Medical Problems of Performing ArtistsMedical Problems of Performing Artists

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Momentum Transfer in Dance Movement

Kenneth Laws
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 13 Number 4: Page 136 (December 1998)

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Abstract: Understanding the physical basis of dance movements allows dancers and dance teachers to determine how important certain characteristics of technique are in the successful performance of the movements, and reasons why some of these characteristics create vulnerability to injury. One important general physical principle involves the transfer of linear or rotational momentum from one part of the body to another. A vertical jump, for instance, is estimated to increase in height 25% when the arms are used to store momentum during takeoff. Rotational examples included are "windup" for a pirouette and use of the working leg during fouetté turns or during the initiation of some partnered pirouettes. The biomechanical processes used to control the leg in these turning movements are described, along with reasons for the "correct" technique and why it is challenging for dancers. The mechanical basis of these movements is analyzed, and an experimental study is described that demonstrates the viability of the momentum transfer process in making a partnered "finger turn" most effective. The number of turns that can be accomplished is more than three times greater with proper technique than when common mistakes are made. Computer sensing and analysis tools are described that have generalizable applicability to other studies of dance movement

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