Apollo's Angels

  • by Jennifer Homans
  • Narrated by Kirsten Potter
  • 23 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.


What the Critics Say

"[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)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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
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- Silma "opinionated octogenarian,loving the twenties, I regard detectives as ideal sleep time reading.love ballet.enjoy USpolitics,and some selfhelp"

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.
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- Paul "I like books that have interesting characters and easy to follow plots. For example, Cormoran Strike, is a great character for me."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-11-2011
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio