Review of Lastics: A Stretch Workout Like No Other

One of my biggest challenges since starting to take ballet has been flexibility. This is odd: I’ve never been a particularly inflexible person. But ballet shows you your limits fast. So I have been on the search for programs that are focused on increasing flexibility. Yoga is great, of course, but sometimes I don’t feel like it, and it’s not necessarily aimed at the kind of flexibility one needs in dance.

Enter Lastics. It’s the creation of Donna Flagg, a former dancer, and advertised as “A Stretch Workout Like No Other.” I bought the DVD bundled with the book, since I wanted to know as much as possible about what made Lastics different. There are quite a few stretch DVDs out there, and many of them seem just to offer the same stretches most active people already know.

I’m happy to report that Lastics is quite different from all other stretch programs I’ve done. One major difference is that Donna Flagg has you extend muscles, then stretch them. I’m not a physician, and can’t tell if she’s right that it’s pointless to work on flexibility on an unextended muscle, but I do know that doing that hasn’t brought me much. Another aspect of Flagg’s program is using, as much as possible, internal force to stretch muscles, rather than external objects or devices.

The DVD itself has an intro on Common Stretching Mistakes, and then moves on to four sections:

Stretch in Motion (15 min)
Get into Your Body (19 min)
Feel the Rush (14 min)
Body Meets Mind (9 min)

The idea is that any one segment will stretch all of your body, but that you can do more if you want. This is true, but the names of the sections have no real relationship to what’s covered. I’ve done the program twice all the way through, and I think it works well that way, but I do like the option of doing a smaller program if I have less time.

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Donna Flagg demonstrates Lastics stretch with a modification

Donna’s instruction is excellent. Every single breath and move is cued, directions are clear, and every move is done equally on both sides. As good instructors do, she often anticipates your mistakes and corrects you. She also often shows adjustments for people with less flexibility.

So does it work? And is the DVD worth it? Well, I’m not sure if it works. I haven’t seen any increase in my flexibility in the days after using the program, though it’s probably expecting too much for one hour to make a noticeable difference. I think it would be more effective to do this program after some other kind of movement or warmup, instead of stretching cold — which is what I did both times.

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Donna Flagg demonstrating a Lastics psoas stretch

I am, however, very happy with the purchase. There are a number of stretches in this program I haven’t seen elsewhere, and still others that I haven’t seen directed quite in this way. Lastics targets certain areas that other programs don’t, like the psoas muscle, and its in intense focus on stretching hamstrings with a straight leg, it’s particularly useful for students of dance or ballet. Dancers might wish for more stretches that aim towards turnout or straddle splits, but the program stands on its own as it is.

And while I can’t tell if the program really improves flexibility, it certainly is a delicious and deep way to stretch, one that I suspect prevents quite a bit of pain. I think Lastics is particularly great after travel or long days of sitting at a desk, as it works on the quads, neck, and arm muscles. Lastics offers a deep stretch comparable to a yin yoga practice, one that is perfect if you don’t want to do yoga,

Ali MacGraw's yoga

Review of Ali MacGraw’s Yoga Mind & Body

Ali MacGraw’s Yoga Mind and Body has been around for a long time. I knew it as a VHS tape, but picked up a DVD version of it years ago in Half Price Books. Today my body was complaining in all sorts of ways, and I knew I needed some yoga, so I finally decided to try it.

Ali MacGraw yoga

MacGraw is not the instructor — Erich Schiffmann is. First, let’s cover the most obvious part: this is one of the most gorgeous exercise DVDs you could ever imagine. Forget pilates by the beach, MacGraw and several other practitioners are filmed in some kind of insane desert full of platinum-white sand, while dramatic New Age music plays in the background. If there were a yoga video to watch while getting high, this is it.

Ali MacGraw yoga

The less obvious thing? One of those practitioners is older (well, two are, if you count MacGraw), and two are of colour. Yoga has a race problem, as we now know, and one of the issues is that it’s difficult even to see images of people of colour doing or teaching yoga. I thought it was pretty cool that MacGraw’s DVD did, despite its aesthetic otherwise being so literally white. 

Ali MacGraw yoga

But you probably want to know about the workout. Yoga Mind and Body is a great morning workout — around 45 minutes in length, beginning with practice in breathing and very gentle cat stretches, and working up to a good basic practice.

It’s a good DVD for people with experience in yoga, and who can modify to suit their ability. The movements are well-cued, and build up through repetition. There are a few challenging poses, and these have no modifications offered. (Guess they didn’t bring blocks to the desert!) But most of the video is really quite doable.

And that crazy New Age music? Even though I tend not to like that kind of thing, it fit the pace of the movements quite well, and I found it gave me energy during the sun salutations and helped me relax at the end. Or it would have, if a certain toddler hadn’t decided to sit between me and the computer and engage me in a discussion of what it was I was doing.

Ali MacGraw yoga

Miranda Esmonde-White doing Classical Stretch

Review of Classical Stretch – The Esmonde Technique: Complete Season 10 – Strength and Flexibility

I only recently found out about Classical Stretch. Why? I don’t have a television set, that’s why. But a very nice woman I know only from the internet had sent me a copy of Oxford American’s Southern Music Issue internationally, and she refused payment, and so I managed to convince her to accept an Amazon gift certificate, and then she announced on Facebook that she had bought a Classical Stretch DVD with it. So of course, I was curious.

Miranda Esmonde-White doing Classical Stretch barre work

Essentrics kindly hooked me up with a review copy of Classical Stretch Season 10 – Strength and Flexibility. This was in the spring. I really had no idea what to expect, even after reading descriptions on the website and various reviews online. It seems that the Essentrics DVDs are for younger, fitter people, while Classical Stretch runs on PBS and is more geared towards stopping aging. Would I be bored?

The answer was a resounding no! In fact, I’ve fallen a bit in love with Classical Stretch.

Here are the basics, for those of you who, like me, don’t go to PBS for your workouts. Classical Stretch workouts are led by Miranda Esmonde-White, a Canadian dancer and fitness trainer. Each one is about 22 minutes long, filmed in a gorgeous place, and consists mainly of flowing movements that get your muscles warm and flexible, use and extend your range of motion, and encourage you to stretch in all sorts of directions.

The movements are inspired by ballet, tai chi, and physiotherapy. They are surprisingly intense and dynamic. What you don’t have are twenty repetitions of the same exercise. Instead, you’ll be reaching down low with strong, sweeping stretches, then to the side, then up. You’ll spiral. You’ll be doing something with your arms while your legs are in a plie. Some movements are large, but then Esmonde-White will introduce a tiny variation that gives you a different feeling or a deeper stretch.

Imagine yoga, but with a thousand more directions.

Or modern dance, with less moving around.

Or pilates, with more stretching.

Miranda Esmonde--White doing Classical Stretch standing moves

In short, the movements are intensely pleasurable, and I tend to break a sweat. Which is funny, because Esmonde-White talks encouragingly about how you can maintain or improve flexibility even in old age, and the entire time I am thinking: “Who are these eighty-year-olds doing Classical Stretch? I’m thirty-four and dripping wet here!”

The other thing to know is that there is a lot of variety. Classical Stretch Season 10 – Strength and Flexibility contains four DVDs, with a total of thirty episodes. (About eleven hours of programming.) I haven’t done every last one of them, but over the last months I’ve tried to work with a range. Some are barre-oriented, either with a chair or simply balancing. Some are all on the floor, with combinations of strength training and stretching. And my favourite, because they’re the newest to me, are the standing segments with all their flowing, challenging moves. All in all, there are many, many exercises I found myself doing for the first time with these DVDs.

Also cool is that the back of the DVD case tells you the goal of each program. You can choose to work on “Back Pain Relief” or “Full Body Strengthening” or “Waist Slenderizing.” (A full list of the contents is here.) My one beef here is that it’s not always clear which episodes are on which DVD. That aside, it’s great to have a workout dedicated to whatever it is you need on a particular day. And all of the episodes I’ve tried have some kind of full body stretch, so all the particularly tight bits get loosened up.

But what I love the most about Classical Stretch Season 10 – Strength and Flexibility is that this is a workout designed to get me doing it. I can almost always fit in twenty minutes. If I’m about to go to bed, but really want to get in some movement, or have some back pain, I pick one episode, do it, and go to bed happy. If I wake up in the morning, and I want to exercise just a bit, I do an episode.

Miranda Esmonde-White does standing work Classical Stretch

The other thing that makes it really easy to do these workouts, and that I wish more DVD producers would keep in mind, is this: you need so little space. You need no special equipment. Not even a mat. You can use a chair for a barre, and books instead of yoga blocks. I’ve found this set of DVDs to be the perfect travel companion, because I can do them anywhere, and because they help me stretch everything out after sitting in planes or trains for a long time.

While Classical Stretch is aimed at anyone, really, I think it’s particularly great for dancers. I’ve been working, haltingly, on establishing my own dance practice, and I find that I can use an episode as the day’s warmup. The workouts get me properly warm, more flexible, and ready to move into a variety of directions. Then I can either do a dance DVD or just practice on my own.

I have just one criticism of some of the programs. While I find most of the workouts highly accessible and very careful about bodily safety (knee alignment is cued, etc), I think some of the barre work is really hard to follow along in proper form. In fact, in one case even the instructor has trouble keeping the hips even while she shoots her leg up. A modification should have been offered for this.

Miranda Esmonde-White does Classical Stretch barre work

That said, Classical Stretch Season 10 – Strength and Flexibility has become, in the past months, my go-to for moving, stretching, getting warm, getting relaxed, toning my waist, soothing my back, and working my quads. I’m still not quite sure I understand what it is, but for me, it hits the spot.

You can find out more about Classical Stretch and Essentrics at www.essentrics.com.

Yogalates with Ines Vogel

Quickie Review of Yogalates with Ines Vogel

If you had told me a year or two ago that my son would one day sleep till 7:30 am, I would have called you a liar. If you had told me that I would get up at 5:45 am so that I could exercise before the kiddo woke up, I would’ve called you a maniac. But that’s exactly what I did today.

The previous day I had picked up Ines Vogel‘s Yogalates DVD at my local Rossmann drugstore. (Word to the wise: Germany has the best drug stores.) And I was determined to try it.

Yogalates exercises with Ines Vogel

Yogalates sounds like something that shouldn’t exist. On the other hand, it’s also sort of great. Vogel notes at the beginning that yoga and pilates have different forms of breathing, and she instructs you to do the pilates-style breathing, into the chest. Otherwise, the hour-long workout is a neat flow of yoga and pilates moves. And in fact, they work great together. She cues almost every breath, and combines flowing movements, static stretches, and strength work from both disciplines. Vogel also gives lots of tips on correct form, but frankly, I know enough to know that more are necessary. (There were lots of situations where a live instructor would have told me to square my hips, for example.) The DVD itself is shot in a bright studio. Ines Vogel demonstrates the moves along with an assistant, and one or the other will do an easier variation of a move — but the variations are not guided in words.

Yogalates exercises with Ines Vogel

What I love about this is that I have to divide my precious exercise time among too many things: bellydance, ballet, yoga, pilates, and even a bit of cardio. If I can feel like I touched two bases with one practice, then I’m a bit happier. And the workout was good, letting me sweat a little, but also giving me ample time to stretch various body parts. Lower back pain that was there yesterday is no longer there today, for example. Upper back pain is still there, but way better. But although there are no crazy difficult moves, you do need to be beyond beginner to know how to do them right, or at least be working towards correct form.

The DVD is in German. But for those of you who understand German, or are happy to follow along with the screen, it’s a great (and quite cheap) buy!

Yogalates exercises with Ines Vogel

Zayna Gold introducing Healing through Movement pilates and weight program

Review of Zayna Gold’s Healing Through Movement

Zayna Gold’s workout, Healing Through Movement, was designed to help patients with IBD or other digestive disorders such as Chron’s and Colitis, and Celiac. I don’t have any digestive disorders, so I can’t judge the workout from the perspective of its target audience. However, I am very interested in workouts and programs aimed towards people who are not in perfect health. I think you can keep moving even when you are a bit sick, and sometimes it’s one of the best things to do. But it requires a bit of guidance.

Zayna Gold demonstrates arm exercises with weights

Healing Through Movement is essentially a strength-training workout consisting of four parts. Cycle One: Upper Body is a standing series of basic arm exercises using light hand weights. Cycle Two: Lower Body gives you classic lower body moves such as squats, wide plies, and lunges. Cycle Three: Full Body Workout combines moves from both of the first two sections, so you might do arm lifts while squatting, for example. Finally, the Core Workout is a pilates-based mat series, with exercises on your back and from plank position.

Zayna Gold shows how to make plank harder

For people who have done any exercise at all, most of the exercises will not seem particularly new — though there were a number in the Core Workout section that were indeed new to me. What’s really outstanding about this program is the quality of Zayna’s guidance. For every single exercise, be it ever so simple, she gives you detailed cues  to move your body in a safe way, to use your breath to guide the movement, to work from the core. Even though I was working on my own, with only the DVD and a mirror to guide me, I felt very much in control of my body during the exercises, because they were never rushed, and always thoroughly explained. Zayna has a pleasant, matter-of-fact manner, so it was never grating to hear her talk me through an exercise — rather, it felt like I had a teacher right in the room.

Zayna Gold shows full-body workout

Throughout, Zayna offers modifications and options for people who find a particular position (say, lying on the back) uncomfortable. The cycles are designed so you can repeat them if you want a tougher workout in a particular part of the body. I can imagine, for example, doing Cycle 3 and the Core Workout twice as a mini circuit.

I really liked that this program was just so doable. In forty-five minutes, you have done strength training — enough to sweat — for most of your body. You don’t need fancy equipment, because even the mat and weights are things you can do without. And you don’t need a lot of space, because everything is utterly stationary. It’s the perfect travel workout, in other words. The next day, I felt a light, pleasant muscular pain in my entire body, and if I’m not mistaken, I was standing a little taller too.

Zayna Gold shows pilates core moves

What I think could have been improved: First, Zayna’s counting was often very different from what she actually did, which was occasionally confusing. Second, I think there really should have been a stretch at the end. I wound up doing my own series of yoga moves to stretch everything out, which felt wonderful, but I think with that kind of weight training a guided stretch should be included. That said, it’s a workout I can see myself returning to. I like how efficient it is, how careful the instruction is, and the core workout is simply great.

I received a review copy of Healing Through Movement. You can get a copy directly from Boston Body Pilates. It’s also currently available on Amazon, but at three times the price.

Review of Samira Shuruk’s Raqfit – Belly and Bollywood Dance Fitness Workout

It’s time to talk hard realities. Hard, hard realities.

Readers of this blog know that I’ve been able to do a lot more dancing in the past couple of years than ever before in my life. It’s been wonderful, taking at least two classes per week, sometimes even more. And yet, there’s this horrible voice in the back of my head that has whispered to me, “Given all this movement, why are you not thinner?”

Well, of course the answer to that involves my love of cooking and eating. But here’s the other answer. I moved cities recently, and have had several months of stress, inconvenience, inadequate child care, struggling to get things going again. So no dance classes. At all. I haven’t been to a class in almost three months. And guess what I’ve learned through this? It turns out, I was thinner! This stress with no exercise thing has been devastating for my figure. (So has the medicinal wine.) And now I know what I would have looked like these past two years had I not done all those classes!

Okay, so I knew that when I came back to working with my videos, I’d have to pick something with some cardio. So I chose a DVD that’s long been on my review list, Samira Shuruk’s Raqfit – Belly and Bollywood Dance Fitness Workout. I knew it would be peppy and energetic, and even though it was already 10 pm and I was exhausted, I was determined to get some exercise in.

samira raqfit cover

The short version? Raqfit is a fantastic workout program, one that will keep the interest of dancers over many repetitions. It is well cued and intelligently designed. Samira takes the best aspects of the ways cardio programs are designed, and combines it with reasonably challenging and varied dance moves from bellydance and Bollywood. I don’t think it’s the best choice for an absolute beginner. If you have no experience with either of these dances you are best off working with a slower-paced program first. But if you are an advanced beginner or beyond, and want a workout that gets you truly, truly sweating but that still feels like dancing, Raqfit is just right.

Raqfit has a technique section that’s about 8:30 minutes long, and which covers some of the basic moves, especially from the bellydance segments. These are good guidelines as to how Samira does the moves, say the hip bumps or the shimmies, in the workout. But this run-through won’t be enough if you don’t know how to do them at all.

If you play the entire workout, it runs around 54 minutes (this does not include the technique). This includes a warm-up, four basic dance-based aerobic segments, two of which use bellydance moves and two which use Bollywood moves, a smooth, elegant standing cool down, a short pilates-based ab workout, and a quick but effective stretch for leg and abdominal muscles.

Here’s what I think is smart, and which (hint to DVD producers!) all DVD producers should do. The DVD also includes pre-programmed “mixes”. So you can do all the warmup and cool down stuff with just the two bellydance workouts, in 36 minutes. Or with just the Bollywood workouts, in 34 minutes. And there’s a “Raqfit Challenge” in which you do everything, but with no breakdown of the dances, so it only takes 29 minutes. So you can choose how to use the DVD based on your dance preferences and the amount of time you have.

That said, I loved the explanations. You know how aerobics/cardio videos will show you one step, then add something to it, then add another variation, and then have you repeat the thing until you go nuts? Samira does this, and it turns out that it works fabulously for dance workouts. Why? Because if you need to stay at an easier level, you already know how to do that — you just don’t add the extra arms or whatever. You don’t have to look at what the “beginner” person in the back is doing, you just know to stick to the basics because that’s how you started.

And this is sometimes necessary. The dance moves are varied, with turns, changes of direction, asymmetrical choreography, movement on diagonals… the movements are high paced and repeated enough to get you sweating, but there is also a lot of work for the brain to do. I paid more attention to the bellydance moves, but they also were not just the usual hip bumps and drops you see in workouts. Instead, there were pencil turns, hip twists on releve, small hip circles layered on traveling steps, slightly Suheir Zaki-ish vertical hip drops… and in general more things done on top of traveling steps than I’m used to in a workout DVD.

In other words, it’s not a DVD you can do perfectly on the first go, but you can grow into it. It’s worth adding that Samira cues everything, all the movements are mirrored, and she often says “the side closest to the tv” instead of saying “left” or “right,” which actually makes it easier to follow. She also reminds you to keep your abs engaged when it’s particularly necessary. I am still trying to figure out how she can look so happy and graceful while I felt like one of those hippos in Fantasia!

As to me, being out of shape, I had to struggle to keep up, and I did take breaks. Also, a little person got out of bed to interrupt me when I was twenty minutes from the end, but I persevered. But by the end I felt great, happy that I’d finally gotten moving. And the next day I had a delicious amount of post-workout burn all over my body. And the biggest surprise was looking in the mirror, and seeing that things already looked a little more, well, under control than they had.

Mistakes to avoid when producing a dance or exercise DVD

Maybe you’re producing your very first video, maybe it’s your fiftieth. Chances are, you’re going to make some mistakes… mistakes that have been made before by other people, and that you could have avoided. Mistakes that will lead either to customers ignoring your DVD, or to them being unhappy with it.

Wouldn’t you like to make a DVD that your customers will buy, and then be so satisfied with they’ll leave positive reviews online and recommend it to their friends? In writing this blog, I’ve looked at a lot of videos, and I see the same problems come up. I sometimes wonder why producers don’t think of these things, but I suspect it’s because those of us who use dance and workout videos have a different perspective on them than the people who make them.

This checklist is primarily intended for producers of dance DVDs, but quite a few of the tips apply to general workout videos too.

Content

Quality and Length of Content

Think about what you have to offer: are you covering ground that’s already been covered by a million other videos, or do you have something new to offer? Do your research, whether on Amazon, or by reading reviews in blogs and magazines. Moreover, do you have enough content? I’ve loved some shorter DVDs because they had a unique approach or taught me something truly new, but there is a line below which it’s not really decent to ask someone to pay full price for a DVD. Don’t count performances or non-instructional extras when you figure out what you’re offering.

Content in DVD Sets

If you’re putting out multiple videos, make sure the overlap between them is minimal, so your most loyal customers — those buying more than one — will not feel ripped off. If the sets build on each other, make it easy to see that. If they work independently, make it easy to figure that out too.

Skill

Your technique should be perfect. This should go without saying, but alas, it doesn’t. If you don’t have amazing technique, you probably should not be demonstrating moves for instruction on a video. In a class environment, you can correct mistakes you see even if you still haven’t mastered the move, but with a video you can’t. And if you have special knowledge you want to share, either make a lecture video, or get someone with better technique to do the demos. But here’s another thing: if you choose to have backup dancers/yoginis/etc. doing the moves with you, make sure their moves are also carried out exquisitely, even if they’re modified for difficulty. We learn what we see, and if we see you do bad technique, we’ll absorb just that.

Guidance

Don’t leave your students in the lurch — give them some advice about how to use the video, what they need to make it work, how to plan their practice sessions. This is especially true if you have a lot of material, if it’s especially difficult, or if you’ve made a complicated DVD menu. This is also an opportunity for you to teach them how you approach practice, which is often just as valuable as technique.

Warmup and Cool Down

People disagree on this one — not everyone thinks there needs to be a warmup and cool down on every video. I get that. But I will say that I think it’s pretty great if there is one, and if it’s easy for me to press “play” and get a full practice session, with warmup, instruction and/or drills, and cool down.

Space and Supplies

Imagine yourself buying your video, and trying to use it. What does it require? Does someone need lots of special props and supplies to do it? You’re probably filming in a studio — are you doing large traveling moves that someone might not be able to do in a small living or rec room? I’ve often seen cardio workout videos that require you to cover lots of room, which is possible in a gym, but difficult in the space I’ve cleared out in my living room. What about flooring? If you have a lot of spins or moves on the floor, have you thought about the fact that your audience’s practice space might be carpeted? It doesn’t mean you can’t include them, it just means you have to deal with that issue, either by suggesting a hardwood floor, or by providing a variation of the move.

Music

Please, please make sure your movements match the music. This is as true for exercise videos as it is for dance instructionals. It’s just that much easier to follow along if everything is in time. And if you’re teaching dance, dancing to the music is something you’re also teaching whether you address is explicitly or not, so make sure that part of things is perfect. Perfect.

More Music

If you’re teaching a choreography, please for the love of God choose music that’s currently available, and ideally, available without too much effort. Your customers should not have to order a CD from abroad to get the track — try to choose things they are likely to be able to buy online, or at least in the same country. Then provide credits, so your customers can find that music easily. If you’ve cut the track to make it fit the choreography, then give your customers easy-to-follow instructions to edit the track, or make it possible somehow for them to get a legal edited version.

Mirroring

I think of this as the mark of the pro. Either film yourself (or the talent) facing the audience, but move your left arm when you say “right” so they can follow along, or film yourself from the back facing a mirror. Bonus points if you’re teaching dance for showing a move both from the front and the back, and drilling it both ways.

Formatting and Production

DVD chaptering

The first rule is to do DVD chaptering, unless you really just mean for the program to be done as a single workout or practice session. But even better is sitting down and thinking about how someone might use the DVD the first time around, and how they might use it a second, or tenth time. Make it easy to skip the introductory bits. Make it easy to do all the drills without the instruction. If you can provide different built-in programs so they can choose a short version or a long one, even better. I’ve even seen dancers include different angles of the same program.

More chaptering

Have frequent chapters, it makes it easier for us to repeat a section. Put all of them in the menu, or in submenus, so we can get to them easily.

Timing

Write down the exact length of each section/program/workout both on the DVD cover and in the menu. Make it easy for people to see if they have time to do the DVD, or if they can fit one section of it into their day. Make sure this timing is accurate — on many DVDs I see it’s not.

Visibility

Ahem, cough, cough. If you’re wearing green, don’t film yourself against a green background. If you’re wearing black, don’t film yourself against black curtains. I’ve seen both of these, from dancers I adore. Again, this is a matter of putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. Maybe she has weird lighting in her practice room, or is using a laptop that doesn’t show contrasts as well from a distance. Maybe she’s using a projector, and the contrasts are also not that strong. Maybe she’s taken off her glasses, and can still see pretty well without them, but not every detail. (Maybe all of these examples are from my own experience…) Make it easy on her eyes, please. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that while I think black backgrounds look cool and modern up close, they should be avoided for the home video market altogether. Put your dancer against a bright, light background, either a studio or plain white, and have them wear clothes that make movements easy to see.

More Visibility

Camerapersons are wild creatures, and need to be led with a firm hand, lest they go astray. You’re teaching a choreography, and there they go focusing just on your abdomen. You’re demonstrating hands, and suddenly the camera is pointing at your feet. Did he get tired? Did his head and arms droop and bring the camera downwards? I don’t know. But look, during this complicated traveling move, suddenly the camera has become intensely interested in your facial expression! Discipline your cameraman — or woman — and make sure that camera is pointing where it needs to at every single moment.

Marketing

Trailer

If you have enough time to make a video, you have enough time to make a trailer for it, and make it widely and easily available. Put it on your site, put it on YouTube and on Amazon. Oh, and in the trailer, I don’t want to see you dancing or see shots of you looking pretty — what I want is to get a sense of what material is covered by the video and see a clip of how you teach or demonstrate. This should be the substance of the trailer, not the performance or your general thoughts on the dance, because the instruction is what I’m going to love or hate when I use the video.

Title

Make sure the name of your DVD really fits what it offers. Don’t call it a beginner DVD when the moves are advanced, or when you only have a very fast breakdown of them. Save the word “beginner” for people who have never done whatever it is you’re teaching in their entire lives, ever, and are now standing in their sweat pants in front of their tv learning their first steps from you. Use “advanced beginner,” “intermediate,” etc., as appropriate, if you’re expecting a bit of background.

Promises

Don’t make BS promises. Look, I know maybe it’s good business sometimes to make them, but please, just for me, don’t. Don’t tell your customers they’ll lose weight doing your program when they almost certainly won’t. Don’t promise them enlightenment or goddess-hood, unless you can guarantee it. Don’t tell them they’ll be a perfect dancer after one DVD. Because you know what will happen? They’ll find out that you were lying, and will leave unhappy comments all over the internets. Maybe you were offering something of value, but you misrepresented it, and so you didn’t do your own work justice either. You can promise them fun, you can promise them a new experience, or quality instruction, or a great tool to use in their practice. You can promise them relaxation, and you can even say, “if you do this x number of times a week, and pay attention to your diet, you’ll have positive results.” You can promise them a challenge. But be honest.

Your Thoughts?

Consumers of dance and workout DVDs, have I missed any big mistakes? What do you wish producers knew?
Producers and artists, what are the big mistakes you learned from? Anything here you disagree with? What do you wish customers knew?

photo credit: GS+ via photopin cc