During the fascinating discussion between Professor Susan Jones and Professor Mark Franko, in celebration of the publication of this book, held for DANSOX members via Zoom in November 2020,[1] Franko says: “I worry that the Occupation chapter is overpowering the book”, because the critical responses received thus far, had only written about that chapter. I will attempt to review more of Franko’s tour de force than this chapter, although it is rich with new archival material which uncovers much about the relationship between Serge Lifar at the Paris Opera and the Nazi Occupation.

Franko runs the major theme of the baroque in neoclassicism in ballet, through the body of Serge Lifar, throughout his book. He dissects the French baroque of the seventeenth century and the German baroque of the eighteenth century, their similarities and differences, their nationalist links and how they are reflected in Lifar’s ballets at different stages of Lifar’s career in Paris (1929-1958).

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Can ballet ever claim to be an apolitical art form, especially in such extreme conditions as the Nazi occupation of France during the Second World War? What should be our response to a dancer, choreographer and ballet director who appears to have collaborated with the Third Reich and its ethos? Can he ever be ‘rehabilitated’ and should his works created under these conditions be performed? These were some of the questions arising for Professor Mark Franko in his intriguing DANSOX talk The Fascist Legs of Serge Lifar: French Ballet under the Occupation at St Hilda’s College on Thursday 4th June. (more…)