, Salem, MA


October 11, 2012

The trouble with ballet

Dancer and scholar Jennifer Homans reflects on the art's past and future

We think of ballets as fantastic pageants, danced by ethereal creatures, and based on magical fairy tales like “Sleeping Beauty.”

But in her talk Sunday afternoon at Tedesco Country Club in Marblehead, dance critic and historian Jennifer Homans will plant the toe shoes of ballet on the firm ground of history.

“I’m interested in politics and society,” said Homans, who teaches at New York University and published “Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet” in 2010.

Her talk, “Why Art Matters,” is being sponsored by the North Shore Civic Ballet and the Marblehead School of Ballet.

“In a way, the talk could be ‘When Art Matters,’” she said. “What I’m going to be talking about are those moments when an art form matters enormously to a society.”

The history of ballet begins in 1533, according to Homans’ book, when the Italian and French courts were brought together by royal marriage. The art form reached its most recent peak in New York City around 30 years ago, when George Balanchine was serving as ballet master of the New York City Ballet.

“There are moments when ballet really matters; it’s at the center, the core of everybody’s life,” she said. “There are other moments when it slips to the periphery and takes a back seat to other art forms, or other forms of popular culture.”

The ballet evolved within several national cultures — French, Russian and Danish, English and American — but surprisingly few dances have been preserved, according to Homans. We can only guess at the exact steps with which Nijinsky, for instance, danced “Afternoon of a Faun” in 1912, one of the most revolutionary ballets of the 20th century.

But even as our technical ability to preserve dances has been enhanced by film and video, ballet itself is in decay, along with the values that it represents, Homans said.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • Dear Abby: Younger couples weigh in on how they handle money Dear Readers: On April 11, I printed a letter from "Wondering in Washington," a man asking why young men in general today have the attitude that "any money I earn is mine" in a marriage or live-in situation. He said when he married, he and his wife c

    July 22, 2014

  • Dear Abby: Dating scene is frustrating for strong young woman Dear Abby: I am a young woman hoping to find "The One." But I have come to realize that I'm not the normal female. I don't get manicures or go shopping. (I hate shopping!) When I meet a guy, he likes that I'm "me," but if we get serious, then I'm eit

    July 21, 2014

  • Monday's Best Bets Best Bets for Monday, July 21

    Looking for something to do today? Here are The Salem News' Best Bets:

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • This weekend's Best Bets Best Bets for Saturday, July 19 and Sunday, July 20

    Looking for something to do this weekend? Check out The Salem News' Best Bets.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • North Shore religion news in brief The Rev. Wesley Williams will be the featured guest for the 9:30 a.m. worship service on Sunday, July 27, at Holy Trinity United Methodist Church, 16 Sylvan St., Danvers. Williams will use the sermon time to lead in the singing of spirituals and give

    July 19, 2014

  • North Shore religion calendar Saturday, July 19 Church Yard Sale, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Our Lady of Fatima Church, 50 Walsh Ave., Peabody. Church-sponsored yard sale features home furnishings, clothing, children's items, furniture and more. Portuguese food will also be available. All

    July 19, 2014

  • North Shore Gardener: Can 10-year-old plant food be used? Q: As I am getting older, my gardening is less and less, but I do have three potted cherry tomato plants on my deck. I wonder if some Vigoro Water Soluble Tomato and Vegetable Plant Food that I have had in my garage for about 10 years would be safe a

    July 18, 2014

  • Dr. Kate's Parent Rap: 6 strategies to help your child build self-advocacy skills As tweens enter middle school, they are expected to manage increased responsibility and independence. Included in this set of expectations is their ability to self-advocate for their needs. Self-advocacy refers to an individual's ability to effective

    July 18, 2014

  • doughboys_2 Book Notes: Author discusses World War I at Wenham Museum All the veterans Richard Rubin interviewed for "The Last of the Doughboys," which was published in 2013, are dead now. Given that his subjects ranged in age from 101 to 113, and he started looking for them in 2003, that is hardly surprising. What re

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • womaninyard Quick pick 'East End Open Studio' An art show featuring the work of 15 artists who all live and work in the East End District of Ipswich is on view this weekend at the Ipswich Moving Company Studio at 2 Cogswell St. in Ipswich. The show is called "East End Open

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

NDN Video
Comments Tracker