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Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet Hardcover – November 2, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (November 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400060605
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400060603
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #372,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A Look Inside Apollo's Angels

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Serenade
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Nutcracker Snowflakes
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Nikolaj Hübbe in La Sylphide
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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In an important and original work of cultural history, New Republic dance critic Homans places ballet--an art often viewed as hermetic and esoteric--in the larger context of the times and societies in which it evolved, flourished, and flagged, only to be revitalized by an infusion of fresh ideas. That revitalization could come from a ballet master like Jean-Georges Noverre, presented by Homans as an important Enlightenment figure whose ideas on reforming ballet were consonant with those of Diderot on reforming theater. Renewal came from the genius of dancers like Marie Taglioni, the incarnation of romanticism, whose originality, Homans indisputably shows, reached far beyond dancing up on her tippy-toes. But in a closing section that will be hotly debated, this exhilarating account sounds a despairing note: "ballet is dying," she declares. Not only is the creative well running dry and performances dull, but more crucially, Homans sees today's values as inimical to those of ballet ("We are all dancers now," she writes, evoking what she sees as a misguided egalitarianism that denies an art rooted in discipline and virtuosity). Her cultural critique, as well as her expansive and penetrating view of ballet's history, recommend this book to all readers who care about the history of the arts as well as their present and possible future. Color and b&w illus. (Nov.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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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

64 of 70 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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42 of 52 people found the following review helpful By jak on November 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
A much-needed, gorgeously written, eminently readable, thoroughly researched story of four hundred years of ballet. Much is being made of Ms. Homans' final chapter, which includes an assessment of the current state of the art form. Whether or not you agree with her, that should not detract from what is a major work of performing arts scholarship. Highly recommend!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Henry Johnston on May 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Jennifer Homans does in "Apollo's Angels" what nobody had done before, at least not as thoroughly as she did. Homans has done nothing less than tell the story of an art form that is well entrenched in the public conciousness but nevertheless has always seemed to have an elusive history. Homans finds the perfect balance of detail and big picture. More precisely, the details she does bring forth are both entertaining as well as crucial pieces of the bigger picture she is painting. She devotes a solid chapter to each of the major European (and American) traditions, discussing the influences, development and major choreographers/artists of the era. She also sets the development of ballet in the social and political context of the time, but without dwelling on a 'history-class' like recounting of facts and dates. I think I even understand French history, for example, better now as a result of reading this book, not to mention French ballet. I was particularly fascinated by her treatment of the Russian tradition which I thought was spot on.

The final chapter, her rather grim assessment of the state of ballet has been a source of controversy and in fact has swayed many to evaluate the whole book differently in light of her personal position. What I find rather puzzling is the almost unanimous conviction that she is 'out of touch with reality' or 'overly conservative. I find these positions hardly defensible for a number of reasons. But without getting too deep into a polemic, I think her evaluation is dead-on accurate. Whether ballet will pull out of this tailspin or not remains to be seen. But we clearly live in a very fractured era.
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