Serge Lifar and the Interwar Dance Discourses of Neoclassicism 1930-39

13 March 2017, 17:00 - 19:00

Seminar room SG1, Alison Richard Building

Professor Mark Franko (Temple University, Boyer College of Music and Dance)

Chair: Dr Lucia Ruprecht (University of Cambridge)


Interwar dance critics and philosophers in France elaborated concepts of neoclassicism in ballet during the 1930s primarily around the  dance of Serge Lifar at the Paris Opéra. In addition to André Levinson and other prominent dance critics writing at the time, the impact of Paul Valéry's aesthetics of dance is examined in relation to the development of Lifar's image in the interwar period. The discourse of neoclassicism was intersected by three methodologies: a historico-critical view of choreographic theory that debated whether neoclassicism drew upon seventeenth or eighteenth-century sources; a philosophico-aesthetic reading of the metamorphoses of the classical dancing body that viewed it as metaphysical and an image of freedom; and, an anthropological analysis of dance as the pure expenditure of energy related to work. The figure of Lifar as dancer and choreographer lent itself to all three strands of analysis resulting by the end of the decade in a hybrid image of Lifar as the sovereign dancer, a second Sun King with totalitarian connotations.



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