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The Ramblemuse

By Keith Eric Grant, PhD, NCTMB

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A Tale of Three Dance Books

"There are three steps you have to complete to become a professional dancer: learn to dance, learn to perform and learn how to cope with injuries." – D. Gere, 1992.

Kinesiology comes literally from the Greek words kinesis (movement) and logos (a story, speech, or study); thus, the study of movement, particularly movement of the human body. When I look for books about kinesiology, I want to see a fair emphasis of content about movement along with the more static information on specific muscles, attachments and structure. What I'm highlighting in this month's column are three books, one more basic, one that extends into details and one that touches on spatial awareness in how we move. Interestingly, all three books have a background in dance.

The more basic book is Blandine Calais-Germain's, Anatomy of Movement. As the title suggests, its focus is on anatomy. Yet, written by a dancer, it is not your standard anatomy text. Filled with numerous line-drawings, it details muscles and the movements they create. One feature I especially like is that it depicts anatomy with the human body not in standard anatomical position, allowing the reader to gain a better perspective of the body and muscles as they are used.

Moving to a more detailed text with substantial kinesiology, Karen Clippinger provides a presentation that is both elegant and concise in Dance Anatomy and Kinesiology. The chapters on specific areas of the body are comprehensive, covering the muscles, movements, common injuries, some assessment tests and exercises for strength and flexibility. They are illustrated with good quality black and white photos and drawings. It is the general chapters that have gained my greatest appreciation.

The opening chapter on the skeletal system is a thorough introduction to types of joints, types of attachments, planes of movement and terminology for all of the above. A lot of the information is summarized concisely in tables. Beyond this, there are discussions of joint stability and mobility, closed and open kinematic chains, and degrees of freedom of joints.

The following chapter on the muscular system includes a clear presentation of a visco-elastic model of tissue properties, including components both in parallel and in serial with the contractile component of a muscle. There's a good discussion of types of muscle contractions: dynamic, isometric, concentric and eccentric. There's good coverage of types of levers and of mechanical advantage. The various roles a muscle can play are pointed out: agonist, antagonist, synergist, stabilizers and force couples. Finally (but not exhaustively), there's discussion of the line of pull of a muscle and of deducing muscle actions from the attachments. I greatly prefer this approach to simply having students memorize all three of both attachments and the action without understanding the relationship between them.

In the final chapter, Clippinger returns to the whole body after covering specific areas. Now it's time for anatomical movement analysis, discussion of posture and covering gait analysis. It's a moving conclusion to a thorough and very readable text.

The third book I want to review is Constance Schrader's, A Sense of Dance, which was written to be an introduction to use of your body for movement and, in particular, dance. As such an introduction, it looks both at people having cultural and family "home bases" of movement patterns and at characterizing movement in terms of time, space and effort. Time includes concepts of tempo, beat and rhythm. A person's relationship to the surrounding space includes vertical level, shape, direction, dimension (relative size), perspective and focus. It also includes the four interpersonal spaces which we use to structure our lives: intimate, personal, social and distant. The concept of effort can be characterized as involving energy, ease, motivation and struggle against resistance. As an instructor primarily of sports and deep tissue massage, focusing on alleviating restrictions of movement and facilitating ease of movement, Schrader's writing has given me tools to analyze what I see, both physically and from the perspective of a psychology of movement.

To complete the tale, all three of these books provide high value of content in a very practical format. I've enjoyed all three and drawn from all of them in my teaching. As those from a culture of substantial understatement would say, you could do worse.

Further Reading

  1. Calais-Germain, Blandine: 2007. Anatomy of Movement, revised ed. Eastland Press; ISBN 13: 978-0939616572. List price: $35 (paperback, 316 pages).
  2. Clippinger, Karen Sue: 2006. Dance Anatomy and Kinesiology. Human Kinetics; ISBN 13: 978-0880115315. List price: $69 (hardcover, 544 pages).
  3. Schrader , Constance: 2005. A Sense of Dance — Exploring your Movement Potential; 2nd ed., 216 pages. Human Kinetics; ISBN-13: 978-0736051897. List price: $29 (paperback).
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