Tracy York and Michelle Nevidomsky-Dozois
What a fresh, complex, innovative workout. Don't despair -- just when smoke pours out your ears because of brain cell overload, Tracy and Michelle throw in some athletic moves to keep you on track and get that heart pumping.
I loved this intermediate/advanced level workout. Tracy and Michelle tag-team teach. The choreography is advanced. The intensity is intermediate/advanced level, but there are sections that are pure advanced. Note for intensity junkies: they advised using a "lower" step for this workout. I was in a dare devil mood and kept my step at 8" anyway, figuring I'd drop down to 6" if I felt uncertain about my footing. Eight was very comfortable.
What makes this tape great? The choreography is so original. I think it really does live up to its title of, "Breakthru." At times, it felt like a hi/lo workout using the step as a spring board. Even when Tracy and Michelle use a familiar move, they put it together in a novel way. There's one great move that's a variation of a pendulum, into a knee lunge off the back, straight into a power squat off the side, cha cha cha across the long side of the step and then a double lunge repeater and -- oh never mind. I could go on this way forever. This is an example of a combo with familiar steps. I won't attempt to explain the others. "It was fun," will have to do. Oh -- and expect to be moving all around your step.
Other standouts are the structure of the tape and the excellent, fast-paced instruction. The warm-up section is taught by Michelle. You do it in the warm-up and never again. (I was glad to see the end of it, see "peeves" at the end of this review.) Then Tracy steps in and teaches combo 1. Then Michelle teaches combo 2. Then Tracy reviews 1 and 2 once only and teaches 3. At the end, she puts them all together for a single grand finale. I loved it so much, I had to rewind and go through the entire combo one final time.
Tracy and Michelle cue non-stop. They don't waste much time teaching: they show you once and then it's show time. For those who prefer higher intensity workouts, there may be more basic stepping and side-tapping during teaching transitions than you'll like, but you could adapt the intensity up by substituting some power moves or high jogs on the step.
This is a polished production using the familiar CIA set. The background exercisers are really well-rehearsed. There are two muscle men and a hip-swishing blond. One of the guys turned out to be Jeff Vandiver. The music is loud (I like that) and mostly jazzy-sounding. No vocals. Cute outfits on the women. Tracy and Michelle keep up a friendly banter through the workout.
Tiny Nitpicky Peeves: The cooldown song has this beeping sound that is VERY annoying. I thought my alarm was going off. The warm-up is frustrating. Michelle teaches a straddle move and doesn't really warn you before she cuts it in half. So I have to doubletime to catch up with her and then I muff it and am on the wrong foot. By that time, she's on the other lead and on the halftime. Aargh!
Instructor comments: Tracy and Michelle are excellent instructors. They have a great rapport with each other and are completely at ease with the camera. Tracy's style is slightly more athletic, which made it easier for me to mirror her. Michelle moves a little funkier and I had to really watch her closely the first few times. They cue non-stop. Once Tracy asked Michelle to demo a souped-up version of a step and Michelle blew it! Don't ask me why, but this made me happy.
I love this workout. I couldn't come up with 3 better adjectives than Daphne did: fresh, complex and innovative. I agree that it's an intermediate/advanced workout. There are some parts of it that seem decidedly intermediate and then wham - Tracy and Michelle throw in some powerful moves that get your heart pumping. The choreography is definitely advanced and dancy - my favorite kind. If I had to categorize it, I'd say that for me, the choreography was more complex than Stepping Zone but easier that CIA 9801.
One of the things that struck me when I previewed this tape and was confirmed for me every time I've done it, is that the choreography is fresh and different than any of the step tapes I've done (like Cathe, Christi, Andre, Franny). There are some wonderful moves. In one, you do a kick ball change on the step facing lengthwise, then straddle, jump and bring your back leg over to the front, then come back up on the step backwards and step off going into a plyo-scissor type movement (although not as deep). The combo Daphne describes with the pendulum, lunge, power squat and cha-cha is another favorite. Lots of fun and these combos get your heart pumping! BTW, the cardio kick move they do requires a bit of space on the side of your step - I modify that to a front kick and it works just fine.
I like the way the workout is taught too. Daphne has already described the structure so I won't repeat it. I will say though that I liked it better than always TIFTT'ing a la CIA and maybe even more (dare I say it) than doing separate sections and never putting them back together (more Cathe like). Like Daphne, I wish they had done the entire combo at least one more time - I think I will be rewinding the tape and doing the entire combo a second time as a matter of course. I found both Tracy's and Michelle's cueing to be very good - one note: once you've learned a move and added it to that combo (and the teaching is fast-paced which I also like), not every single step in every move is cued in advance once you've done it a lot (unlike Cathe for example, who cues every single step) - I'm OK with that - some may not be.
I am in total agreement with Daphne's teeny tiny nitpicky peeves: the cooldown song (I thought it was my microwave beeping), and the straddle move in the warmup that Michelle cuts in half without warning. I will add just one more teeny, tiny nitpicky peeve (I like that phrase!) - I think the warmup stretches and the cooldown stretches are a little too short. Having said that, this is an A+ workout!
Instructor comments: I've always liked Tracy York's workouts and she doesn't disappoint here - she personable and an excellent instructor. This is my first workout with Michelle and I like her a lot - she is also an excellent, personable instructor and I like to watch her move - she must have a dance background and that always hooks me (I'm a frustrated ballet drop-out from way back when).
This is a 50-minute step workout with great music and two great
instructors. I am not a dancy-type person, but I can do (and like doing)
dancy step tapes like Sherry Catlin's CIA tape, Method Step Up to Dance,
and the Anderson sisters' tapes. However, this one just does not get me
interested enough to invest the time needed to learn it. It looked fun
when I previewed it, but when I tried actually doing it, I got lost
during the warmup. (Always a bad sign :) ) I really don't know why I'm
not inclined to try it any further -- I've been "grabbed" by other
difficult tapes and WANTED to learn them. But not this one. I do not
have a bad opinion of the workout, however. I can see where a lot of
people would have a blast with this. The steps are new and fresh, the
music keeps you motivated as do the instructors, and it's at a good
intensity level (high-intermediate to advanced). So even though it
didn't work for me, I still give it in A.
Instructor comments: I like both instructors really well. I also
appreciate their creativity, but this particular workout is just not one
I'm interested in investing a lot of time in to learn.