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Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet Paperback – November 29, 2011


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Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet + 101 Stories of the Great Ballets: the Scene-by-scene Stories of the Most Popular Ballets, Old and New + Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet (Dover Books on Dance)
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A Look Inside Apollo's Angels

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--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (November 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812968743
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812968743
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Put everything down and read this book!
Eileen Pollock
I would certainly recommend this book to anyone familiar with ballet who is interested in delving deeper into its history.
manec93
It is very well written but it is not light reading.
Harris C. Jones

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Pollock on 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 By yan ek on December 24, 2010
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 By Penelope Ocha on 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 By CJO on November 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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 By Rabid Reader on 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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