Apollo’s Angels : A History Of Ballet by Jennifer Homans
View book: Apollo’s Angels : A History Of Ballet
New York Times Bestseller – Named One of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Publishers Weekly
For over four centuries, ballet has held a central position in Western civilization, serving as a reflection of our history. In a groundbreaking cultural history of ballet, Apollo’s Angels presents a lavishly illustrated and beautifully narrated account. From its origins during the Renaissance to the establishment of its core techniques and positions by Louis XIV of France, ballet spread across the courts of Europe, from Paris and Milan to Vienna and St. Petersburg.
In the 20th century, dancers who fled their home countries introduced their art to generations in the United States and Western Europe, resulting in a radical transformation of dance. Jennifer Homans, a historian, critic, and former professional ballerina, draws on her own intimate knowledge of the art form to craft a captivating narrative. The beauty and passion she brings to the page, as Entertainment Weekly observes, resemble “a dancer’s grace and sure-footed agility.”
Ballet: A Journey of Transcendence and Connection
Classical ballet is a world where the ordinary meets the extraordinary. When the curtain rises, a connection is made between the audience and the stage, creating a space where music, movement, and feeling take over. In the 17th century, ballet was seen as a realm of marble-like beauty and supernatural occurrences. It was believed that spirits could enter the lives of humans and change the course of events. One famous character from this magical world is the “sylph,” portrayed by dancers like Marie Taglioni. The sylph is a ethereal being, light and airy, with no connection to the earth. She was seen as both erotic and chaste, appearing to her desired objects in the night. To achieve the illusion of weightlessness, dancers had to possess incredible strength. This portrayal of the extraordinary in ballet, where anything can happen, can inspire the dreams of many young aspiring dancers.
Ballet also has a rich history, with its roots dating back to the court of Louis XIV. The five positions of ballet were first codified during his reign, and they reflect an etiquette, mathematics, religious significance, and even military origins. Ballet was a way of being, an etiquette that upheld noble behavior and controlled passions. It was also a science, with precise measurements and proportions. People believed that mastering the positions could elevate them on the “great chain of being” towards the divine. Ballet’s military origins can be seen in its disciplined lines and precise movements. All of these aspects of ballet contribute to its profound impact and connection with the past.