*Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet*

That is the new book by Jennifer Homans and it is one of the very best non-fiction works of the year, impeccably written and researched.  Here is the excerpt of greatest interest to most economists:

None of the Russian ballet's many admirers, however, would be more central to the future of British ballet than John Maynard Keynes.  Keynes is usually remembered as the preeminent economist of the twentieth century, but he was also deeply involved with classical dance and a key player in creating a thriving British ballet…

For Keynes…classical ballet became an increasingly important symbol of the lost civilization of his youth…With Lydia at his side, Keynes plowed his talent and considerable material resources into theater, painting, and dance, even as he was also playing an ever more prominent role in political and economic affairs on the world stage.

The couple's Bloomsbury home became a meeting place for ballet luminaries (Lydia's friends) and a growing coterie of artists and intellectuals who saw ballet as a vital art…When Diaghilev died in 1929, many of them joined Keynes in establishing the Camargo Society, an influential if short-lived organization devoted to carrying Diaghilev's legacy forward — and to developing a native English ballet.  Lydia was a founding member and performed in many of the society's productions…Keynes was its honorary treasurer.

In the mid-1930s, Keynes also built the Arts Theatre in Cambridge, funding it largely from his own pocket…As Britain sank into the Depression, Keynes's interest in the arts also took on an increasingly political edge: "With what we have spent on the dole in England since the war," he wrote in 1933, "we could have made our cities the greatest works of man in the world."

I did, by the way, very much enjoy Black Swan (the movie), despite its highly synthetic nature, a few disgusting scenes, and its occasional over-the-top mistakes.  So far it's my movie of the year along with Winter's Bone, the Israeli movie Lebanon, and the gory but excellent Danish film, Valhalla Rising.

My favorite recording of Swan Lake (and my favorite classical CD of 2010) is conducted by Mikhail Pletnev (controversial but there is a good review here), who was recently cleared of child abuse charges in Thailand.


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