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One of the loveliest exhibitions I’ve seen all year was “Hymn to Apollo: The Ancient World and the Ballets Russes,” at NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. A bijoux of a show, its carefully selected array of artifacts, costumes, drawings and photographs explores the ways in which the arts of the ancient world impinged on, and freed, the imagination of the modern artists, choreographers, dancers and composers associated with the fabled Ballets Russes.

Delaunay Cleopatre
Sonia Delaunay. Costume Design for the Title Role of Cléopâtre. 1918. Metropolitan Museum of Art/NYU Institute for the Study of the Ancient World

The lively intelligence of the exhibition’s curators, Clare Fitzgerald and Rachel Herschman, made itself felt throughout, resulting in an exhibition that was fresh, smart and affecting.

“Hymn to Apollo” also put me in mind of the power of art to create a community of the likeminded, a timely reminder as the academic year, and with it, GW’s graduate programs in the Jewish cultural arts, draws to a close.

While no would-be Diaghilevs or Nijinskys were among this year’s students, I hold out the hope that the training they received in how to think about, conjure up and implement Jewish culture will keep them on their toes as they move out into the world.

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