Superb history of ballet from a dancer turned academic
Homans, a former dancer, is exceptionally good at placing dance in the context of its times and explaining why events such as the French Revolution or the abolition of serfdom in Tsarist Russia affected the course and development of this art form
Sarah Crompton, Daily Telegraph
Homans writes with translucent beauty and authority of [Ballet's] lost past ... The case that Homans makes wholly convincingly, in the case of Taglioni and others, is that the great dancers and choreographers of the 18th to the 20th centuries succeeded at least in part because of their ability to reproduce the "emotional tone" of the eras in which they lived
Luke Jennings, Observer
From the Same Author
George Balanchine did for dance what Picasso did for painting: he changed the art and the way we see the human form. In this magisterial cultural history, Jennifer Homans follows Balanchine from his childhood in Tsarist St Petersburg, through the upheavals of the Russian Revolution, two World Wars, and the cultural Cold War, to New York, where he co-founded and ran the New York City Ballet.
His influences were myriad: he considered himself Georgian, yet did not visit his ancestral homeland until his fifties; he was deeply impressed by the grandeur and beauty of the Orthodox Church, but equally absorbed by the new rhythms coming out of Harlem in the 1930s. He was part of the Russian avant-garde and excited by surrealism and other artistic movements, collaborating broadly, with figures like Matisse, Diaghilev and Stravinsky. Above all, he was inspired by the young dancers he worked with, sculpting their bodies even as they reshaped his imagination, often to the point of romantic infatuation. Mr B. gathered around him successive generations of people who believed in his artistic vision as fervently as he did, and both the passions that animated him and the difficulties of his life – personal losses, bouts of ill health, and spiritual crises – resonate in his dances, which speak poignantly of love, loss and mortality.
With unprecedented access to his papers and those who knew him, Homans tells a story of love and exile; of colossal talent and the boundless energy it took to reimagine dance. This is an epic portrait of one of the most fascinating figures of the twentieth century.