When she wrote “Apollo’s Angels,” her sweeping history of that most evanescent of art forms, ballet, the dancer turned historian Jennifer Homans was widely hailed for taking an engaging, scholarly approach to more than four centuries of dance. But within the dance world, her book became famous — or perhaps infamous — for its final 10 pages, a downbeat epilogue in which Ms. Homans sounded a blunt warning, writing, “I now feel sure that ballet is dying.”

Now Ms. Homans has a chance to try to help the patient, in a modest way: She is opening a ballet think tank, of sorts.

Her new organization, the Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University, where she is a scholar in residence, will open this month with the help of a $2 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Ms. Homans said that its goals include establishing ballet as a serious subject of academic inquiry; drawing new voices into a discussion of its past, present and future; and expanding the conversation beyond the confines of the dance world.

“People have said, ‘You are so down on it, the ending of “Apollo’s Angels” is so grim,’ but really what I was trying to do is ask a serious question,” Ms. Homans said in her brand-new offices on Cooper Square in the East Village, where workers were building a dance studio. “We’re in the middle of a completely changing world, and where is this art form? What is it going to become? And I think that is a question that we’re all answering now, and the center can be a part of the answer. It’s trying to create a place for us to say this really matters — what can it become?”

The center will grant a few fellowships each semester to people from the worlds of dance, academia and beyond and allow them to pursue a broad range of projects. “One of the main points of the center is to bring minds from other disciplines and art forms to focus, and to bear, on ballet,” Ms. Homans said.

One member of the first group of fellows is the documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, who has several films about dance, including “Ballet,” a 1995 profile of American Ballet Theater, and “La Danse,” his 2009 look at the Paris Opera Ballet. (Mr. Wiseman said he thinks of his 2010 film, “Boxing Gym,” as a dance film as well.)

But Mr. Wiseman’s project at the center this fall will not involve making a film of dance, but quite the opposite: making a dance out of one of his films.

He said he planned to work with the choreographer James Sewell, of the Minneapolis-based James Sewell Ballet, to turn one of his early films, “Titicut Follies,” about a state prison for the criminally insane, into a ballet. “I wanted to see whether it would be possible to do a classical ballet on a contemporary subject,” he said.

Another fellow, Heather Watts, the former New York City Ballet star, said she would spend her time at the center thinking about new ways to analyze and contextualize the ballets of George Balanchine — who made her a principal dancer — for 21st-century audiences. She said she might ultimately develop an online lecture or an app delving into not just choreography and biography, but also some of the broader cultural themes at work in the field. As an example, she noted that Balanchine created “Stars and Stripes” around the same time that Jasper Johns was painting his flags.

“All of this is against Balanchine’s better wishes,” Ms. Watts said, noting his oft-expressed desire for people simply to enjoy, and not over-analyze, his work. She recalled how he would tell his ballerinas, “Don’t think, just dance.”

But she said that when she taught a course on Balanchine at Harvard a few years ago, she began to see that while it was not necessary to know anything to enjoy Balanchine ballets, there was a value to learning something about the culture and time that produced them.

In her bearish epilogue to “Apollo’s Angels,” published in 2010, Ms. Homans, who is also dance critic for The New Republic, pointed to ballet’s struggles after the deaths of the great 20th-century dance figures, its risks of becoming hidebound and its diminishing cultural footprint in the United States, among other woes.

“If we are lucky, I am wrong, and classical ballet is not dying but falling instead into a deep sleep, to be reawakened — like the Sleeping Beauty — by a new generation,” she wrote.

In a wide-ranging conversation about dance, Ms. Homans said she saw reasons to be optimistic, from some of the spectacular dancers performing today to the strong passions many have for ballet. “I actually think this is a really hopeful moment,” she said.

While the new center will not initially serve students, she said she hoped it would ultimately help ballet secure a greater toehold in academia. “You take Music 101, you take Art 101 — where is the dance?” she asked. “And where is ballet in particular? Here is an art form that has a history, a 400-year history, it is part of our civilization, and yet it doesn’t have a presence.”

Philip E. Lewis, a vice president of the Mellon Foundation, said that while the initial grant would fund the center for three years, there was a hope that the center could be renewed. “We hope that ballet, like the other high performing arts, will eventually become a form of cultural expression that’s more accessible to the public at large, and not so much understood as a kind of aristocratic art form,” he said.

Ms. Homans said that she hoped that inviting people from different fields would lead to a cross-pollination of ideas about ballet and perhaps make it part of a wider cultural discussion. Next year, when the center presents its first Lincoln Kirstein lecture, it will be delivered not by a dancer or choreographer but by the poetry critic and Harvard professor Helen Vendler, who will talk about dance and poetry.

And the center plans to make full use of its site in New York. Soon after the first fellows arrive, they will take their first field trip: to a master class by the choreographer Mark Morris, who is on the center’s advisory panel.

“I hope that it will really be a forum, and a flexible organization that can just be a place where new ideas can come into being,” Ms. Homans said. “And then people can take them, if they want them.”