Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
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"[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.
Actress Kirsten Potter has performed on stage, film, and television, including roles on Medium, Bones, and Judging Amy. Her narrations have won AudioFile Earphones Awards, and she earned an Audie nomination for her reading of Rise Again by Ben Tripp.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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!
"Apollo's Angels" is billed as an expansive look at the history of ballet, but it is not that. At least, not after the first quarter or so of the book. The history presented is the party line, what dancers are taught to believe and not question. It is also quite narrow in scope, looking only at the ballet schools that toe the traditional line. The cheaper balletic entertainments and the traveling companies that do specialty presentation are not addressed at all -- and then the author has the audacity to say that there is nothing new in ballet! Well, it's like reading only classic books and then deciding advant garde is dead. It's not good scholarship.
However, the history detailing the evolution of courtly dance to the ballets that are considered classics in our own time is superb. If it's a narrow history, I will applaud the depth of the book in this one narrow area. It's fascinating to find out that ballets I know and like are much changed from their original form even when they are advertised as true classics, the stump speeches of dance.
The author, sadly, never questions her sources or considers their bias. She wrote down the party line even when her own research should have easily shown her the logical inconsistency of it. If Italy had no balletic tradition, where were all these fabulous visiting Italian stars coming from? And, if Balanchine didn't like his dancers a particular way, why on earth do they all look the same in the included pictures. Why was there a terrible backlash against his physical ideals. She can't just say "oh, he liked variety" and think that covers the entirety of the controversy.
Things I very much WISH the author had talked about -- Chinese Ballet, the Trocks, Cirque Du Soliel (which incorporates quite a bit of ballet), Bob Fosse, the obsession with dance and althleticism in the 70s and 80s that left a profound mark on how people viewed dance. Also, the development of the toe shoe from what it was to what it is (completely glossed over!) and the controversies of the twentieth century.
In the end I was very disappointed with the overall scholarship and the lack of real breadth in the work. What was written was generally good, however. But what was missing was ultimately conspicuous.
Ps. Several of the images were originally in color but were printed in black and white even though they appeared on the special pages for color images within the book. Not clear on why that was done.