Applied Anatomy of Aerial Arts by Emily Scherb, DPT.
Review by: Julianna Hane
The much anticipated book, Applied Anatomy of Aerial Arts, hit the shelves (and mailboxes) last month. I was thrilled to receive my copy in the mail! To fully disclose my bias, allow me to share a personal story:
I had the pleasure of meeting the author, Emily Scherb, when I was teaching in Seattle last year. Emily holds a Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) and is a long-time trapeze coach, so you can imagine how excited I was to speak with her. We met over tea and discussed movement, the profession of physical therapy, and the unique needs of aerialists. She invited me to observe in her clinic so I could get a better sense of the work. I was thoroughly impressed by her ability to not only problem-solve with a patient, but to also to communicate clearly and succinctly. After spending time with Emily and learning about her philosophies of movement. I have been waiting anxiously to dive into this book.
And now for the book review:
Emily has created a fluid, informed read on anatomy for aerialists without fuss or pretense. She gets straight to the point of what aerialists need to know in order to move better. Avoiding excessive jargon, (unlike many anatomy texts), the author makes the content accessible to the non-anatomist. When defining concepts, she applies them immediately to aerial arts so the information is relevant. The text is chock-full of useful photos and illustrations - you might even recognize some faces, particularly if know the Seattle aerial scene.
Emily begins by introducing the body, including bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and soft tissues. She then teaches movement terminology, or how to describe movement relative to the three planes of motion. These foundations help aerialists understand and communicate about movement more clearly.
The next chapter focuses on the interplay of mobility and stability. The aerialist needs a stable center to support mobility through space, and Emily explains exactly what that means in terms of aerial movement.
Chapter 3 is where the real fun begins. Emily examines anatomical structures (bones and muscles) in order to justify function (how we move), particularly with range of motion and movement possibilities at different joints. While it may seem tedious at first, learning how far your body can move in any given direction based on bony structures is helpful for practitioners and teachers alike.
Chapter 4, 5, and 6 discuss basic aerial positions, hangs, and skills, respectively. Emily describes what an “engaged” arms-overhead position actually involves, and she clearly justifies her claims by referencing biomechanics. The side-by-side comparison photographs showing correct and incorrect engagement is eye-opening. Since aerialists come from different schools of thought around shoulder positioning, Emily brings clarity to the issue in her fluid, engaging tone.
In chapter 7, the author presents classic aerial movements like climbs, beats, pullovers, and inversions. For each skill, Emily outlines the technique, muscles involved, common errors, and variations of the movement. The movement terminology presented earlier in the text comes in handy in this section. The visuals help locate each muscle action within the context of the whole body, creating a holistic view of aerial movement. Emily consciously points out moments where collapse or disengagement may occur, and how that puts additional stress on joints that may already be working at their maximum.
The common errors revealed in the previous chapter carries into the next two chapters on injury prevention. Chapter 8 addresses balanced training, while Chapter 9 offers strength and mobilization exercises for the aerialist. Emily reminds us to consult with a health care provider for guidance with these exercises and other injury prevention methods, since everyone has a unique body and situation.
Applied Anatomy of Aerial Arts fills in a major gap in our industry. Emily’s ability to distill the complexities of anatomy down to what is most essential makes this a must on every aerialist’s bookshelf. We are pleased to announce that Born to Fly Teacher Trainings and Support has adopted Applied Anatomy of Aerial Arts as an official textbook for our level 1 and 2 courses!
The book is available for purchase through Amazon, the publisher, or your local bookseller. You can also contact Emily through her website, www.thecircusdoc.com.
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