Video Fitness

Muscle Ballet

with Stephanie Herman

First, my background: I am a low intermediate exerciser who uses yoga, Pilates and stretching to keep in shape. I am not a ballet dancer, but I have taken about a dozen ballet classes so I am familiar with the terminology. I picked up this tape hoping for a good ballet-inspired workout.

Did I get one? I'm still not sure. It's divided into two parts: a low impact aerobic segment that lasts 26 minutes, and lower-body toning for 20 minutesI've done it twice now and I'm bothered by several things: First, the video has a copyright date of 1992, but SH is dressed like she is in an old-fashioned 80's aerobics tape: magenta leotard and sweatsocks, headband, and white sneakers. She is highly made up. I wouldn't even mention this except that the look is so dated, and the sneakers prevent her from articulating her feet, which is so important in ballet. Second, SH's cuing is arbitrary at best. During the aerobic portion, she yells out non sequiturs like "Long!" "Floor!" "Side!", that get really confusing. You are attempting to concentrate on the steps, and when she starts something different or changes the arm positions she doesn't announce it in advance.

The aerobic section starts with a warmup consisting of plies, hip rolls, back rolls and simple arm movements. Then she has you march in place while you perform arm movements. SH then moves on to tendus front and back in second position, which is like a half-grapevine. And this basically repeats for the duration of the segment. I broke a mild sweat, but I did not consider it aerobically challenging nor particularly graceful.

The toning segment is where SH really comes into her own. She starts off by explaining Pilates-style breathing, how to anchor the stomach, and taking off her sneakers. Then comes a short set of crunches, followed by a quite astonishing variety of leg lifts for the inner/outer thighs, quads and abs. Next she does a short set of all-fours tablework, followed by a nice stretch and guided relaxation. The more advanced exerciser could easily add ankle and thigh weights to make this more challenging. My only complaint about her cuing here is that she fails to remind you to breathe properly during the exercises.

So, I return once again to my question: Is it worth it to pay $20 for a 20-minute toning workout? I would have to say no. SH has produced other tapes that are far better than this one. I suggest picking up her "Fitness through Conscious Movement", or the Method's "Target Specifics", if you want a thorough Pilates-based toning workout.

Sasha Castel

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