Thursday, December 12, 2013

Zumba(r) Step! My DVD review.

In it's never-ending quest to dominate the world of Fitness, Zumba(r) has introduced a step format that rolls out in early February, 2014.  The consumer DVDs just came out this week and of course you know who had to buy it and pay for rush shipping so I could be the first kid on the block with the new stuff...  I know, I know, first-ness is kind of an obsessive thing with me.

I'm very excited for this format!  I'm getting my license on March 1 (driving to Canada for it) and I hope to start teaching it March 3!  I've taught step for over 20 years, so as long as they let us use our own choreography, I'll be ready.  I'm half ready now because I'm a good guesser and the format is almost exactly as I expected it would look.

Here are some basic facts based on my first run-through of the DVD.

  • It follows the Zumba format of letting the music drive the movement.  When the music changes, the movement pattern changes.  
  • It's still based on international rhythms and the typical dance steps from those rhythms, with some pop (30%) songs.
  • Not necessarily 32-beat, but the songs do feel like they have a steady beat - no dramatic pauses mid-song and not a ton of parts in any of the songs. 
  • It's not tapless.  (I know some step instructors will die inside reading that, lol, so I figured I should put that comment up near the top so I can clear that air).
  • When I started typing this, I'd only seen the first 5 songs, and my review read:  "Step tempo pretty much in a normal range for step - I didn't measure with my metronome but nothing in the first 5 songs as I type this sounds like an egregious tempo liberties.  The tango is slower than a normal step tempo, but the movements are very focused plie squats so it makes for a decent squat/toning song."   But in the sixth song, an oldies rock and roll style song, it was so fast I had to get out the mentronome and measure it for myself - 167bpm.  Yes, I'm a geek.  First of all, I have a mentronome and second, I knew exactly where it was.
  • Very simple routines.  This is not the advanced, multi-layered choreograhy that many of us used to teach.  There are almost no layers at all, perhaps one layer to add a larger limb movement, but no layers in the sense that you're "building" a routine.  This will be boring for those who are used to advanced step classes, but for new participants it will be easy to catch on, if it's cued well.  
  • The Rizer is used, sometimes to step on, sometimes as an accessory.  Sometimes when it's used as an accessory it's cute and feels like it fits into the choreo for that spot.  But sometimes, it looks like they're tapping on the Rizer because they just remembered they have a Rizer there and they should probably use it. 
  • A few of the moves that you would see in an old-school step class.  There are basic steps, and a few across the tops, and some lunges from the top, alternating knee lifts or side leg lifts, T-steps, some knee-lift + tap downs, and straddledowns.  Yes, some of them tap.
  • Not every musical segment uses the step.  There are sections of some songs that use the floor, or just tap on the step.  So IMO it's a near equal blend of dance and step.  
  • There are times where it's used very effectively like some lunge passages that are killer.  Kind of like Zumba Toning, but with a step.
  • Personally, I would not teach this without verbal cues, but there was an option on the DVD to turn the cues off.  I suppose if you're going to do the same routine week after week, after a while you could cut your cues down because you're not teaching any layers, really.  IMO, this is one of those formats where if you don't cue, you're gonna be dead in the water.  People have a hard enough time following Zumba; if you add a 4 inch Rizer(tm) that they can trip over, you've got to cue.  Visual, verbal, air traffic control signals, whatever works.  But cue.  Please, fellow instructors, I'm begging you.  CUE!
  • Three contraindicated moves, for those of us who are either certified in group exercise or step (I have held both, although Exersafety Association where I got my step cert is now defunct).  I was NOT happy to see these, especially on a DVD that will be sold to the masses and to instructors who will follow it "because Beto did it on the DVD."  But in my choreography, I simply won't do them.  (1) One minute into the warm-up, they started doing a move that was 4 jumps in a row, march march, 4 jumps in a row.  This is too early to be jumping in a fitness class (sure, it goes with the song, but so would a good fist pump without the jump. AAAAARRRRGHHHHH!).  (2) The very old recommendations for step were a maximum tempo of 128bpm.  Many instructors have exceeded that tempo, as have I, but the majority of instructors commonly accepted that 135 was about the top "safe" end of stepping.  167 is way above that, although in their defense the movements are pretty simple.  (3)  In the same song that's 167 bpm, they have multiple repeated moves on the same leg.  The industry standard number of repetitions on any one leg in a step class is 16.  They were doing 24 and I think they also snuck 32 in there once.  

Overall, this is a format with a ton of potential.  

Some will love it.  Others will hate it, especially advanced steppers.  I'm planning to rock the hell out of it.

Existing step instructors will catch on quick, if they can get over the idea that step must be tapless, layered, and 32-beat.  Step didn't start tapless, nor did it start 32-beat.  Everything old is new again.  As an instructor who is a stronger "educator" than "performer," I think I'll fit right into and enjoy the format a lot as it resonates with my stepping roots.  

Existing Zumba instructors who have never taught step aren't going to have as hard of a time as I think some people are predicting.  But I think the "performers" are going to have to put on their "educator" hats because there are some safety issues inherent with a four inch high obstacle that can't be ignored.  Cue.  Cue.  And then cue a little more.

Here is the playlist.  Some of the songs are ZIN(tm) songs that instructors will recognize.  I wasn't thrilled with about half of the songs, but that's the beauty of Zumba over pre-choreographed formats.  We have the freedom to choroegraphy our own works, and for those of us who enjoy that freedom, it allows us the ability to really show our uniqueness and personality.

Bem Vindos (ZIN 41)

I Came to Party (ZIN 45)
Boogaloo de Paris (salsa)
Love on Me (pop)
Chande Papa Dio (bollywood?)
Tanguajira (Tango)
La Aguafiesta (I know I've heard this song, but I can't find it on my iTunes)
Pam Param Pam Pam (reggaeton)
I Want Your Love (old time rock and roll)
Tempo (bachata)
Zumba Viento (cooldown) - very pretty song and I liked the stretch patterning.