◊ Reviews (full content)

Karen Clippinger's Dance Anatomy and Kinesiology, is most likely to become the definitive textbook in dance anatomy, kinesiology, and conditioning classes in colleges and universities in the United States. In 20 years of reviewing dance science books, rarely have I seen one so comprehensive, accurate, detailed - and practical. I emphasize the latter because here is a book that is loaded with practical applications for dance; thus, Dance Anatomy and Kinesiology virtually reads as both science text and dance handbook.

The book abounds with interesting and practical elements: These include: "Tests and Measurements," which, for example, profiles tests used to evaluate ligamental injury, muscular strength, and flexibility; and bone density. "Concept Demonstrations" appear throughout and illustrate key concepts that are often difficult to grasp; this section includes movements that the reader can perform to aid in his/her understanding. Examples are: Closed and Open Kinematic Chain Movements; The Influence of Movement Arms on Torque; Concentric, Eccentric, and Isometric Muscle Contractions; Active Insufficiency; Deducing Muscle Actions from their Attachments; and Foot Supination and Pronation. "Study Questions and Applications" also are included for each chapter to ensure that key concepts are understood.

Of note is the illustrations -utterly relevant and understandable - schematics and photographic images across a broad range of body types and styles (particularly helpful are images of the types of synovial joints, basic anatomical axes, joint movements in different planes, and customary and reverse muscle actions of the iliopsoas). One of the most valuable elements, however, is the "Dance Cues," which gives the potential anatomical basis of cues that teachers commonly give when teaching technique. Examples are: "Bend the Knees to the Side," "Release and Recover," "Bring the Heel Forward," "Pull Your Shoulders Back," "Point from the Top of the Foot," "Don't Stop Your Plié," "Land Softly," and "Go Through Your Foot."

The text itself is divided into eight chapters, organized similarly to other texts: The Skeletal System and Its Movements, The Muscular System, The Spine, The Pelvic Girdle and Hip Joint, The Knee and Patellofemoral Joints, The Ankle and Foot, The Upper Extremity, and Analysis of Human Movement. Again, similar to other texts, chapters begin with a presentation of anatomy and anatomical terms. What then follows is exceptionally clear explanations of joint structure and movement, functions of individual muscles, ideal alignment and common deviations, body mechanics, conditioning work, specific injuries and injury prevention, and applications and summary. The similarity with most other texts wanes with each highly specific application and consideration. Especially informative is the annotation in the tables (for example, Joint Movement Terminology, Key Alignment/Technique Problems and Potential Corrective Measures), as well as clear and useful discussion in the text (Torque, Dynamic Muscle Contraction, Learning Muscle Names and Actions by focusing on Latin and Greek roots to provide information, Research-Supported Movement Analysis; the latter, also the subject of the final book chapter).

In short, few texts approach the breadth and depth of this compelling, evidence-based work. If a picture is worth 1,000 words than this must be a 200,000 page book, and thus, good value for money. With a References and Resources section and a stellar index, and together with its numerous conditioning exercises and real-life applications, this book proves itself to be an essential addition to dance educators and students everywhere. After reading this text I did two things: I got out my balance board to practice the related exercises, and called my dance department and offered to teach a kinesiology class if I could use Dance Anatomy and Kinesiology as a text. I cannot imagine a better text for undergraduate classes at any level.

Gigi Berardi
Assistant Editor, Book Reviews
Journal of Dance Medicine and Science
(Author, Finding Balance: Fitness, Training, and Health for a Lifetime in Dance)


This text came about by the authors’ difficult search to find a text that could be used to teach anatomy and kinesiology to dancers. Texts that were available lacked in images – a real problem for dancers who are generally visual learners! There was also a need for a text that delved into the subject being as scientifically accurate as possible and specific to dancers – Karen Clippinger has done just that.

My first reaction to the text was that it was big. Being 533 pages, it is a bit daunting at first but as I started reading the text I was pleased that it was easy to understand and no mean feat at all.

The book starts off by explaining the skeletal system. Primary tissues in the body, bone composition and structure, functions of bone, joint architecture and movement; it sets the foundation for the rest of the text by explaining all the basics first. Graphics are provided to help you get a firm grasp of what is being explained.

It then moves onto the muscular system. It explains how muscles work, types of contractions, the names and actions and different types of stretching.

The text then goes on to explain each individual body area – the spine, hip joint, knee, ankle and foot and the upper body.

The author analyses certain dance movements as well. For instance: a grand jete en avant. It breaks down the type of movement at each stage, what joints are involved, what the primary movers are and the specific muscles involved. This is an invaluable tool as it will help the teacher to be able to break down movement and know which muscles they need to get their students to focus and work on.

It explains technical problems and gives you potential corrective measures. For example: a student is not achieving or maintaining hip external rotation (losing turnout). The student will need to strengthen their deep outward rotators (which is outlined with exercise examples earlier in the book). It also provides you with stretches and cues for the problem.

It contains special features like concept demonstrations, tests and measurements, dance cues and study tables.

This book really is a must for any dance teacher who is serious about helping their students!

Book Review by Amy Bloor



Karen Clippinger’s anticipated Dance Anatomy and Kinesiolgy imparts a formidable boost to the existing body of literature in dance science, contributing in my opinion, the most substantive dance science resource to date. Clippinger’s work offers the field an alternative to previous, less comprehensive texts, thereby promising to bolster and strengthen dancers’ knowledge and understanding of anatomical and biomechanical principles, specifically as they apply to dance training and pedagogy.

With a mere crack of its pages, the reader is immediately captured by its stunning visuals. Abundant illustrations and photographs clarify and reinforce illustrated concepts. Also throughout the text, the author offers a bounty of practical applications to dance and dance technique. Particularly useful and helpful to the learning process are the Concept Demonstrations, Tests and Measurements, and Dance Cues. These segments provide various and plentiful hands-on and practical experiences that serve to solidify the learner’s conceptual understanding and in many cases provide a kinesthetic component to the learning as well.

The text begins with two thorough, in-depth chapters addressing basic skeletal and muscular principles, thus providing the requisite foundation for more detailed, comprehensive material that follows. Subsequently, five substantial chapters address each major segment and joint of the body, with methodical attention to each segment. A unique feature of Clippinger’s approach is a holistic treatment of each body segment, combining skeletal structure and deviations, muscular mechanics and analysis, and injuries within each discussion. This presents both an opportunity and a challenge for the dance anatomy and kinesiology teacher. The opportunity is that it offers the option not to separate the skeletal and muscular systems, providing a more complete view and understanding of each segment. The challenge may be to ensure that students encounter the material with sufficient time and repetition to ensure deep learning. Whereas separating the skeletal and muscular systems into two units allows the opportunity to first address skeletal alignment and deviations, and then revisit skeletal issues within a subsequent muscular unit, Clippinger’s approach presents the possibility that each body segment may be addressed only once. However, the text is clearly organized and as such, could be adapted to many teaching preferences and approaches. The holistic treatment of each body segment as presented provides and inherently spiraling progression that appeals to the reader’s natural learning sensibilities.

The final chapter draws on conceptual material presented in previous chapters to address movement mechanics in the whole body system. This is accomplished through various critical discussions, including a summary of corrective procedures for various alignment or technique problems within each body segment. This summary, presented in chart format, includes explanations of the mechanics involved, structures to stretch and strengthen, and sample cues that will aid in correcting each named problem. The chapter also includes a careful and thorough explanation of movement analysis systems, with particular attention devoted to anatomical movement analysis and its use in evaluating a variety of dance activities. This final discussion prepares the student for in-studio analysis of movement, using knowledge in anatomy and kinesiology to improve practice and pedagogy.

Clippinger’s text is a must-have for every dance professional’s library. It offers a plethora of practical wisdom and information, an essential reference tool for dancers, dance educators, somatic practitioners and dance science specialists. The material it contains can be used to supplement, bolster, and improve the study of dance in various courses, from technique to pedagogy to the more obvious dance conditioning, anatomy, and kinesiology courses. It is a substantive textbook, and though unquestioningly suitable for use in undergraduate dance science courses, it also presents detail, depth and advanced conceptual material that qualify it for use in graduate studies in the dance sciences, in which, the holistic coverage it offers would be most appropriate and necessary.

Book Reviews - Journal of Dance Education Vol 8 (4) 2008


home | bio | courses | workshops | publications | contact