I reviewed Jennifer Homans’ new history of ballet for the San Francisco Chronicle:
“Jennifer Homans begins and ends her weighty new cultural history of ballet with a provocative old claim: Ballet is dead. Let’s set aside the obvious question of why anyone would invest 10 years of research and 643 pages in a moribund art; let’s set aside, too, Homans’ withering tone and spurious framing (we’ll get to that). Forget the possibility that this death-knell sounding might be merely a shrewd publicity maneuver (Homans seems too earnest). Ignore, for now, the panicky reactions – pro and con – that the slim epilogue to “Apollo’s Angels” is sure to provoke. Predictable controversies should not be allowed to obscure the tremendous achievement of this book.
Because “Apollo’s Angels” is an important addition to the literature on ballet: intellectually rigorous, beautifully written, brilliantly structured. Homans, a former professional ballet dancer with a doctorate in modern European history, rarely strays from the cultural historian’s detached and deeply contextualizing perspective.”
UPDATE: The New York Times profiles Homans. And opens up a reader discussion about her provocative epilogue.