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Home Reviews Book Reviews The history of ballet from a scholar who’s been there, done that

The history of ballet from a scholar who’s been there, done that

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In her luminous book, “Apollo’s Angels,” historian and former professional ballerina Jennifer Homans disproves the old saying: Those who can do – Those who can’t teach.

When Homans decided to tackle a history of ballet, she didn’t need to familiarize herself with the subject matter.

Homans trained at the North Carolina School of the Arts, American Ballet Theatre and The School of American Ballet.

She performed with the Chicago Lyric Opera, the San Francisco Ballet and the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

She earned a bachelor’s at Columbia University and her Ph.D. in modern European history at New York University, where she is a distinguished scholar in residence.

For anyone with more than a passing fancy for the art of the dance, Homans’ book hits the mark. It’s both detailed and delicious.

Of particular interest is the history of Imperial Russian Classicism and its effect on the entire world of dance.

Homans also explores the world of Russian-born George Ballanchine (1904-1983) and the mark he left on modern ballet.

Homans also dares to question the future of ballet.

“I grew up with ballet and have devoted my life to studying, dancing, seeing and understanding it,” she writes. “When I first began work on this book, I imagined it would end on a positive note. But in recent years I have found going to the ballet increasingly dispiriting. With depressingly few exceptions, performances are dull and lack vitality; theaters feel haunted and audiences seem blasé. After years of trying to convince myself otherwise, I now feel sure that ballet is dying.”

Homans believes that reviving ballet would “require more than resources and talent (the ‘next genius’). Honor and decorum, civility and taste would have  to make a comeback.”

Indeed.

 

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