Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet

Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet

by Jennifer Homans
3.6 36

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Overview

Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet by Jennifer Homans

One of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of the Year

For more than four hundred years, the art of ballet has stood at the center of Western civilization. Its traditions serve as a record of our past. A ballerina dancing The Sleeping Beauty today is a link in a long chain of dancers stretching back to sixteenth-century Italy and France: Her graceful movements recall a lost world of courts, kings, and aristocracy, but her steps and gestures are also marked by the dramatic changes in dance and culture that followed. Ballet has been shaped by the Renaissance and Classicism, the Enlightenment and Romanticism, Bolshevism, Modernism, and the Cold War. Apollo’s Angels is a groundbreaking work—the first cultural history of ballet ever written, lavishly illustrated and beautifully told.

Ballet is unique: It has no written texts or standardized notation. It is a storytelling art passed on from teacher to student. The steps are never just the steps—they are a living, breathing document of a culture and a tradition. And while ballet’s language is shared by dancers everywhere, its artists have developed distinct national styles. French, Italian, Danish, Russian, English, and American traditions each have their own expression, often formed in response to political and societal upheavals.

From ballet’s origins in the Renaissance and the codification of its basic steps and positions under France’s Louis XIV (himself an avid dancer), the art form wound its way through the courts of Europe, from Paris and Milan to Vienna and St. Petersburg. It was in Russia that dance developed into the form most familiar to American audiences: The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and The Nutcracker originated at the Imperial court. In the twentieth century, émigré dancers taught their art to a generation in the United States and in Western Europe, setting off a new and radical transformation of dance.

Jennifer Homans is a historian and critic who was also a professional dancer: She brings to Apollo’s Angels a knowledge of dance born of dedicated practice. She traces the evolution of technique, choreography, and performance in clean, clear prose, drawing readers into the intricacies of the art with vivid descriptions of dances and the artists who made them. Her admiration and love for the ballet shines through on every page. Apollo’s Angels is an authoritative work, written with a grace and elegance befitting its subject.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400060603
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/02/2010
Pages: 672
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Jennifer Homans was a professional dancer trained at the North Carolina School of the Arts, American Ballet Theatre, and The School of American Ballet. She performed with the Chicago Lyric Opera Ballet, the San Francisco Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet. Currently the dance critic for The New Republic, she has written for The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, The New York Review of Books, and The Australian. She earned her B.A. at Columbia University and her Ph.D. in modern European history at New York University, where she is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence.

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Apollo's Angels 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
Maikataot4 More than 1 year ago
It didn't take more than just the introduction to get me excited about this book. Though I never danced at the same level as Ms. Homans, I studied ballet for 11 years, and briefly taught ballet and lyrical dance until my back gave out. Her introduction discusses how ballet is passed on through the memories of one generation of dancers to the next - exactly as I used to explain to my students. She puts into words what I have always felt about ballet in my heart, muscles and bones. She has put together a history of the dance that was sorely needed, written by someone that has experienced it intimately.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think this was an awsome book
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TedMorgan More than 1 year ago
This is a work of savor with repeated reading and leisurely transit. The history is comprehensive and informed on many levels. I did a fast initial read but I am now reading it slowly. I am learning more about something I very much enjoyed during my youth. I will write another review later.
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Brenda Crespo More than 1 year ago
i developed a passion for ballet when i was ten so this was a perfect
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