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Extended Audio Sample Apollos Angels: A History of Ballet Audiobook, by Jennifer Homans Click for printable size audiobook cover
4.08 out of 54.08 out of 54.08 out of 54.08 out of 54.08 out of 5 4.08 (25 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jennifer Homans Narrator: Kirsten Potter Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2011 ISBN: 9781452671086
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For more than four hundred 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 sixteenth-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.

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. In the twentieth century, émigré dancers taught their art to a generation in the United States and in Western Europe, setting off a new and radical transformation of dance.

Jennifer Homans is a historian and critic who was also a professional dancer. She brings to Apollo’s Angels a knowledge of dance born of dedicated practice. She traces the evolution of technique, choreography, and performance in clean, clear prose, drawing listeners into the intricacies of the art with vivid descriptions of dances and the artists who made them. Apollo’s Angels is an authoritative work, written with a grace and elegance befitting its subject.

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Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jeff | 2/20/2014

    " First half jumped around too much. Overall, this book reads 90% like an encyclopedia and 10% like a well-organized overview. I picked this up to appreciate ballet but felt mostly bored by the novel. Unless you are directly interested in understanding ballet's origins from a historical perspective, I'd recommend skipping. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kristina Wolfe | 2/7/2014

    " Very long and dry. It kept my interest but was not very interesting. It did, however, teach me about the history of ballet so it served its purpose. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jessica Gwen | 1/28/2014

    " What a gorgeous, inspiring book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gayla Bassham | 1/13/2014

    " Finally! This was a good book, impressively researched, and I'm glad I read it (although I'm not going to deny that there were moment when I wondered whether a detailed analysis of ballet in Italy in the nineteenth century was really the best use of 45 minutes). But I'm glad I'm done, too. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cara Amelie | 1/9/2014

    " WOW! So much densely packed information... Read at your own risk! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Garry | 1/9/2014

    " Gotta find out what this ballet thing is all about.... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Joanne | 1/6/2014

    " A beautifully-written cultural and political history by a dancer who loves ballet. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Abigail | 12/17/2013

    " The ending made me kind of sad, because she said she thinks ballet maybe dying. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jehnie | 11/20/2013

    " Interesting, Comprehensive, historically-grounded (amazingly so), Long! There are a lot of tidbits I can imagine showing up in lectures. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 C. Purtill | 8/19/2013

    " Excellent and comprehensive. I love that it was written by a dancer, a former pro who knows about the art form from the technical end of things. Jennifer Homans can write from the perspective of a dancer who has lived the movement that these choreographers and ballet masters spent years crafting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laurel | 5/26/2013

    " Great book on the history of ballet "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 S | 5/22/2013

    " This was super interesting for me, I love to dance, and learning about dance history was great! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Chung-yee | 4/1/2013

    " An exhausting history of ballet. Well written, easy reading and understand, so much so that I was able to give an oral thesis at mountaineering camp! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Becca | 3/26/2013

    " If you love ballet, you will love this book! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Betty | 4/11/2012

    " For any dancer or lover of dance, this offers a comprehensive and lively history of the ultimate genre we as dancers return to over and over again--ballet! I especially loved the background details on the varied personalities and styles of our first famous prima ballerinas. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Madame Butterfly | 12/21/2011

    " Sadly I had to stop this book early because since I got it from the library I exceeded my renewal limits. Hopefully I will get it again and actually finish! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 becky | 5/21/2011

    " good. haven't finished it but I can't renew it at the library any more "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 LH | 4/14/2011

    " I love this. Ballet's not something I'm up on in the slightest (I come from a strictly Noel Streatfield balletomane perspective) but this is a fascinating, if at times esoteric, look at ballet. It's also distinctly readable (albeit hefty!). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lori | 4/14/2011

    " I'm enjoying this immensely. No one should be put off by Homan's famously saying that ballet is dead. There's a lot more to gain from her incredible knowledge of European and Russian history. I've haven't seen another contemporary, highly readable, deep exploration of ballet history. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Susan | 4/9/2011

    " Not so much exhaustive as exhausting. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Abbey | 3/26/2011

    " Comprehensive and well written. A good history that entwines the big names and places with current affairs and puts ballet in a rich cultural context. Only misstep was the epilogue, but only because I disagree with her assessment of ballet's future. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Joanne | 3/21/2011

    " A beautifully-written cultural and political history by a dancer who loves ballet. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gilbert | 3/17/2011

    " Very impressive in scope & depth, detailed history of the development of ballet. Does an excellent job connecting ballet to broader issues in each society where it developed. One of the best histories I've read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Renee | 2/27/2011

    " This history of ballet, written from a dancer's perspective, shows the labor of love. The length may intimidate some non-dancer readers, or those whose appetite for history leans more towards brevity. I personally enjoyed the attention to Bournonville. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Garry | 2/20/2011

    " Gotta find out what this ballet thing is all about.... "

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About the Author

Jennifer Homans is the author of Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet. She is the founder and director of the Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University and the dance critic for The New Republic. She holds a PhD in modern European history from New York University. Before becoming a writer and scholar, Homans was a professional dancer. She is currently working on a biography of George Balanchine.

About the Narrator

Kirsten Potter, who graduated with highest honors from Boston University, has narrated numerous audiobooks and has performed for television and in theaters across the country. She has won several awards, including eleven AudioFile Earphones Awards, and been a three-time finalist for the prestigious Audie Award for best narration. Her work has been recognized by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts and by AudioFile magazine, among many others.