Physics and the Art of Dance: Understanding Movement

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Physics and the Art of Dance gives all who enjoy dance – whether as dancers, students, teachers, or fans – an opportunity to understand what happens when human bodies move in the remarkable ways we call dance. How, for instance, do dancers create the illusion of defying gravity? Or of starting to spin when in the air with no source of force to act on their bodies? You may observe some dancers using their arms in a way that allows some to jump higher than others. What is that technique, and why does it work?

In this second edition, author Ken Laws – a physicist with years of professional dance training – teams with veteran dance instructor Arleen Sugano to provide new step-by-step experiments for dancers. "What you see" sections describe the way physical principles form the framework within which some movements exist. The complementary "What you do" sections allow dancers to experience how those physical analyses can provide them a more efficient means of learning how to carry out those movements. Throughout, the book shows how movements are first artistic expressions, and secondly movements of the body within the framework of easy-to-understand physical principles.

Dancers and dance instructors will find in this book an efficient means of improving technical proficiency and growing professional and aesthetic development. For physics and science teachers, the book provides a new and compelling way to draw people into the world of science. And observers and fans of dance will marvel over the beautiful time-stop photography by renowned dance photographers Martha Swope and Gene Schiavone.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 edition (September 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195341015
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195341010
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds

Customer Reviews

Absolutely incredible!

10 people found this helpful.
 on October 26, 2009
By Sergey Orshanskiy
This book is INCREDIBLE!

As Much Science As The Dancer Ever Should Need.

20 people found this helpful.
 on November 20, 2005
By jack wilinsky
The question of how a knowledge of the science behind the movement of the human body helps students of dance learn to dance better is always discussed. Like the author, I too am both a physicist and a ballet dancer. I have found that the most important thing to learn in ballet is the imagery that works for you, and sometimes science can actually get in the way. Take walking for example: if we had to analyze ever movement in walking we would never be able to move. I should also point out that science still does not thoroughly understand walking, let alone dancing! Still, it is helpful in some places to understand, at least a little, what is happening in a movement or static pose. This book does a surprisingly fine job of covering most of the pertinent topics and some topics you would not have thought of asking about. I liked the fact that the author does not over simplify some topics, which is often done in elementary explanations. Science usually tries to abstract and simplify in order to explain phenomena, but this can lead to problems. Take, for example, the case of static balance on a point. If you approximate the human body as a rigid body, it is impossible to explain stable equilibrium on a point. Rigid bodies can only achieve unstable equilibrium over a point. But human beings are not rigid! In ballet, we can achieve stable balance over a point for an indefinite period of time(it is very difficult and rarely seen in performance but often in ballet class). This book actually mentions this and explains how it is done. It even includes a discussion of how much a cushioned floor will reduce shock to the dancer’s joints. Many illustrations and photos are also included. This is the best book available on this subject, and for those who want to explore this topic further, this is the best place to start.

Great Science Textbook for Home Schoolers

4 people found this helpful.
 on May 23, 2011
By Vic O’Dell
I bought this book for my home schooling, ballet-dancing daughter. She is actually learning the principles of physics without complaint because she can relate the science and mathematics with practical application. She is 14 yrs old and grasping concepts on a college level.

Love it!

 on June 1, 2016
By Miss Z from DC
A must for physicians, physical therapists​, and dance medicine scientists!

Five Stars

 on October 8, 2015
By Amazon Customer
Excellent resource. Very informative and helpful for both the budding physicist and aspiring ballerina.

beautifully done

 on May 25, 2013
By Michael Lisa
As a physics professor and one who discusses sports, I find Laws book beautifully written, very well thought out, and beautifully illustrated. It is a fun read and informative.

Five Stars

 on August 5, 2014
By Stanislav Vainbaum

A review of Physics and the Art of Dance

One person found this helpful.
 on May 8, 2009
By L. Graham
This book made a great gift for our daughter who is a member of her college dance company. We gave it to her following completion of her first college year. She loves the book and it has become part of her reference library.

Five Stars

 on September 13, 2014
By Juancho

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