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Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet [Kindle Edition]

Jennifer Homans
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $20.00
Kindle Price: $12.79
You Save: $7.21 (36%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description


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. Lavishly illustrated and beautifully told, Apollo’s Angels—the first cultural history of ballet ever written—is a groundbreaking work. 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. 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, a historian, critic, and former professional ballerina, wields a knowledge of dance born of dedicated practice. Her admiration and love for the ballet, asEntertainment Weekly notes, brings “a dancer’s grace and sure-footed agility to the page.”


Editorial Reviews Review

A Look Inside Apollo's Angels

Photo by Costas

Photo by Costas

Nutcracker Snowflakes
Photo by Costas

Nikolaj Hübbe in La Sylphide
Photo by Costas

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Holmes's magisterial history of ballet is even better in audio. Kirsten Potter has a deep, smooth, sensuous voice that sounds as cultivated as the art form she describes. With pacing that allows the listener to savor the musicality of former ballerina Holmes's sentences, their lulling alliteration and lively wit, Potter brings the ambitious study of ballet's 500-year history (and bleak prognostications for its future) to life. Potter's French accent could use a bit of work; it's clumsy and forced, but doesn't detract too much from the pleasure of this panoramic look at the art's singularity, the discipline it demands (in Holmes's phrase, it is "a grammar of movement"), and the liberation it allows. A Random hardcover. (Jan.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 5068 KB
  • Print Length: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (November 2, 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003EY7IH2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #185,817 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
66 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gift for the Ballet Lover November 27, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Put everything down and read this book! It will hold you spellbound. A beautifully written and produced history of ballet, this is a book that will be treasured by the ballet lover. The author covers ballet's earliest history in 16th century court dance up to the present. There are plentiful illustrations and photographs, and the author's commentary (she is dance critic for The New Republic) is incisive and informed. She writes glowingly of Balanchine and describes his major work. Though I knew much of the history of ballet through my reading, the author's critical lens casts a new light on this evanescent art form. I give my wholehearted appreciation to Jennifer Homans for transmuting the beauty of dance to the printed page.
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars misjudged December 24, 2010
By yan ek
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
From everything I heard and read prior to receiving and reading this book for myself I expected to be irritated by it. It is extremely well written and some obscure details the author brings out with great clarity. I enjoyed everything except the epilogue and even that is not as bad as what I'd feared. The author clearly thinks that the present moment in ballet is the final death knell. Print matter is supposed to be dead, the theatre is supposed to be dead, classical music is supposed to be dead... It is just too facile an assumption. Some of the points I agree with but cannot see them in such dire terms. Dancers have become universal in their technique and lots of "cookie cutter" dancers are manufactured. Some of this is very regrettable but it is the world we live in now. Globalization is not restricted in dance or anywhere else. Choreography certainly is not at the low ebb she suggests. There will not BE another Balanchine or Ashton. Get over it. So many interesting choreographers are working just now it is impossible to see enough to actually judge. Someone else will come up that grabs everyone's attention and for awhile everyone will love them and then think after that nothing they do is any good any longer. That is our fault as critics in not allowing them to develop freely and being patient in their choreographic life. Everyone wants the next great ballet!!! Great choreographers makes bad ballet sometimes but if even one is good that is enough.

When Balanchine, Ashton,Tudor and the other great lions of dance were creating it was a rare opportunity that the major voices in dance were invited in to make ballets for other companies. Balanchine created only a handful of works outside NYCB and the same is true for Ashton and the Royal.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book I've been waiting for all my life January 21, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I know ballet history. And I love dance. I expected that Apollo's Angels would be a pleasant addition to my shelves of ballet books and maybe add a few tidbits of information I did not know.

But this book as so much more. It's written by a thinking ex-dancer who can put the history of dance into a philosophical and cultural context. I'm sure that at nearly every page I was exclaiming ``oh, that's why'' or ``now I know.'' I think her explanation of the origins of ballet in the etiquette and self image of the Sun King's court is the best I've ever read.

I don't think I ever really understood the deep spirituality that underlies Balanchine's choreography until I read this book. It made me go back and spend hours watching videos of long-gone dancers on YouTube.

I'd quibble over a few things. Why didn't she include Mark Morris for example? And what's coming out of China and Japan? And I'm not sure her prognosis about the future of ballet need be quite so glum.

But at bottom, this book is a must for anyone who is halfway interested in the history of ballet, or, for that matter, the cultural history of the early 20th century. Thank you Jennifer Homans!
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46 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glorious! November 10, 2010
I just finished Apollo's Angels and I can't say enough in praise of this book. As a dance enthusiast, I have never read a more complete, intriguing, and accessible history of ballet. Ms. Homan's writing is lucid, fresh, and at times astonishing. I fully recommend this book. And, it would make a great Christmas present for any balletomane.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacking Key Aspects of Scholarship January 11, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
This is a lovely effort by an artist to capture the history of her art. Unfortunately, it was written by an artist and while I enjoyed the book, as a trained historian, I really did want to bash it against the walls at times.

"Apollo's Angels" is billed as an expansive look at the history of ballet, but it is not that. At least, not after the first quarter or so of the book. The history presented is the party line, what dancers are taught to believe and not question. It is also quite narrow in scope, looking only at the ballet schools that toe the traditional line. The cheaper balletic entertainments and the traveling companies that do specialty presentation are not addressed at all -- and then the author has the audacity to say that there is nothing new in ballet! Well, it's like reading only classic books and then deciding advant garde is dead. It's not good scholarship.

However, the history detailing the evolution of courtly dance to the ballets that are considered classics in our own time is superb. If it's a narrow history, I will applaud the depth of the book in this one narrow area. It's fascinating to find out that ballets I know and like are much changed from their original form even when they are advertised as true classics, the stump speeches of dance.

The author, sadly, never questions her sources or considers their bias. She wrote down the party line even when her own research should have easily shown her the logical inconsistency of it. If Italy had no balletic tradition, where were all these fabulous visiting Italian stars coming from? And, if Balanchine didn't like his dancers a particular way, why on earth do they all look the same in the included pictures. Why was there a terrible backlash against his physical ideals.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Still reading. This book has exceeded my expectations.
Published 1 month ago by Cheremoya Beachwood
4.0 out of 5 stars The Curtains Are Pulled Back On The History of Ballet
This was one of the engaging books written about the history of dance I've ever read. The author writes in a style that is most descriptive.
Published 1 month ago by CCNY
5.0 out of 5 stars singular and creates its own civilization
For gods sake just read it. Nothing else is in its league. Homans can educate the educated and inform the less educated. BRAVA
Published 1 month ago by Lee Horwitz
5.0 out of 5 stars I have always wanted a book on the history of ...
I have always wanted a book on the history of ballet and this book filled the bill, the price was right, delivery was fast and the book is new i would most certainly use this... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book. Good purchase
We bought this as a reference book for our granddaughter who is pursuing a professional dance career. It was thorough and informative.... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Madeline
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Wonderful book!
Published 4 months ago by John S
3.0 out of 5 stars I was delighted to hear the review on NPR radio when the ...
I started ballet late in life, in my sophomore year of high school. I had 4 left feet, was fat, and uncoordinated, so I had no aspirations to become a ballerina. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Anne H. Moore
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Wonderful book
Published 6 months ago by A. MARIA RC
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
haven't finished yet, i will return many times for a refresher.
Published 7 months ago by markhas
4.0 out of 5 stars Lively and Entertaining, but . . .
This is, in so many ways, an exceptional effort on the part of the author, Jennifer Homans. She organizes a vast amount of material in a lucid way and her prose is lively and... Read more
Published 8 months ago by James V. Stoecker
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