Heather G, September 1, 2011 (view all comments by Heather G)
This gorgeous book on the history of ballet was some ten years in the making. Homans traces ballet's origins in 16th century France and Italy to the ballet diaspora in Russia, The United Kingdom, Denmark, and the United States with incredible detail. Fascinating profiles of great dancers and choreographers, including Najinsky, Fonteyn and Balanchine, give the story of ballet greater context and emotional punch. Even dance fans who are not ballet die-hards will appreciate finding new insights into the role of dance's evolving place in culture and society at large, and for this reviewer, it sparked a renewed interest in the genre.
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book dude, December 12, 2010 (view all comments by book dude)
When I came into Powell's recently to purchase this title, a sales person informed me the single copy you had in stock had sold the previous week and that you "might" be reordering it some time in the future. Given the tremendous critical response to the book in print on on radio, I thought this was an odd response. Now that "Apollo's Angels" has made the New York Times list of Top Ten Books of the year, I hope that "might" will turn to a "will."
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aquaursa, December 11, 2010 (view all comments by aquaursa)
As a fan of all forms of dance, I look forward to reading this book! I have the utmost admiration for ballet, and am in awe of the strength of ballet dancer. I want to point out that Ballet is not unique in its oral tradition of passing down the movements from teacher to student. I dance Hula with a local halau (hula school) and this form of dance is always passed from Kumu (teacher) to haumana (students) through the tried and true methods of watch, listen, and follow. Hula is not taught through books or videos. True Hula is taught via a centuries long lineage of teacher and dancer, and only a designated dancer will become the next generation of kumu. Hula is a deceptively difficult form of dance. It takes many years to become a proficient hula dancer.
I invite dance fans to learn more about Hula. I personally find it so interesting to see the similarities in Ballet and Hula in terms of the tradition of teaching style and how every movement has a very specific meaning. Some readers of this review may find this to be a bit of a stretch, no pun intended. But if you travel to Hawai'i, try to see Hula in a venue other than the hotel luau or free show at the mall. I recommend viewing youtube videos of the Merrie Monarch Festival, held every year in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawai'i, as a good place to start. A brief history is here:
http://www. alternative-hawaii.com/ hacul/hula.htm
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Random House -
by The New York Times Book Review,
"It has never been done before, what Jennifer Homans has done in Apollo's Angels. She has written the only truly definitive history of the most impossibly fantastic art form, ballet. Homans' accomplishment is akin to setting the most delicate and beautiful of all the imperial Faberge eggs into a fissure high on Mount Rushmore and tracking its unlikely survival.Inspired. The story of Balanchine has been told before, and at greater lengths, but never better…An eloquent and lasting elegy to an unlasting art."
by The Wall Street Journal,
"A tour de force. The publication of Apollo's Angels is itself a moment in the magnificent history of classical dance."
"Magisterial… Apollo's Angels is a cultural history of the highest order…Homans brings to the page a practical knowledge gained in an earlier career as a dancer. Thus she leaps easily from big picture political trends in one sentence to the minutiae of a dancer’s steps in the next, from how dances were made to who the patrons were…Fascinating reading."
One of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of the Year
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. A ballerina dancing The Sleeping Beauty today is a link in a long chain of dancers stretching back to sixteenth-century Italy and France: Her graceful movements recall a lost world of courts, kings, and aristocracy, but her steps and gestures are also marked by the dramatic changes in dance and culture that followed. Ballet has been shaped by the Renaissance and Classicism, the Enlightenment and Romanticism, Bolshevism, Modernism, and the Cold War. Apollo’s Angels is a groundbreaking work—the first cultural history of ballet ever written, lavishly illustrated and beautifully told.
Ballet is unique: It has no written texts or standardized notation. It is a storytelling art passed on from teacher to student. The steps are never just the steps—they are a living, breathing document of a culture and a tradition. And while ballet’s language is shared by dancers everywhere, its artists have developed distinct national styles. French, Italian, Danish, Russian, English, and American traditions each have their own expression, often formed in response to political and societal upheavals.
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. It was in Russia that dance developed into the form most familiar to American audiences: The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and The Nutcracker originated at the Imperial court. 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 is a historian and critic who was also a professional dancer: She brings to Apollo’s Angels a knowledge of dance born of dedicated practice. She traces the evolution of technique, choreography, and performance in clean, clear prose, drawing readers into the intricacies of the art with vivid descriptions of dances and the artists who made them. Her admiration and love for the ballet shines through on every page. Apollo’s Angels is an authoritative work, written with a grace and elegance befitting its subject.
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