Video Fitness

Afro-Caribbean Step

I know that some of you have been asking about Debra Bono's Afro-Caribbean Step. Though I haven't been able to actually DO the workout, since I can't do step thanks to my bum knee, I did preview it and it looks good! Caveat: I know nothing about African dance.

One of the most important things I can say about this workout is that unlike a lot of dance inspired workouts, this one is a step workout first, dance workout second, which means you get the intensity you're used to with no half-time breakdowns and excessive marching in place. This one uses many standard step moves, but she adds African dance-inspired arm movements and stylizes the moves somewhat so you really get the flavor of African dance. She has a few unique moves of her own such as "Afro jacks," "till the earth" and the "heel gallop."

It feels a lot like a CIA video in terms of intensity, complexity of choreo and limited choreo breakdowns (but she uses aerobic lingo so you don't have much trouble figuring out what comes next if you're an experienced stepper). I would say it looks to be intermediate to int/adv (if you really get into the moves) in terms of cardio intensity.

The music is by Debra's husband, mostly drums and steel drums. Usually you are working out to drums as you learn moves, and when Debra takes it from the top you get a melody along with the beat, it seemed. The tempo seemed a bit slower than some recent step workouts, and I personally think that's a good thing. Debra and her class wear bodysuits with bike shorts under sarongs.

There is also an ab routine at the end that looks pretty traditional. Oh, one last thing--Advanced, Intermediate and Beginner level modifications are demonstrated by at least one participant.

I hope some of you will try it, especially CIA fans looking for something a little different.

Wendy Niemi Kremer

The workout was just the right combination of fun and work. The moves were easy to understand and the music went with the choreography well. I liked the amount of repetition that she did. Not too much (boring) and not too little. It is a different workout . Just like the cover says-"Not the same old

Instructor comments: Debra is very professional and teaches each move so that you fully understand. Very creativ

Jenni Linck

First I want to say thanks to Wendy for giving me this tape. Even though the moves are complex, the overall intensity is intermediate and mostly low-impact, so this might actually be a good choice for someone who likes dancy, advanced workouts but has to pamper their joints for whatever reason.

There are a lot of variations on traditional steps throughout this workout, and Debra uses the warmup to introduce some of them, such as afro jacks (where you step out and in instead of jumping), heel gallop, and the circle kick where you slowly circle your leg over your step - a real test of balance! The body of the workout is divided in halves, each one containing three combos that are put together and repeated a couple of times at the end of the half. (No constant "taking it from the tippy top", like in most CIAs.) In addition to the African-dance steps, there are plenty of standard moves like straddles, repeaters and arabesques over the step, done in a flowing, dance style and given an African flavor with arm movements; for instance, kicks are spiced up by clapping over and under your leg three times.

Debra's cueing is somewhat Firm-style, in that she rarely starts out at half-tempo or spends time explaining what's coming up next; she just plunges right in, and you have to follow along. Some of her step names have different meanings than I'm used to; her "tick tock", instead of being a pendulum, is a repeater around the end of the step. Some room is required both at the sides and back of your step for a grapevine to the side and a four-count "polka" (more like a chasse) backwards.

I was mostly confused the first time I did this tape, but after a couple of practices, I caught on and had a lot of fun with it. This is one of those tapes that needs a little "getting used to". The music, outfits and CIA's Egyptian-style set all lend atmosphere. I agree with WWWendy that the slower tempo is a refreshing break from breakneck-speed stepping, and helps me concentrate on the moves better.

Afro-Caribbean Step is creative, well-choreographed and a fun addition to any step-lover's collection, as well as a treasure trove of ideas for instructors. Grade: A.

Instructor comments: Debra is pleasant and encouraging in a low-key, non-whooping sort of way. You can tell she's a little nervous at the beginning, but as she gets into the routine, she relaxes and even raises her voice excitedly. She and her diverse cast wear leotards with brightly-colored African sarongs, and one of them does the workout without a step. If she makes another video, which I hope she does, it would be nice if she could offer some cultural background info on the choreography.

Sue Bryant

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