Friday, January 15, 2010

Fitness DVD Reviews: So You Think You Can Dance: Get Fit: Tone and Groove; So You Think You Can Dance: Get Fit: Cardio Funk (2009)

Now Available to Own on DVD

Getting Fit for the New Year?

Originally Published: 7/30/09

Although I believe that even admitting I'd never seen an episode of SYTYCD (as the kids call it) in its entirety cost me a handful of Twitter followers, I could think of no greater way to kick off the introduction to this review than by quoting from the one, the only Mr. Stephen Colbert.

On Wednesday, July 29 via Twitter himself, Colbert tweeted, "I suggest we do what every good American does when dissatisfied with the state of affairs. Watch an episode of 'So You Think You Can Dance'!"

And he's definitely right in his idea that when things get you down, as Gene Kelly once advised, there's nothing greater than to spend time, "Singin' in the Rain," or dancing like there's no tomorrow. Therefore it was a wonderful bit of pop-culture coincidence to find the arrival of that tweet hitting my computer screen just hours after I'd experienced the energy of the talented group of extraordinary cast-mates from the smash hit series via their blockbuster fitness DVDs.

I always recommend watching a fitness DVD in its entirety before you even begin to attempt any move in the program and of course as the rushed fine print of the medical warning (that looks an awful lot like the FBI one) promises it's advisable to consult your MD beforehand.

Ironically my screening of the discs last night was especially humorous considering it occurred directly after returning from Urgent Care wherein the MD on call informed me that too much exercise had left me with either a severely strained or torn calf muscle. However, unlike the ridiculously flexible cast of SYTYCD, I'm afraid my injury hadn't arisen from shaking my groove thing or getting my funk on but rather from swimming to my heart's content as one of the only ways to escape the heat in the Arizona desert in the summer (aside from jacking up your energy bill).

Feeling that even as a spectator, I wasn't quite ready for the Cardio Funk-- despite a background growing up with suburban parents who dutifully signed me up for tumbling and ballet at three and then tap, ballet, and jazz for years-- I opted to start up with the much less intense sounding Tone and Groove before moving onto the Funk.

Both DVDs begin similarly and with far more intellectuality than I approached my rush towards the water by dreaming of a childhood watching The Little Mermaid. No they didn't just jump in and instead these professions accurately and thoroughly describe just how important it is for those who intend to exercise to warm-up properly to prevent injury or waking up with severely sore muscles the next day. Sure, now you tell me!

Featuring six dancers from the past seasons of the wildly successful series that's going into its fifth season-- the performers alternate during the warm-up and cool down process by explaining directions to the viewer and it's quickly apparent to see which ones may possibly have had a background in either dance or exercise instruction. To explain--unfortunately despite how valuable it is-- this segment is uneven in both clarity and sound depending on whose turn it is to speak.

Thus, the warm-up on Tone and Groove loses points for clarity since only a few dancers truly address the way you should hold your frame including spinal positioning, neck alignment etc. with concern and enunciation such as Travis who aces this in both discs along with Twitch who encourages those who feel the need to go ahead and rewind the segment to warm-up again if they're not quite there yet.

The warm-up on Tone and Groove is much easier to get a handle on, although for a typical fitness enthusiast, the SYTYCD crew certainly wasn't kidding on the other disc when it came to addressing "cardio" since the warm-up alone feels like a typical aerobics level two workout at a health club. However, even the warm-up may take a few rewinds to finally begin to understand as Twitch had advised on the other disc due to the complexity and dance-like movements involved. Still, the one major benefit of Cardio Funk all-around was that largely it was the clear, encouraging, professional Courtney who led you through the start of it and the other dancers seem to pick up on the way she's able to walk people through instructions with success.

Moreover, the camera gets her cues, showing side views as dancers turn to show the right way to get a proper stretch although a constancy of the camera in remaining in full view of dancers including feet throughout the program would've been far more beneficial for those of us at home struggling to keep up.

In both widescreen releases from Paramount Home Entertainment that fill enhanced televisions (despite not making much use out of it with an extremely dull curtain and backdrop that looks like it would have cost less than the hair products used on one dancer), you're then taken through three diverse dance routines step-by-step.

In this way, it's reminiscent of Fame or those musical theatre cattle call dance auditions except slowed down to a snail's pace. That is until, of course the dancers quickly forget that we haven't studied at the Fame school, Julliard (and for many of us it's been a long time since childhood or community theatre) as I found myself baffled within an instant of Tone and Groove's first routine designed by the charismatic Twitch.

When he opens with a drop to the side and walk around, throwing his body off center without explaining how to hold your frame-- immediately I began realizing just how many people would inadvertently hurt themselves (back injuries mostly) no matter how many warm-ups they did unless of course, they had some recent dance, cheerleading, gymnastics, aerobics, yoga, or other physical training.

Although it's a great routine and not all of the dances are like that one as on Tone and Groove, I'd say that Katee's jazz number in focusing on your legs and arms is far more accessible with enough practice for those who are less experienced. Moreover, surprisingly, aside from thinking you should work with the warm-up of the first disc, I'd recommend the beautiful ballet meets jazz contemporary routine by Travis and calorie burning disco number off Cardio Funk by Courtney for beginners-- thereby working with both discs together to build up enough stamina to eventually move onto the rest.

One benefit of the choreography of the six dances contained on both discs which consist of various styles including hip-hop, Latin or contemporary is that they have been created in mind especially to challenge the areas you need most to stay in shape including your abs, thighs, stomach, arms, and booty.

Again, for those of you who can honestly answer the titular question of "So You Think You Can Dance" with a resounding yes, you can feel free to plunge right in, but for those of us who have not taken tap, ballet, jazz or contemporary dance or engaged in actors' body training in a good long while may want to balance between the two worthwhile discs-- both of which contain very solid cool downs and bonus interviews with fan favorite dancers.

Perhaps another answer could be as simple as watching them a few times to study before moving a muscle and then slowly start "doing your own thing" as the dancers encourage after a good warm-up to help get your muscles ready to groove, funk and tone with the rest. Likewise, an additional idea I had aside from initially just feeling overwhelmed by the "performance level" of the group-- even when they were only on say, stage two and still counting before music was introduced-- would be to encourage the discs as a purchase for parents of teens and students heading off to college as in this economy, it's hard to justify a gym membership.

And to those like yours truly who are in their late twenties and early thirties and just getting back into it, another good way to eventually get to the level of Twitch and Lauren would be to work with some other discs to tone such as Mel B's Totally Fit before you start attempting some of the killer routines viewers tune in weekly to see on TV's Fox Network.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard critical practice, I received these titles from the studio in order to evaluate for review. Receipt of the items had no impact on whether or not they received a favorable or unfavorable response.
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