I’m reviewing this workout after previewing it once.
General workout breakdown: Basically the same high intermediate-level classical Pilates matwork routine is presented here twice: once with Romana instructing live while Romana or someone else (it’s not clear who) provides voiceover that cuts in (20.5 min.), and once with her instructing via voiceover (14 min.). The routine begins standing with the controlled sit-down; the exercises are the hundred, roll-up, rollover, single leg circles, rolling like a ball, single leg stretch (variation: brushing the mat w/ bicycle-type legs), double leg stretch (variation: brushing the mat w/ legs), single straight leg stretch, double straight leg stretch, criss cross (one slow to each side, then quick), spine stretch forward, open leg rocker, closed leg rocker, saw, neck roll, swan dive, shell stretch, single leg kicks, double leg kicks, shell stretch, neck pull, jackknife, side kick series (forward & back, up & down, small circles, bicycle), heel beats, teaser series (1, 2, 3, 4), boomerang, leg pull down, leg pull up, kneeling side kicks (front & back, circles, bicycle), chest press, thigh stretch, mermaid, snake, side plank w/ twist (under the bridge, out of the bridge, and open), swimming, shell stretch, crab, balance control (in a type of shoulderstand, switch legs so one is touching the floor & the other extended straight up in the air), seal, forward & back bends with legs in 2nd position into rainbow stretch into side twist - and, in the 2nd routine, running.
The moves are performed briskly (so briskly the demonstrating student works up a real sweat), with minimal numbers of reps (quality over quantity…). The emphasis is on eliminating extraneous movements during the exercises (e.g. keeping hips still, etc.) and flowing smoothly between moves.
Level: I’d recommend this to fully intermediate through intermediate / advanced Pilates devotees. There are a number of fully intermediate and even some advanced exercises here performed at a quick clip. There’s some instruction and form tips but not copious amounts, and there are no modifications (unless you count the suggestions about where to place your hands depending upon what type of mat you’re using). I’m a solid intermediate in terms of Pilates, and a couple of the exercises are still beyond me, especially at this pace, due to my limits in strength and flexibility.
Class: In the one-on-one segment, the shots switch between Romana walking around instructing Kathi live and Kathi alone with instruction via voiceover; the workout features Kathi alone with instruction via voiceover.
Set: bright corner of a building, with wood floors, white walls, and white gauzy curtains.
Production: crisp picture, good sound. For the most part the camera stays fixed and a good distance away so you can see all of Kathi, but there are some appropriate close-ups. The real problem with the production is in the one-on-one segment, in which you have Romana instructing live, clips from the workout segment with a voiceover track, and a blank screen with the name of the exercise all competing for screen time and often overlapping. What often ends up happening is that you’ll get the name of the exercise three times (Romana announces it, the screen appears, and then the voiceover will repeat it), instruction from the voiceover, and Romana saying, “Now, don’t do this” or “Make sure to do this” or “There, isn’t that better?” to the student. The voiceover doesn’t entirely drown out Romana, so you can still here her counting, etc. This makes it darn near impossible to work out to this segment; at best you can try to use it for its instructional value, if you can keep all of the strands straight. Fortunately for the workout segment you’re just with the shots of Kathi alone and the voiceover.
Equipment: Pilates mat (or equivalent); all exercisers are barefoot.
Space Requirements: enough room to lie down with arms and legs extended and to sweep your limbs around, with some space behind your head while lying on your back for your legs during rollover and related moves.
DVD Notes: The main menu allows you to choose the full program, the chapter selections (History of Pilates, Basics, One on One with Romana, and Workout w/ Kathi), special features (Around the Clock, Wall Alignment Warm Up, Romana: Keeper of the Flame & Force of Nature, Photo Gallery, and Trailers), audio features (Dolby Digital 2.0 or 5.1), or credits.
Comments: I dislike reviewing workouts without doing them, but I’m familiar enough with Pilates to have a good idea upon previewing of a video’s level of difficulty. After previewing I knew that the fast pace would be very challenging for me right now and that the odd production of this video were just not for me. My review of Optimum Weight Management was rather harsh; I wish I could soften it now because compared to this video OWM is a good, usable video. I hate to be so critical of this series, but I feel Romana deserves a better, slicker production that doesn’t feel like a hodge podge of stuff thrown together. I’m especially disappointed in this video because there’s so little of Romana instructing, unlike in OWM where she was not interrupted by voiceovers and added in some more of ol’ Joe’s sayings. I guess I can see now why she is sometimes criticized for bringing too serious and martial an attitude to Pilates; this video is all work and no play, getting right down to business. I don’t want to discourage people from experiencing the one and only Romana herself, however, although I’m not sure this is the best place to start.
More advanced serious Pilates devotees will no doubt be willing to overlook the video’s shortcomings for one of the few high intermediate classical Pilates routines on the market. They will probably also enjoy the short documentaries with footage of Joseph Pilates and Romana in action - amazing and inspiring!
Romana is THE Romana, who enjoyed a privileged connection with Mr. Pilates himself and is still active as a practioner and instructor of Pilates; what more can one say? (Well, the back cover says she’s to Pilates what Madonna is to pop music, but I’m not so sure that’s the best analogy.) It’s hard to get a sense of her personality here, as the video cuts between live and voiceover instruction, both of which focus on cueing the moves and breaths, with some instruction. What does come through is a serious commitment to Pilates as it was traditionally taught, with a focus on control, stretch, and strength.
March 3, 2007