dynamic element. The choreography of Phaedra, I tried to make a fusion of the two separate plans of these two people who come together here more closely than usual, so much so that the face and body dance speaks!

The plastic lines are deliberately very simple, with a geometric simplicity, sometimes hieratic, as befits the grandeur tragic characters, however, they remain fundamentally musical (because it is a real musical gesture, because the dancer's body must "know how to sing ! '). The elevation of Hippolytus opposed to "down to earth" Phaedrus, a "down to earth" tragic and full of dynamic pressure and plastic cruel to Oenone: only pure Aricie can follow in his flown by!

The action unfolds in waves, through a series of crescendo that abruptly diminish, stop, better bounce, like the breath tragic as the frequency and intensity of breathing drama. This is not a linear, horizontal, but a series of ups and downs, which causes anxiety and gives deaf theater dance its true aspect of tragedy.

-- The Book of dance, musical French Journal Publishing, Paris 1954.

That last sentence -- with its bizarre "deaf theater dance" is a botched translation on multiple levels. The actual sentence in French is: Ce n’est pas un développement linéaire, horizontal, mais un enchaînement de hauts et de bas, qui provoque une angoisse sourde et confère au théâtre chorégraphique son véritable aspect de tragédie.

#22 Drew

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 06:18 PM

When I was in Paris in the early 80's Michel Denard collaborated with a French stage actress on a Phedre piece (I can't get the accent over the 'e' to appear). She read a major speech or speeches from the play and he danced the role of Hyppolite around her. I have forgotten who the choreographer was. It was an interesting event to me, but not a great ballet event (though Denard was beautiful to watch), and I don't remember much else about it. The idea of an actress collaborating with a male star on some sort of Phedre 'ballet' must have stuck in someone's mind.

#23 Quiggin

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 11:58 AM

Posted Image

The image from Bart's link to the Danza Ballet's Phèdre / Psyché entry: Tamara Toumanova et Serge Lifar à la création / photo Lipnitzki

#24 puppytreats

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 01:13 PM

Posted Image

The image from Bart's link to the Danza Ballet's Phèdre / Psyché entry: Tamara Toumanova et Serge Lifar à la création / photo Lipnitzki


What does the grafitti say?
What does Esmerelda write on the wall with chalk in the Bolshoi version?

#25 Lidewij

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 01:45 PM

It seems to say 'Faedra'.
In Esmeralda, the writing on the wall is transcribed "Feb", or "Phoebus", the name of the captain she's in love with.


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