France, renowned for its fondness for the arts, is perhaps best known for its ballet thanks to a certain Russian immigrant by the name of Serge Lifar.
The world of dance – both yesterday and today – still remember a personality whose artistic innovations inherently influenced contemporary dance today. With exclusive access to Lifar’s personal archives, this intimate account of Lifar’s colourful life juxtaposes never-before-seen images alongside interviews with today’s dancers and choreographers, who help illustrate who the man behind his artistic fame, the depth of his passion, his friendships and love affairs throughout the years, and the enduring continuity of his groundbreaking work.
Despite his late start as a serious dancer at 16, Lifar found a place in ballet through hisperserverance and unassailable stage presence, even working under Sergei Diaghilev, founder of the Ballets Russes. However, Lifar wasn’t just limited to being a star onstage. He also rose to become an influential choreographer, a bonafide celebrity and one of the major figures in the renewal of 20th-century French ballet.
Believing that dance can exist outside of music, Lifar implemented radical approaches, unprecedented reforms, and revolutionary choreography that would come to redefine neoclassical ballet and even the world of ballet itself! With such incredible productions as Suite en blanc and Icare, Lifar quickly became a celebrity and even collaborated with the likes of Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso and Coco Chanel, who strongly influenced the lighting, costumes and sets of his pieces.
By age 24, Lifar was entrusted to head the Paris Opera, where he held the reigns for nearly three decades, guiding it from declining popularity to international celebrity. During World War II, Lifar was accused of collaborating with the Nazis until it was revealed years later that he was really acting as a double agent in order to save lives. Finally retiring in 1956, Lifar embarked on a new career as an international ambassador of ballet before his death in Lausanne, Switzerland at the age of 81.