Serge Lifar

1905 (Kyiv) – 1986 (Lausanne, Switzerland)

Lifar is less important for his role in Ballets Russes than thereafter, as a significant figure in French ballet. He was not universally liked, with an ego to compensate for any shortfalls. Rejected as a private pupil by Nijinska, he took her state ballet school classes instead. Diaghilev took him on, as dancer (Cecchetti honing his skills) then as lover. Picasso said his body was ideally proportioned. Collaborators included Milhaud, Poulenc, Prokofiev, Honegger, Ibert, Léger, Chagall, Cocteau and (most inappropriately) Dalí. He posed on a beach with Baker and for sketches by Maillol, and duelled with Massine. Nureyev detested him.

Serge Lifar knew…