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Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet [Audiobook, CD, Unabridged] [Audio CD]

Jennifer Homans , Kirsten Potter

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Book Description

Feb. 17 2011
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, 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 listeners into the intricacies of the art with vivid descriptions of dances and the artists who made them. Apollo's Angels is an authoritative work, written with a grace and elegance befitting its subject.

Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio; Unabridged CD edition (Feb. 17 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1452601089
  • ISBN-13: 978-1452601083
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 16.5 x 4.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 454 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,092,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"[The] book is a delight to read, massively informed yet remarkably agile." ---The Washington Post

About the Author

Jennifer Homans, currently the dance critic for the New Republic, is a former professional dancer trained at the North Carolina School of the Arts, American Ballet Theatre, and the School of American Ballet.

Kirsten Potter has won AudioFile Earphones Awards for her reading of The Snowball by Alice Schroeder and her performance as Barbara in George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara. Her reading of Madapple by Christina Meldrum was a Booklist Editors' Choice for Best Audiobook 2008.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  62 reviews
64 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gift for the Ballet Lover Nov. 27 2010
By Eileen Pollock - Published on Amazon.com
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.
48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars misjudged Dec 24 2010
By yan ek - Published on Amazon.com
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. Tudor left Rambert and London and devoted himself to life in New York. Times are different now as evidenced by Christopher Wheeldon and Morphoses or Ratmansky. ABT now does the same Balanchine ballets that they once looked at from a distance. Kylian works are everywhere, done mostly to profit the choreographer rather than enrich a dancers or an audience's experience. Everyone complained in times past that ballet was not run by good business principals and now, more and more, it is and that seems to please few as well. It would be wisest to be patient and offer patronage and support when one can and let the art form take its own course. In any case who made Ms. Homans the voice of authority because she is published?

The actual danger of this book is that someone might not know enough to think for themselves and let the author tell them ballet is dead. More people will go to dance performances than will read this book. When this changes, then worry. Go out and see a ballet.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book I've been waiting for all my life Jan. 21 2011
By Penelope Ocha - Published on Amazon.com
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!
46 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glorious! Nov. 10 2010
By CJO - Published on Amazon.com
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.
42 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If You Love Ballet, This Is A MUST READ! Nov. 10 2010
By jak - Published on Amazon.com
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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