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Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet [Hardcover]

Jennifer Homans
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Nov 2010
This title presents a fascinating history of classical ballet which takes us from its origins in 18th century France through the Italian influence in the 19th century, the dominance of Russia in the late 19th and early 20th century, up to the present and ballet's uncertain future. It begins in the courts of old Europe, where ballet began as an aristocratic etiquette and moved from Italy and France to Britain, Denmark, Russia and contemporary America. Homans argues that the evolution of steps, technique and choreography can only be understood in light of the great political and intellectual movements of the past 200 years. Homans shows how dance and dancers were influenced by the Renaissance and French Classicism, by Revolution and Romanticism, by Expressionism and Bolshevism, Modernism and the Cold War. Her book ends with the contemporary crisis in ballet now that 'the masters are dead and gone' and offers a passionate plea for the centrality of classical dance in our civilization.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (4 Nov 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862079501
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862079502
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 93,977 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


`A magisterial waltz through four centuries of classical dance ... an achievement that is unlikely to be surpassed soon'
--Sunday Times

`Homans writes with translucent beauty and authority' --Observer

`Elegant and groundbreaking ... Homans has the happy knack of making the dances and dancers come alive on the page' --Marie Claire

`A brilliant book of enormous scope' --Time Out

'A truly original work' --Guardian

'An invaluable primer on how ballet gained such a foothold among the cultural elite'

About the Author

Jennifer Homans was a professional dancer, who trained at the School of American Ballet. When she retired from dancing, she studied European and American cultural history at Columbia and New York Universities and then turned to dance criticism. She is married to the historian Tony Judt, and lives in New York City

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars With appreciation 30 Dec 2010
Beautifully written with deep knowledge of subject and breadth of cultural perspective. A superb work of scholarship!
Murray Stein
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, but incomplete. 14 Sep 2011
This is an excellent book showing an incredible amount of research. It's very well written, the literary style is readable and entertaining - not the least bit dry or academic. The scope of the book very broad, relating developments in the history of ballet to contemporary events and to the zeitgeist.

However, the author is American, and she seems to believe that the latter half of the 20th century was exclusively American. She seems to think that English ballet died with (was killed by) Kenneth MacMillan. Darcey Bussell (surely the greatest dancer of her generation) gets just one cursory mention, and there is no mention of the host of international super stars schooled and nurtured by the Royal Ballet - Carlos Acosta, Leanne Benjamin, Wayne McGregor, Jonathan Cope, Irek Mukhamedov, Deborah Bull, etc. etc. etc. And there is scant mention of any late 20th century ballet anywhere in the world outside of America.

I would certainly recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in ballet, but I would recommend supplementing it with this one:
The Royal Ballet: 75 Years
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3.0 out of 5 stars Heavy book 2 Feb 2013
By Jane
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I ordered this book having heard Jennifer Homans in conversation on public radio in the USA.
The book is not glossy enough for its subject although there are some really interesting bits.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine gift for a really keen ballet fan 2 Jan 2011
I bought this book for a friend who goes to the ballet at least once a week, so she is really keen and knowledgeable. Unless she was lying, she loved it!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars History writing at its best 24 Mar 2014
By Skymom - Published on Amazon.com
I am only part-way through this book, but so far I am finding it to be one of the best books I've read in a while, and certainly one of the most compelling histories I've read. I confess that I am a dance aficionado, as well as an historian of the 16th and 17th centuries, so I'm probably her ideal reader. But even if you're not, this account of the development of ballet from the Renaissance to modern times is fascinating. Homans's research appears to be both broad and deep, and her interpretation of primary resources is insightful. Ballet has lost some of its popularity in recent decades, unfortunately, and is sometimes considered elitist or at least culturally insignificant. Homans shows us in detail how, on the contrary, dance was central to political life in the early modern period.

Brava to the author for a brilliant piece of work that managed to be both scholarly and accessible.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent History of Ballet by a Professional Dancer 26 Aug 2013
By Mary Sullivan Casas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Jennifer Homans not only writes exquisitely, she has intimate knowledge of that which she writes. A professional dancer and scholar who trained with the best in New York, she brings a unique perspective which informs her narrative. If you are looking for a comprehensive history of ballet that helps illuminate the history of Ballet in America, look no further. Ms. Homans has put herself on par with other respected ballet historians such as Ivor Guest with this amazing book.
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