Our very own resident physical therapist, Emily Scherb, has written the first ever aerial anatomy book: Applied Anatomy for Aerial Artists, published by North Atlantic Books. You can get a your copy early at the book launch August 21 at Third Place Books Ravenna.
Emily shares how she convinced the publishing world that the circus community is a thing and that we need anatomy books! No one else has really laid out the physicality of the work we’re doing, so she took it upon herself to prevent injuries and help us all become better students, instructors, and performers.
How did you originally get into circus?
Emily: Well, I was a competitive gymnast as a young kid and when I was eleven I found circus summer
camp. That was it! I loved it. By the time I was 16 I was teaching at the camp and trained independently with my trapeze rigged up at a gymnastics school throughout the year. When I finished high school, I moved to Portland and joined a local aerial dance company, Pendulum Aerial Arts Dance, and interned with Do Jump! Extremely Physical Theatre. After spending some time in Portland, I went to college in St. Louis where I worked with Circus Harmony during the year and in the summers taught flying trapeze. I interned with Elizabeth Streb as a dancer after my sophomore year, and after graduating I moved to New York City and became the Assistant Manager of the Trapeze School of New York and worked at the Espana-Streb Trapeze Academy. Then, I went to
graduate school back at Washington University in St. Louis where I was able to continue training and teaching throughout my studies. When I heard SANCA had just opened a flying trapeze rig the timing was perfectly coordinated with my graduation, and I headed to Seattle.
Clearly circus is an integral part of your life! How did you get the idea for writing a book?
Emily: In 2012 SANCA was hosting what was then called the AYCO Educators Conference (now ACE). Jo Montgomery asked me if I would create a four-hour long anatomy course for the educators who were attending. The questions they had and the deep interest everyone expressed about the topic really inspired me to start thinking about writing a book. It took a few more years and quite a few more workshops until I felt knowledgeable enough to approach the logistics of actually making it happen.
Once you had conceived of the idea for your book, how did you start the process of getting it published?
Emily: I did some research on publishers who have published similar things (anatomy, sports textbooks, etc.)
and with a friend’s guidance, I wrote up a book proposal. Circus has been growing exponentially so it was a great opportunity for a book like this.
My book is really focused on injury, injury prevention, self-care and building a training plan. It includes exercises for aerialists and education on what injuries they prevent.
Was it hard to get publishers to listen?
Emily: Definitely, I really had to make the argument that there is a huge community out there that is hungry for this information – about how the body works and how it allows us to do the things we do. No one has really broken down how aerialists are moving!
How long did it take to get a book deal?
Emily: I sent out the first proposal to a publisher in the summer of 2016 but didn’t get a contract until April of 2017.
What was your incentive for creating the book?
Emily: I hope it’s going to be a resource for aerialists and instructors to increase safety and awareness in their training. I hope it helps people have a better understanding of the body mechanics behind [aerial] so we can all be better students, instructors, and performers.
Muscles are made to work together either in pairs, or dynamically with other. Often when there is pain, it means there is over use of one group instead of balance.
What are common injuries in aerialists that you are hoping this book will help prevent?
Emily: The most common injuries are over-use injuries, especially in the shoulders – then hips and backs. The most common acute injury is sprained ankles and back.
What do the exercises focus on in order to prevent those injuries?
Emily: Muscles are made to work together either in pairs, or dynamically with other. Often when there is pain, it means there is over use of one group instead of balance.
You can find Applied Anatomy for Aerial Artists at your favorite bookstore and online at Amazon. Are you interested in working with Emily as your physical therapist? Check out her business website, Pure Motion Physical Therapy, for office locations and booking an appointment.