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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 14 September 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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on 18 July 2014
This is indeed "a history of ballet". The chapter on Europe titled "The British Moment" is a joke. In it the author writes about the ENTIRE post-war EUROPEAN ballet!!! Americans are usually ethnocentric and this is proof of their cultural limitations. She is also quite dismissive of Maurice Bejart. Funny because MacMillan's "Rite of Spring" is hardly innovative or original after you watch Bejart's "Sacre" (Rite of Spring)created a few years before. Post-war European ballet was a lot more fruitful than what is shown in her narrative. And actually so was British ballet. She totally ignores "Ballet Theatre". Funny because post-war ballet is "ballet theatre" all over Europe AND the US. The chapter on New York ballet is almost exclusively dedicated to ABT and NYCB. Bad, terrible. The really innovative American choreographers of the 20th century are totally ignored -Nikolais, Twarp, Cunningham, etc. An easy to read (an easy to sell) book, but hardly a definitive history of ballet. Considering that Americans and Brits don't translate much, and never did, there lies many more histories of ballet in other European languages which are a lot less ethnocentric than this one! Learn languages! Your choice. Alternatively a MUCH BETTER survey of Ballet since the 16th century is offered by a much better professional historian - Susan Au - "Ballet and Modern Dance"
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on 10 August 2016
As someone who is no expert on ballet, I wasn't bothered about the amount of space devoted in Homans's book to dancers or choreographers of more recent years, whether American or European ones.

This is a stunning historical survey .... for example, in its treatment of ballet's development during the reign of Louis IV .... full of highly informative detail but never in the least ponderous. 'A History' it certainly is .... rather than a book for dance anoraks. If you read this tome in conjunction with Warren Lewis's (C.S.'s brother) highly evocative books 'The Splendid Century' and 'The Sunset of the Splendid Century' you will find 17th century French court life wonderfully illuminated; and, to stretch a point, certain aspects of the recent TV series 'Versailles' offer visual images that have not a little bearing too ..... notwithstanding the high degree of artistic licence :-)
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on 30 December 2010
Beautifully written with deep knowledge of subject and breadth of cultural perspective. A superb work of scholarship!
Murray Stein
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on 30 May 2015
A bit early for a review since I have yet to complete it. Nevertheless I am finding it very readable and informative. I like the structure and style. It is well researched and written to inform rather than impress. It gets five stars since I am enjoying reading it and learning about the art form that I love and appreciate all the more with the knowledge I gain from books like this.
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on 16 April 2015
A fascinating slant on the history of Ballet from a highly educated Dancer. Jennifer Homans marries both aspects of Art and Academia in a research tour de force. She informs us where Ballet has been but asks us, where is Ballet going?
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on 2 January 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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on 4 January 2013
If you love ballet and you are interested in it's history, this is the book for you. It's a big meal to digest in one go but can be read in sections. I am reading bits again.
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on 20 January 2012
Great book, very comprehensive, about how ballet was developed throughout time and countries. I recommend it to all ballet lovers interested in how ballet was created.
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on 2 February 2013
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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