Reiew of Julianne Hough’s Just Dance!

If a workout video can make a person have extremely confused feelings, this one is it.

Julianne Hough is a two-time Dancing with the Stars champion. She is young, peppy, charming, and impossibly slim. She’s also a real dancer (as opposed to a fitness pro who adapts dance moves), so I was looking forward to working with her videos. I got a two DVD set of Just Dance! and Cardio Ballroom, and decided to try what looked like the easier video first.

Just Dance! turns out not to be easy. Yes, there is a short instructional segment in which Julianne explains some of the trickier moves. Yes, she layers the moves carefully into combos — every bit of a mini-choreography is introduced alone, arms and stylizations are added later, and all of it is repeated plenty of times. And, as is typical in many workout videos, one of her backup dancers demonstrates modifications for less of a challenge.

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At the same time, so many things are challenging. Moves are demonstrated at what would be full speed in another workout video, then sped all the way up. (Some of the steps were so fast I just couldn’t even move my body through space quickly enough to keep up.) A number of them take real control not to do in a way that would be hard on the back or knees. And there are head flipping moves that an unwise person might occasionally try to imitate — which is part of why I have some shoulder pain today. And because of the music video editing, it’s often impossible to see the woman doing the modified workout.

That said, the program is worth a try, at least for someone who is already somewhat fit and used to picking up dance moves. Because the choreos are on the harder side, there’s room to grow into it. The moves are also pretty fun, sort of a mix of sexy go-go and club dancing with a touch of African dance. And even though Julianne makes me want to put on a parka and never take it off, her personality is so fun and energizing that you want to keep going until the end of the program.

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All in all, I would recommend Just Dance! to people who already have some experience with dance, are aware of how to perform moves safely for their body, and who want a bit of a challenge. It really does help you work up a sweat, it offers a full body workout (I was feeling all my muscles the next day), and it’s good practice for learning fast choreography. Just Dance! feels, despite its slightly unusual moves, really more dancey than typical workouts. It also has a nice cooldown and stretch at the end, but leaves you with lots of energy for the rest of your day.

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Review of Go-Go Dance with Angie Pontani

Friends, it has been aaaaaages since I’ve done a review. For various personal reasons, it has been a struggle even to go to my in-studio ballet classes. Getting things together enough to do a video on any given evening has just been too much. Saddest of all, I haven’t bellydanced in even longer. At this point, it feels like I barely remember the moves!

So a few days ago I was looking to get back into things. I wanted a video that I could do in an hour or less, that would give me a real workout, and that would be dance-related. My eye fell on Angie Pontani’s Go-Go Dance, which is billed on the cover as being for beginners. I received a review copy of this from World Dance New York, and back when I got it, it didn’t seem like my kind of thing. After all, go-go dancers don’t tend to impress me in terms of dance technique. But this weekend I really liked the idea of a dance DVD that was more about having fun than about perfecting a move, so I got my workout clothes on and did the entire video.

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Ladies and gentlemen, I will never scoff at go-go dancers again. Go-go dancers now have my utmost, undying respect. Which is to stay that Angie Pontani sweetly, methodically, kicked my butt. After the workout every single muscle in my body hurt (in a good way), and I could have launched sailboats on the seas of my sweat. It was awesome. I can’t wait to do it again. In the meantime, let me tell you what it is.

The program consists of three tutorial sections followed by combinations made up of the moves already learned. At the end, the sections are put together into one song-length choreography. There are enough repetitions of the combos and the choreography at the end to give a real workout, beyond the practice of individual moves.

The moves themselves are retro- and bellydance-inspired. Angie Pontani is also a burlesque dancer, and her go-go dancing is 1960’s in flavour, with moves like the Jailhouse Rock, the Buffalo Bill, the Roll & Shoot, the Jerk, and the Pony. She also teaches chest and full-body shimmies, as well as a fast hip shake she calls “The Princess Farhana.” Despite there being extensive grinding, and not a lot of clothing, the whole video still has an air of sweetness and innocence about it. The point seems to be more fun and entertainment than seduction.

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Pontani breaks down each move, and gives little tips on safe movement and stylization. Her instruction is quick, but detailed enough for someone with a little bit of dance experience. I noticed a few tiny differences between the combo instruction and what actually happened in the combo, but this does not really matter once you are practicing the combo multiple times. And, overall, Pontani is a delight: just cheerful and encouraging enough to keep you going for about 65 minutes of dancing that looks much easier than it actually is.

Go-Go Dance is a video that beginners can enjoy, and it also has a bit of space to grow. While I could do all the movements on the first go, doing them at Pontani’s top speed was still a challenge. Working on stylization and nice arm movement would add another layer of difficulty. But the real point is that it’s fun — grab a towel, some water, and a few changes of clothes, and prepare to boogie!

Review of Gypsy Clark’s Cardio Go-Go Dance

As I said in the last post, I’m not really one for jumping around. This means that doing cardio is really a challenge, one I (occasionally) try to meet by doing some kind of dance-based workout.

A few days ago I tried Crunch’s Cardio Go-Go Dance for the first time. I have one negative thing to say about this video, and a number of positive remarks, so I’ll begin with the negative: the Gypsy Clark’s high-pitched, grainy voice kind of drives me nuts. Now, after forty minutes of hearing it and having endorphins coursing through my body, I no longer had a nails-on-chalkboard reaction to it, but oh were the first ten minutes ever hard.

Now for the positive: first of all, this is the first Crunch dance-based DVD I’ve done that actually felt like dancing. I don’t know what it is about cardio-style dancing, but that cha-cha and that hip-hop never seem anywhere close to the real thing. There’s something so weirdly controlled, so robotic, about cardio instructors’ dance movements. It’s like someone took my croissant and made it whole-grain. I’m sure it’s better for me, but it tastes funny.

That said, I’ve grown to like them, even Marie Forleo in all her strangeness. I’d rather do a fake cha cha than twenty jumping jacks. But Cardio Go-Go Dance actually feels like dancing. It’s only one kind of dance for the full DVD (no medley of “Latin heat” or whatever), and a lot of the moves felt like what I might do naturally in a club.

What I expected even less was this: so many of the movements were bellydance movements! Chest lifts and shimmies, hip bumps and lifts, omis, and so on. The mood and the music are completely different, but I think the video would be a great way for bellydancers to do some cardio that would warm up exactly the muscles they use, but with a wholly different vibe.

Finally, I really liked the fact that the backup dancers/exercisers varied in the way they performed, or danced, the movements. In fact, some of them did the movements in a more dancey, if not as intense, way than Gypsy Clark. Watching them I got a sense of how the video could be done more as a dance warmup than as a typical cardio workout.