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Conditioning for Dancers.

Conditioning for Dancers

Tom Welsh

Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida 2009

Pages: 208, Price: $24.00 (paper)

Within the last few years a handful of excellent dance science and conditioning books written by a diversity of authors have emerged from different publishing houses and academic presses. These include books by Marian Horosko and Judith Kupersmith, Linda Hamilton, Ruth Solomon and John Solomon, Karen Clippinger, Eric Franklin, and others. Tom Welsh's Conditioning for Dancers is another in that canon. Remarkable for its balance between breadth and depth, Welsh's book has distilled considerable information into an elegant text.

Form follows function, the look of this University of Florida Press text is sleek and spacious, with wide margins for note taking, making it readily usable. Welsh notes that it is designed to help dancers learn to play a more active role "in directing their own training and development." The book is a distillation or compilation of a variety of systems presented in a coherent whole.

Part I consists of eight chapters covering the art and science of dance conditioning. In Part II, Dance Conditioning Catalog, Welsh presents a glossary of terms, but also a glossary of exercises--a manageable 30 in all, mostly performed from the floor. Part III, Dance Conditioning Resources, is an annotated bibliography of key resources in dance. The index also is detailed, and thus highly useful. Each chapter has an embedded study guide and workbook that includes questions to check for reader comprehension of key concepts.

In his introductory chapter, Welsh offers a conceptualization (and definitions) of dance fundamentals which he calls "seven physical capacities" that dancers need to be successful: alignment, coordination, flexibility, strength, aerobic endurance, relaxation, and body composition. This discussion is clear throughout. In later chapters he presents principles of conditioning, types of injuries and their care, and a good discussion of alignment--not just what's wrong or could go wrong with alignment, but how to fix it ("Tools for Improving Alignment," in Chapter 4).

Clarity of text is enhanced by maxims he has created: for example, with his discussion of ways to prepare for class, or to move in general. In Chapter 5's discussion on warming up Welsh states: "Choose movements that increase blood flow and that feel like dancing" or "moving is better for warming up than staying still." He describes specific exercises for warm-up and cool-down that are safe, enjoyable, and congruent with dance exercise.

In Conditioning for Dancers Welsh puts a premium on practicality with advice such as "Probably the most important factor in succeeding at aerobic training is selecting a training activity you can tolerate for 2030 minutes at a time," or, as in his nutrition chapter, when discussing ideas for increasing fluid intake such as adding flavorings to water or milk, or consuming more soups. He also includes a simple, accurate algorithm for calculating daily kilocalorie targets for dancers (this reviewer tried it) and advises to "go no longer than four hours without eating." Welsh admits his discussion may at times be a bit truncated. In his discussion of fats, he acknowledges the controversy surrounding the dietary recommendations. Indeed, the politicized "food pyramid" barely exists in any kind of hierarchical order, particularly regarding the questions of fat and kinds of fat in the diet. The concern here is that undereating fats may lead to overeating everything else.

This exceptionally well-referenced book is beautifully photographed and Welsh acknowledges the eight dancers who served as models for photographer Rick McCullough. Well-designed illustrations, too, help explain key concepts--for example, alignment landmarks of the foot or the pelvis. In sum, this well-written text warrants widespread adoption for undergraduate classes. I highly recommend it for college-level educators as well as studio practitioners looking for a practical guide to conditioning and training the healthy dancer.

Review copies of new publications should be sent to Gigi Berardi, 2813 Summer Street, Bellingham, Washington 98225. Those interested in reviewing books for this section should inquire by e-mail ( and include their professional affiliation and area of expertise.
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Author:Berardi, Gigi
Publication:Journal of Dance Medicine & Science
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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