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Old film, new dance recall D-Day after 70 years

BENOUVILLE, France -- Historical film footage and modern interpretive dance recreated the images of World War II at D-Day's 70th anniversary, a blend of old and new that bridged seven decades and depicted a once riven Europe as a newly unified whole.

The dance performance took place across a giant map of Europe. Near its start, dancers in black Gestapo-like uniforms sought to subdue others in overalls. Dancers in olive drab represented the landing on Normandy's beach, moving in slow motion as many fell to the ground only to rise again to the strains of a lone bagpiper. On giant screens behind them, scenes from the war unfolded, from an execution to D-Day to footage of surrendering Germans. Soviet, British and U.S. soldiers were shown celebrating and unfurling their respective flags.

One piece of footage showed Queen Elizabeth II as a wartime driver and mechanic with the women's Auxiliary Territorial Service. She was one of the few visiting heads of state to have lived and served in the war.

If the moment may have proved awkward for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the dance and film images also captured the post-war European reconstruction and the new alliances that emerged in its aftermath.

The ceremony ended with daytime fireworks of colorful flames and smoke and a missing man flyover emitting trails of red, white and blue smoke — the tri-colors of the U.S., French, Russian and British flags.

At its conclusion, a live camera caught President Barack Obama complimenting French President Francois Hollande: “It was a wonderful, wonderful event.”

Some reviews in social media were less sanguine.

“Someone in France apparently thought D-Day should be Dance-Day,” one Twitter wag declared.

Queen's Special Place

Among the European royalty gathered and chatting at the D-Day observance in Normandy, history gives Britain's Queen Elizabeth II a special place. Not only was she one of the few heads of state there who lived and served during World War II, her family gets credit for saving other royal families' lives during the war.

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Dancers perform on Friday, June 6 in Ouistreham, Normandy, during the ceremonies of the D-Day commemorations. (AFP)

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