For more than 400 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 16th-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.
©2010 Jennifer Homans (P)2011 Tantor
"[The] book is a delight to read, massively informed yet remarkably agile." (The Washington Post)
"The only truly definitive history of the most impossibly fantastic art form, ballet . . . an eloquent and lasting elegy to an unlasting art." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Intellectually rigorous, beautifully written, brilliantly structured." (San Francisco Chronicle)
There are no listener reviews for this title yet.
"Great - except"
The book is fascinating and well-written. The narrator reads well, except for her inability to pronounce proper names and foreign phrases. Her many errors are jarring.
"Was sad when it ended"
I thought this was one of the best non-fiction books I've ever listened to. I don't know what book some of the other reviewers listened to who gave mediocre reviews but I don't think they really listened all the way through. Although a little slow in the beginning, I began to get the rhythm of the read about 1/4 of the way through and then was captivated. I'll go back and re-listen to the first 1/4 since I didn't really appreciate it then. What an amazing feat, Ms. Homans has accomplished. I have to admit complete ignorance about ballet but she changed my mind by pure education. Before I listened to the book, I had no idea that an art form that was the pure fabrication of the ultimate decadent aristocracy of the French became the standard cultural icon of the totalitarian Stalinist State. How could this happen? Ms. Homans makes the transition so understandable and rational that when I finished that section, I had to stop, take a deep breath and think about what the author had done and then she did it again with the United States. The book made me go to youtube and find every ballet clip that I could click on. Plus, the reader was great.
"a great book poorly read"
how sad that the reading was not edited, 'The mispronounciations of especially names made listening a sort of puzzle game.,Maybe a bit over researched but on a scale of 1 to 10 a 7
"A good history of ballet"
Possibly; I know she's very prolific. I have to say, though, that although her voice is pleasing and her pacing good, I was very surprised at the amount of mis-pronounced words in her narration of this book. Clearly no one did any research to prepare for the constant stream of words and names in French, Russian, Italian, and other languages that appear throughout this book. It was very distracting.
"Great book but..."
Thorough. Compelling. Long.
It's unique. I can't compare it to another book.
NO!! Her cringe-worthy pronunciation gaffes were too distracting!
No. It is so dense with information you need time to digest.
"Better than you think!"
Yes. The history of Europe told in this book was a surprise. I'd like to review it all!! And recently we had the privilege of hearing and seeing the author tell her story in person. She made the book come alive in her demonstration of steps and reasons why and how they progressed with time.
This story was not about just ballet. It was a surprise saga of the progress and influence made on theatrical performance starting at square one! I found the social impact of "The Dance" in early European times fascinating, learning about royal and male dominance and social implication of dance in the early periods, how marriages between the French and Italian monarchy influenced theater, opera and dance. It was more or less personal stories of the players involved. MUCH more interesting than I ever imagined!
She sounded like she had written the book herself.
This book was on a list of books to be read for a Writer's Conference we attended and I put off reading it, thinking I wasn't interested. Then, when I finally downloaded and listened to the book, I was totally fascinated, as was my husband! There is much more to this saga than you'd think!
"How a bad narrator can kill a book..."
Jennifer Homans history of ballet is outstanding! Beautifully written and well documented ...
Alas, who pick that narrator…?
Kristen Potter is appalling! she systematically butcher the pronunciation of every single foreign names, which the book is full of since the history of ballet starts mostly in France and Italy. It’s a real pity and such a disservice that that wonderful book.
"From the middle ages to the present"
A remarkably interesting, well written and well told book. Invest! The author has an extremely good writing style and can make you feel and understand the spirit of ballet history. What a surprise!
"Dry and historical"
I was hoping for background as to how the various schools of ballet were developed and how their styles differ. This book was a long drawn out list of ballets. Still interesting but dry.
"Not For Novices"
Beware the mood you are in when you download books to read later! What on EARTH was I thinking!!!! Why did I think this would interest me? I amaze myself sometimes.
I have to admit that parts of it were interesting but I will never retain any of the information and overall I was pretty indifferent. I ploughed through because I am cheap and rather waste my time than my money.
I can see how to someone who is more knowledgeable about dance and ballet than me would really like it, it’s very thorough and does provides a lot of detail so it still rated 3 stars in my opinion - but it’s certainly not for novices nor people with just a passing interest.
I agree with what others have said about the narration: a narrator should be able to pronounce foreign words and names correctly!
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