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CharlieH

Celestial Bodies by Laura Jacobs

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Oooh, hadn't seen this!  Thanks for the heads-up!

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For the truly obsessed (like most of us on this site?) you'll already know a lot of what she talks about. But I did enjoy a lot of tidbits and anecdotes I hadn't heard before.

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16 hours ago, California said:

For the truly obsessed (like most of us on this site?) you'll already know a lot of what she talks about. But I did enjoy a lot of tidbits and anecdotes I hadn't heard before.

Indeed, California. Jacobs presents basic information on ballet as a jumping-off point for her magnificent musings. This is one of those books that we balletomanes can cherish forever. I keep mine on my night stand, as a reminder of what makes life sweet. Like savoring a Bon-Bon before going to sleep.

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As someone who has only recently discovered my love of ballet, I found the book to be very informative. But I agree very much with CharlieH's point about Jacob's "magnificent musings." As much educational value as the book held for me as a newcomer to the art form, I think I would not have loved the book nearly as much had it not been for Jacob's wonderful writing style. How easily she weds her formal descriptions (of different ballet positions, for example) with the loveliest of metaphors! I can probably open to any page and point to an example of this—here's one from page 137:

Quote

A seamlessly sustained display of balletic line—like a silent aria or an orchid's interior—adagio sees stillness and movement together building a monument to emotion.

The book is full of little moments like this. I thought it made for a wonderful read.

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I enjoyed the book a lot.  It has something for the hard core balletomane as well as for  more casual dancegoers or newcomers.  Her style is flowing and her knowledge is impressive. It didn't hurt that some of her favorite dancers are also my own!  I loved the section on Serenade. Her opinions on why certain greats of 20th century dance were important are  concise and  very well stated.  My only criticism is that I did not like the drawings.

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For another opinion, I did not care for this book. While I generally agree with her sentiments, I found the writing to be florid and lacking in useful detail. For example she waxes poetic about the variety of arabesque, but gives no particular details that would help the newbie discern what makes for a good arabesque or what makes one dancer’s arabesque different from another’s. The review of basic ballet history was welcome, but the rapturous style wore me down. 

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On 8/19/2018 at 10:50 AM, cobweb said:

For another opinion, I did not care for this book. While I generally agree with her sentiments, I found the writing to be florid and lacking in useful detail. For example she waxes poetic about the variety of arabesque, but gives no particular details that would help the newbie discern what makes for a good arabesque or what makes one dancer’s arabesque different from another’s. The review of basic ballet history was welcome, but the rapturous style wore me down. 

ITA, cobweb. I was so excited to hear that there was an entire chapter on arabesque, but upon reading the actual chapter I felt I learned nothing at all.

I read the book some months ago, so I don't remember in detail, but I was hoping there would be some explanation about the geometrical importance of triangles and circles in creating ballet line and in the positions and steps that comprise classical ballet. Nothing. All fluff, and yes, "rapture."

 

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I haven't had time to read very far into Jacobs' new book (only about a chapter when it first came out), but I've definitely had the same feeling @cobweb and @angelica describe about her writing in general. She has a lot of passion for her subject, but it's frustratingly difficult to pin down the specific ideas and insights that could really substantiate that passion.

That said, I always appreciated her (and her husband's) championing of Veronika Part (a dancer who always inspired similar rapture in me — so I couldn't blame Jacobs quite so much in that case!), and I do intend to read the rest of the book with an open mind.

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16 minutes ago, nanushka said:

I haven't had time to read very far into Jacobs' new book (only about a chapter when it first came out), but I've definitely had the same feeling @cobweb and @angelica describe about her writing in general. She has a lot of passion for her subject, but it's frustratingly difficult to pin down the specific ideas and insights that could really substantiate that passion.

That said, I always appreciated her (and her husband's) championing of Veronika Part (a dancer who always inspired similar rapture in me — so I couldn't blame Jacobs quite so much in that case!), and I do intend to read the rest of the book with an open mind.

So true. While I enjoyed her book, I was aware of its flaws.  I think her reviews and critical writings in other publications are far better and don't try to include something for everyone.  I love Veronika Part too, and that I knew Jacobs was a fan influenced my decision to read Jacobs' book. 

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I've been trying to get into this book but I have to say, it's just not happening for me. Was hoping her writing would draw me in the way Jennifer Homans' book did (when I finally finished that one, I started right up again, the next day, at the beginning. My love for APOLLO'S ANGELS is fierce). There are so many delicious biographies out there, as well (am currently enjoying Carlos Acosta's memoir. Wow!!!), that this ballet book seems to slip between the cracks. But now that I've read the comments above, I will go back and try the musings on Serenade again. I think I'm sort of rushing through the book (it's from the library) and just not settling into her wavelength, her style. If any of you who loved this book feel like there's another chapter that I should give a second look at, let me know!

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Add me to the admirers of Jacobs' CELESTIAL BODIES. True, it is not a tome for those seeking a primer on the history of ballet. However, I admire her well-thought-out and deliciously-crafted essays - almost poems! - on the fine art of ballet. This is mostly for already-knowledgeable, long-time fans. I would recommend every chapter.

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