, 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
  • Orchid North Shore Gardener: It’s the summer without hydrangeas August "Fairest of the months! Ripe summer's queen, the hey-day of the year, with robes that gleam with sunny sheen Sweet August doth appear." -- R. Combe Miller Q: Can you tell me why my numerous "Endless Summer" hydrangea plants are not blooming th

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dr. Kate: 8 strategies to help your child overcome a fear of bullies Despite the massive anti-bullying campaigns that dominate our current culture, many students continue to feel bullied. The current anti-bullying campaign focuses on decreasing bullying by policing the bullies, but what about empowering the victims? B

    August 1, 2014

  • booknotes0801 Stroll through a story at Danvers library Reading can be good for the body as well as the mind. That's especially true for visitors of the new StoryWalk at Peabody Institute Library of Danvers. "StoryWalk is combining physical activity with reading," said Karen Veilleux, a children's librar

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • frenkel Quick pick: Bring stories to life Bring stories to life Explore and experience the challenges and satisfactions of combining text with images in a four-session illustration workshop, led by award-winning published illustrator Yetti Frenkel at the Abbot Public Library, 235 Pleasant St

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • TV Outlander [Duplicate] 'Outlander' brings novels to life vibrantly NEW YORK -- There's an odd believability you find inside "Outlander" that somehow makes it feel true-to-life. Never mind that it's a rip-roaring fantasy. Claire, a lovely British Army nurse on a second honeymoon in Scotland, is mysteriously swept fr

    August 1, 2014 4 Photos

  • Dear Abby: Diabetic friend suffers close call miles away from hospital Dear Abby: My husband and I have a lake house and invited a couple (close friends) to join us for a few days. The husband has cancer and has been taking chemo. We wanted them both to rest, as the wife is his only caregiver. We all thought this would

    August 1, 2014

  • Friday's Best Bets Best Bets for Friday, Aug. 1

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

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Thursday's Best Bets Best Bets for Thursday, July 31

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

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • homecoming1 Festivals in Salem and Beverly celebrate cities' heritage

    Salem Heritage Days and Beverly Homecoming, both of which start this weekend, are roughly the same age. "This is the 49th year," said Bruce Doig, director of parks and recreation in Beverly. "The most recent form of homecoming started in 1966 as a wa

    July 31, 2014 6 Photos

  • 140723_SN_DLE_MINER5 For artist Nathan Miner, it’s not what you see, but how Visitors can see five paintings by Nathan Miner, and watch one being created, at Montserrat College of Art this summer. That's because the gallery where the artist's works are hanging includes a studio where he will be working until Aug. 14, in a co

    July 31, 2014 5 Photos

NDN Video
Comments Tracker