A great discussion, much more penetrating than most of the reviews I've read. Thank you, all. Among the many comments that have set me thinking. :
ViolinConcerto, on 06 January 2011 - 08:53 AM, said:
... the question becomes, WHAT IS ballet?
I aactually looked through the book, which I haven't finished, to find a discussion of this. Homans addresses the question, but does not think much about it. That, for me, is a loss. This wouldn't be serious if this were just another "ballet book" for a speciallized audience. It's clear, however, that she is has larger ambitions.
Quiggin, on 07 January 2011 - 02:03 AM, said:
My sense, as I'm reading "Apollo's Angels," is that there is no society-at-large or history to it.
I do wish there were more in the way of a larger context.
A book which concludes with the possibility that the art form is "dying", needs to be much more rigorous in the way (a) it defines its central topic, and (b) explains how the art form has related, and continues to relate (or not) ,to the larger culture as well as to the social structure.
Homans presents her conclusion sin a brief epilogue: "The Masters Are Dead and Gone." She raises a number of serious points that are not supported as rigorously as her conclusions in the body of the rest of the book. Among these are:
Today's artists -- [the masters'] students and heirs -- have been curiouslyi unable to rise to the challenge of their legacy. They seem crushed and confused by its iconoclasm and grandeur, unable to build on its foundation yet unwilling to throw it off in favor of a vision of their own. [ ... ] The world's major ballet companies -- companies that built their reputations on new work -- have now become museums for the old. [ ... ] The twentieth-centuryh masters also remain the cornerstone of the companies they helped found ... Here too there are problems, however. ... Balanchine [for example] never stood still -- it was an expansive and open ended way of thinking taht changed over time and with each dancer The more the steps (and the ways to do them ) have become fixed, the less they recall the era . [ ... ]these old ballets are now housed in stately new theaters, steel and stone monuments to a fragile and ephemeral past. [ ... ] Classical ballet has always been an art of belief. It does not fare well in cynical times. ... Even the idea of a high art for the people and the twentieth-century ambition, lived out in different ways across Rssia and the West, to open the gates of elite culture to a larger society has now stalled. Once again, as under Lousi XIV, ballet is a privilege or privae right laragely reserved for connoisseurs and the wealthy. ... As for the people, they have been forgotten. ... The fragmentation and compartmentallization of culture do not help.
This is just an example of perceptions each of which might easily deserve a book -- or at least a long article -- of its own. Several of them are highly debatable and will need to be defended with evidence and further thhought.
Maybe Homans will write such a book some day. I hope so. There don't seem to be too many other ballet-lovers/experts out there, in the present day, who seem willing and capable of taking on the job.