Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet Review

Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet
Average Reviews:

(More customer reviews)
Are you looking to buy Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet? Here is the right place to find the great deals. we can offer discounts of up to 90% on Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet. Check out the link below:

>> Click Here to See Compare Prices and Get the Best Offers

Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet ReviewJennifer Homan's book is really two separate books in one. The first is a long, fairly comprehensive history book about ballet. Even if more seasoned balletomanes are already familiar with the basic storyline, Homans is still an excellent historian with a sharp eye for detail. The book is best when talking about the history of ballet: as a court dance in the French royal court, Marie Taglioni's dancing on the tips of her toes to give her an eternally ethereal look, the great era of Petipa at the Mariinsky Ballet, and of course, the giant of 20th century ballet, George Balanchine. Homans is a real historian -- every page is filled with interesting but somewhat arcane facts that shows that she has indeed done her research. What I like about her book is that she doesn't just focus on the big names (Louis XIV, Bournonville, Petipa, Ivanov, Diaghelev, Balanchine, Ashton). Her book is filled with tidbits on the lesser-known figures of ballet. For instance, she devotes quite a bit of space to Ivan Vsevolovsky, the man mainly responsible for bringing together Peter Tchaikovksy and Marius Petipa. Homans also includes a very funny section on the excesses of the Italian spectacle warhorse, Excelsior, which was a huge popular hit but "all but killed Italian ballet." Her description of Excelsior: "boasted a cast of more than five hundred, including twelve horses, two cows, and an elephant." Homans is also careful to link ballet to society at the time, pointing out, for instance, that Marie Taglioni had such a hoarde of Victoria-female admirers because she was plain, demure, yet able to transmit the romantic yearning that females felt into her dancing.
Part of the joy of the book is the exquisitely chosen pictures and thoughtfully written captions. She shows us the original "five positions" in Louis XIV's court. She includes the original notations of the Italian spectacle ballet Excelsior. She compares the original Mariinsky snowflakes with the Snowflakes Balanchine made for his Nutcracker. By the caption, Homans writes: "The similarities are striking, Balanchine made one important addition: his snowflakes are crowned, emphasizing their Imperial lineage." For this careful, loving overview of the history of ballet, "Apollo's Angels" is to be treasured.
The second part of the book is a lengthy epilogue in which Homans declares that "ballet is dead." Even though this part if obviously much shorter than the first part, its tone is so different from the previous part of the book that it might as well be a separate book. Homans' careful, academic study on ballet is thrown out the window for Homans' theory that ballet is dead. Not just going through a dry spot choreographically, but dead. Homans decries the lack of exciting choreographers on the horizon (has she seen Ratmansky's work, one wonders). Not just that, but Homans declares of today's performers: "For performers, things are no easier. Committed and well-trained dancers are still in good supply, but very few are exciting or interesting enough to draw or hold an audience. Technically conservative, their dancing is opaque and flat, emotionally dimmed. And although many can perform astonishing stunts, the overall level of technique has fallen. Today's dancers are more brittle and unsubtle, with fewer half-tones than their predecessors." Moreover, Homans declares that ballet is out of step with today's culture: "Today we no longer believe in ballet's ideals. We are skeptical of elitism and skill, which seem to us exclusionary and divisive. Those privileged enough to obtain specialized training, so this thinking goes, should not be elevated above those with limited access to knowledge or art. We want to expand and include: we are all dancers now. Ballet's fine manners and implicitly aristocratic airs, its white swans, regal splendor, and beautiful women on pointe (pedestals), seem woefully outmoded, the province of dead white men and society ladies in long-ago places."
The arguments are familiar: today's dancers are losing their links with great choreographers and pedagogues. There has been no real great choreographer since Balanchine's death. Yet such a long, bitter epilogue after such a loving history of ballet leaves a sour taste in one's mouth, even if I can agree with some of her points. First of all, I hate to think that such a painstakingly researched book was just to prove a point that ballet is dead. Second of all, I dislike declaring any art form dead. Wasn't it the great works of Marius Petipa in Russia that rescued ballet from the excesses of Italian ballet? It seems narrow-minded, knee-jerk conservative, and somehow deeply mean to declare an art form dead. The author assumes that if people enjoy ballet today, they are somehow ignorant, and that kind of elitist attitude doesn't help anybody. The other issue is that somehow I wonder if the epilogue was tacked on to sell more books, as a lengthy history book about ballet might not garner nearly as much controversy, and thus publicity. Homans is a former dancer, which I suppose gives her opinions weight, and she obviously loves ballet. That is evident in the care in which she writes about ballet history. Yet I can't give this book five stars, simply because of the epilogue, which has now become more well-known than the entire book.Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet Overview

Want to learn more information about Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet?

>> Click Here to See All Customer Reviews & Ratings Now


Post a Comment