It's hard to write a comprehensive history of anything that is both thorough and engaging, and especially hard when the topic is ballet, which has a history of declining and reemerging at various times in various places around the world. Oh, and it has no system of notation for dance steps, so describing past dances is incredibly challenging.
So yeah, Jennifer Homans' project was ambitious -- and she totally nails it.
We go from the Sun King's court through the Romantics and Industrial Age, from Soviet Russia to postwar London to avant-garde dance in 1960s New York. I lost track of the number of times some anecdote or passage hit that sweet spot where the ideas come from, deep in my writer-brain. And though the book took me a long time to get through -- several library renewals, returns, and rediscoveries -- the narrative thread remained clear and the author's passion evident and contagious.
The short version: if you think you're going to like this book, you will.