Jacobs’s book opens the door, offering a meticulous introduction to the art form and welcoming readers to have a seat and stay a while. Jacobs makes no assumptions about the reader’s pre-existing knowledge of ballet, but rather starts at the very beginning, much as dancers do each day, with its basic foundations. She provides a study of the five foot positions, narrated alongside a history dating back to the French court in the 1500s and tracing ballet’s centuries-long evolution, without lingering so long on any one era that she loses the reader in academic prose. It’s the perfect balance of historical context and cultural relevance ... Written like a true dancer.
With Celestial Bodies, Laura Jacobs gives us a crisp account of ballet history as well as an introduction to its technique ... Her intended reader is both the newcomer and the fellow enthusiast. To them she offers everything from tips on pronunciation...to deep dives into metaphor ... There are also some snarky yet amusing asides ... Even so, Ms. Jacobs’s focus rarely strays into our current century ... the most recent named work in Celestial Bodies is Balanchine’s Mozartiana, from 1981—before many of today’s dancers were born ... Celestial Bodies shows what ballet has to offer the committed fan; the art form itself is still grappling with how to reach beyond its own familiar circle.
It is part ballet primer and a lively insider peek into the technical aspects and the enduring magic of the dance world ... Jacobs brings us into the creative, even poetic, realms of the dance and also, in concrete terms examines the origins and mechanics of ballet from its history in the court of Louis XIV, to the development of the pointe shoe and its transformational powers as the 'wings' of a ballerina ... As accessible as Jacobs makes this history for general readership, Celestial Bodies is basically for students of dance and avid balletomanes.