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"Apollo's Angels" by Jennifer HomansHas anyone read this yet? (Re-posting)

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#106 kfw


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Posted 10 October 2013 - 12:26 PM

Having now read and enjoyed Franko's article, I better understand his anger (not that I share it). Here are several things that struck me. Minor points. 1) Based on Balanchine’s Adagio Lamentoso and Homans' description of the dancers in the Four Temperaments as having “a cold rigor and precision – an angelic detachment,” Franko writes that for Homans, “apparently, Balanchine spoke of dancers as angels because of what he perceived as their emotional detachment.” I don’t follow his logic. 2) Franko is mistaken that Homans doesn’t cite Tim Scholl’s earlier ballet history, “From Petipa to Balanchine” in her bibliography. She cites the book in her secondary bibliographies for chapters 7 and 8. 


More major: Franko writes that for Homans “ballet by its very nature is ‘unconstrained by tradition and the past,’” as if she likes it that way, and goes on to reprove her for complaining, contradictorily, in the epilogue that lack of constraint is causing decline. But in the introduction where he takes that quote she goes on to write that “it does have texts, even if these are not written down . . . when an older dancer shows a step or variation to a younger dancer, the ethics of the profession mandate strict obedience and respect; both parties rightly believe that a form of superior knowledge is passing between them" [emphasis mine]. When she writes that “Ballet, then, is an art of memory, not history,” she seems not to be discounting its history but to be saying that the muscle memory to be handed down is its history, rather than, as Franko paraphrases her, “dance exists primarily in the present.” 


There is so much more in Franko’s critique, which I hope others will discuss, much of it concerning the intersection of ballet history with politics and theology (political and religious opinion are verboten on BA, but history is something else again). Thanks, Ray, for alerting us to the article. Does TDR publish letters to the editor? Let us know if she responds!

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