Video Fitness

Step Heaven

Christi Taylor

If you like high intensity, very dancy step aerobics with complex choreography, a variety of great music and exceptional cueing, this is your "Step Heaven." The complexity shouldn't scare anyone off though, less complex variations are shown by background exercisers. This is a great tape to grow with.

Experience has taught me to preview Christi tapes 2 times through, studying foot patterns and directional changes. I'm a little "slow" and don't like to be left in the dust. It really paid off, I kept up (more or less) the first time through with no rewinding!

Stage 1: This comes after warm up and stretch. It's by no means basic choreography (except compared to Stage 2), but again, variations are shown and it very well taught. While complexity lovers will enjoy this segment on it's own, it will also prepare you for what's to come. My favorite move here is a kick around the world with an outside turn on 2 and 4.

Stage 2: Hold onto your hats! Impossible to name a favorite move here. One great move follows another with not a one awkward transition. In fact it flows so well, that a few times I found myself ignoring the cues, just watching and doing. It's that good. I will warn that there are a lot of twists and turns. If you skip the preview and make it through this section without twisting an ankle or landing on you butt, you are indeed an aerobic animal.

By now, you've had a complete aerobic workout and if you want to stop here (or at the end of Stage 1) you can follow Christi and gang through a cool down and stretch on the lower left hand corner of your screen. Pretty cool!

Stage 3: This stage moves quickly and offers a lot of variety. Short aerobic segments (each one new and fresh) are alternated with weight training intervals or circuits (4-I think). You have the option of staying aerobic, exercisers in the background demonstrate a basic holding pattern. If you're tired, this might be sufficient, but it occurred to me that on a high energy day, you may want to put traditional aerobic interval work here: a series of lunges, jacks, jump rope, or whatever you like. I did the weights with Christi. I tend to have a little trouble with form on compound exercises, but I used 8 lb. weights and did fine. Not a strength day, but a little extra!

I really zoned through the cool down and stretch, so I don't remember much of it, but it certainly did the job.

I really love this workout! It my new favorite!!

Instructor comments: Christi is an excellent instructor. Her cueing is dead on and she's very serious....about having fun that is! I would gladly preorder now anything she plans to make in the future. Christi, you've outdone yourself with this one!

Anne
Annezaz@aol.com
7/10/00

I received my video a week and a half ago and I am having so much fun with it. The video has 3 separate sections which you can do 1, 2 or all 3 in whatever order you like. The first segment is great music which begins with a Dionne Warwick song "I say a little prayer for you". Music is so important to a workout and motivation. Christi has outdone herself with choreography. Every move is challenging, fun and leaves you saying, I can't wait until tomorrow so I can do it again. You can see how she has developed each move and is a genius at instructing. Christi knows that it's not a live class so there isn't a lot of breakdown which is soooooo boring. Even if you have to do the tape a few times or even more to get it, that's what's fun and keeps you coming back for more.

Section 2 step changes to vertical direction. This section is more complicated and unless you are patient and love a challenge it's harder to get. But after 3 times it all started to fall into place. I appreciate her creativity and her team. The are excited, exuberant and you just know that they are all having a great time. Section 3 I have only done one time but it was good. The strength section could be longer but certainly is a welcome addition to any workout. I especially enjoy that it is interval. I will purchase every Christi Taylor tape that she produces. Thanks Christi!

Diane Rocheleau
7/26/00

I love the first section of this step workout. It's a lot of fun, and Christi teaches it oh-so-well. The music is great, too. I have to admit, though, that I have not tried the second section. I could use the excuse that when my step is vertical (which is the way this section is done), I don't have adequate room in front of my step. That would be true, but the real reason I haven't done the second part is that the choreography just looks too confusing to me. I consider myself pretty good at picking up choreography, as long as it's not dancy (this isn't), but this looks like too much for me. Oh, well, I'm happy to have the first section and I can combine it with strength or another aerobic workout. I usually don't do the third (cross-training) section either, but that's only because I have other tapes I like to combine with this. Still, this tape definitely ranks an A.

Annie S.
ann.s@worldnet.att.net
7-31-00

This is another joyful, intricate step workout from Christi Taylor. If you like complex choreography and an intense step workout, put on a smile and your dancing shoes and let Christi "Say a Little Prayer" with you. You are going to have a ball with Step Heaven.

The music is great. It's nice and loud vocal music, with lots of well-known tunes. Two of the background exercisers demonstrate simpler versions of the choreography throughout the workout, so you can choose to follow them until you gain the confidence to attempt Christi's spins and turns.

Christi does a six-minute warm-up on the step and then launches into Stage 1 -- 25+ minutes of intense and complex stepping. There are five shorter combos in Stage 1, each with at least one little move that temporarily convinces me to say, "oh yeah, this is my favorite move." Then along comes the next one and I like it even better. Loosen up your hips for "L-step with a twist," which combines a simple L-step with a hip swing and dismount off the back. Lengthen your legs with a turning basic step across the length of the step. Then put some speed in your footwork with some triple shuffles around the step. Christi keeps the intensity moderately high, but I hardly notice because I'm having way too much fun. After Christi teaches each new short combo, she goes back to combo #1 and you repeat each combo on both lead legs. After doing this video about 10 times and loving it more each time, I finally managed to find ONE thing that peeves me about Stage 1: at one point, Christi layers in a "watch me" -- it's a pivot off the step move. Well, I am a self-crowned princess of the pivot. I hate to miss one. But after she demonstrates this one, you don't get a chance to do it for yourself for several minutes -- until she takes the whole routine from the top.

Next comes Stage 2, 25 more minutes of intense stepping with the step moved to a vertical position. This is the section for choreography addicts. Stage 2 has some tricky moves, however I personally found it less complex than her choreography in 9801 step. Christi talks you through two long combinations -- I'm guessing that they are each 64 counts -- without too much taking it from the top. Some of my favorite moves include the scoop mambo around the front of the step, the spin straddle and the squat, cha cha cha across the step. This section is definitely the most challenging to learn, but it's also the most satisfying and enjoyable once you've learned it. I can't imagine getting tired of it ever.

For those who want to skip the mental acrobatics of Stage 2, you can fast forward directly to Stage 3, which is about 20 minutes of high intensity cardio/weight cycles. There are a lot of Latin tunes in this section, including that song by Enrique(?) Iglesias where he is singing (Ole? Alle? Well, he is definitely laying something.) The five cardio segments use simpler, more athletic choreography on the step. They're interspersed with four segments of compound strength training movements, such as side-to-side squats with overhead shoulder presses using 5 to 10 pound dumbbells. During the strength segments, two of the background exercisers continue to do a simple cardio holding pattern, so you could choose that option if you're taking a recovery day from strength training. The final cardio burst is a series of over the top of the step moves that will have you breathing harder than an asthmatic porn star.

The cooldown is a joy, loaded with triple steps, stomps and hip swishes. The stretch is very nice: lots of hamstring and quad stretches for the lower body, with plenty of welcome attention to your triceps, shoulders, chest and back as well.

At the end of this workout, I am drenched in sweat -- and late for work, darn it! I always begin SH with the intention of only doing a couple of sections of the workout, but once I start, I just can't stop. Christi's infectious smile, the choreography and the music put wings on my Reeboks.

This is a workout with a learning curve. If you like a combination of intensity and interesting choreography with great sing-along music, this is an excellent workout for you. If you are irritated by pivots and spins and step-ball-changes -- this may not be the workout for you. Or it may be the workout that changes your mind.

This is currently my favorite step video of all time. I have a feeling it will stay there for years -- or at least until Christi makes her next one.

Daphne Magnuson
PlyoDaphne@aol.com
8/14/00

This is another fine production from Christi. It's hard to critique any of Christi's tapes, because she is in a class of her own in terms when it comes to very complex step tapes. She raises the bar with every tape. How the woman comes up with entirely new moves every single video is a mystery to me. She has a gift from "heaven."

Others have broken down the content of the tape. All 3 sections contain fresh choreography, with no repeating the moves from the previous section. The first section is moderately advanced choreography, that's do-able, even if you stumble a little towards the end.

The second section is a whole 'nuther story. It is mind-bogglingly complex in many places, and the step is turn vertically, giving you less stepping space, but more room to integrate step moves with floor moves. Christi starts right off the bat with this "scoop off the step, mambo around move" that it took me the longest time to get. I think it's hard because the turn is fairly fast, and you switch feet, all while turning off the long end of the step. I think this move shows the limitations of learning really complex steps on video. With the t.v., you miss the 3D perception to figure out which way the turn is executed. It's probably much easier to "get" in a live class. The first move lays the foundation for the rest of the video, so if you screw that up, you're toast. My advice to folks learning this is to just stick with the basic variation that Christi shows in the beginning. Don't even bother with the turns and other shennigans the first time around. If you're a Taurus like me, you'll get frustrated that you can't even get the first move, and then call it quits.

After the mambo-scoop move in section 2, things go ok, but then Christi has you do a 360 degree turn on the step that immediately lands into a straddle and "walk the board." I have to be *very* careful with that move, because you're turning 360 degrees on the *narrow* part of the step.

You later proceed to the last few combos. I think Christi's teaching on some of the later combos got a little tedious on moves that are, in my opinion, among the easiest in the tape (i.e., the charleston-scissors move), which is odd, because you hardly get any introduction to the more complex, spinning moves.

My overall impressions of this tape: I think it's a good tape, but for some reason, the tape begins to feel laborious to me by the last 10 minutes. In all honesty, I think that I pretty much had to memorize most of the moves, because you really can't anticipate the next move and get it right without virtually *knowing* what's coming next. You get muscle memory, and then you can execute the moves on autopilot, almost.

We've kept ranting to Christi since 7002 that we want less breakdown in her step tapes. Well, we got it this time. Many of the harder moves in this tape are not broken down at all. You get a "watch me" and that's it. In that respect, I'd say that teaching-wise, this tape is along the lines of Patrick Goudeau's more complex tapes. Comparisons between this one and the step in CIA 9801 are inevitable. I did both back to back, and I must say, I prefer the flowing pace of CIA 9801 more, for some reason.

Eulonda Skyles
8/26/00

I really love this tape. Great moves, great music, and one of the best instructors around make this a winner!

Christi who is famous for dancy, tough, and fun workouts delivers again. Combining lots of choreography in three sections this workout rocks. Using three stages or sections of about 30 minutes each make this one of the most flexible workouts out there. And an added bonus is the picture in picture inset that is shown at the end of section 1 and 2 that will lead you through a cool down and stretch!

The first section is less choreographed, but still a tough step workout. The footwork is less fancy than the step section of 9801, but it still may take a few run throughs to get it down pat. I love this section most of all. I love to add it to other workouts or do it alone on those days when Iím super pressed for time. I love the step-straddle-mambo move. She does some L-Step variations. L-step with a kick and l-steps with twisting hips. One of the last moves she does in this sections a leg extension to one side then a turning hamstring hop on the other can be tricky to learn at first and maybe a little bit awkward at first, but then once you have it flows right into the workout.

The second section is a bit trickier. The step is now in the vertical position. And for me when the step turns vertical my mind doesnít seem to learn the steps as fast. This section may have you standing on the top of the step scowling at the screen the first few times, but its worth its weight in gold once you learn it. The first combo is really tricky to start out the second section. Itís a scoop of the front-mambo back on the other side-hoping cross over-walk around the back-pendulum-ricochet like move. Whew itís just a mouthful writing it :=) There isnít any breakdown of the moves, you just move right into it. But good thing this combo is repeated a lot, so if you didnít get it the first time you have plenty of time to practice! The other comboís really need a lot of concentration. Plenty of turns on the step, turning straddles, and hop step are sure to keep your mind thinking and your body moving! But patience is key to learning any of Christiís tapes.

The third section is a step & weight intervals. Your will do short burst of high intensity step followed by upper body weight work. Using lightweights you will do laterals, biceps, and overheads while keeping your feet moving on and off the step. This keeps the heart rate up. This is a fun section, even though I find my self usually to pressed for time to do all three sections at once.

Christi did a wonderful job putting this tape together. The music is fun and itís not the same old dynamix recycled mix youíre used to hearing. Even though itís packed with some serious choreography you will still be working hard from beginning to end.

Susie F.
10.13.00

I bought this tape because music is a big motivator for me. And I do love the sound track. I have been exercising to videos for about 11 years (it's amazing how the choices have grown over the years) and I consider myself an advanced exerciser. I consider myself pretty good at following choreography. I don't have too much trouble with Kari Anderson, Cathe Friedrich, or Gay Gasper. I do however have serious trouble with this tape.

First, the background exercisers do not always show the basic moves. Quite often they are following right along with Christi. Second, several times during the tape Christi's cuing is wrong - giggles "Oops, I meant..." I don't think it's too much too ask that a tape be edited for correctness. Especially a tape as complex as this one. Finally, I thought there should be more of a break down. I read in a previous review that requests have been made to Christi to have less of a breakdown so I can't fault her for that. However, I do think she should have included a "cheat sheet" at the end of the tape like Tim Culwell does. He breaks down all the moves at the end of the tape. You preview the instuctional section before you workout and then you're ready to go and you don't ever have to watch it again if you don't want to. This would have been much more useful than the bloopers and childhood photos of Christi that were included. As I said earlier, I'm an advanced exerciser and I need my workouts. I've wasted 2 workout days trying to do this tape and only getting a moderate workout because of my inability to follow along. I will try 2 more times, but I can't waste much more time than that. I hope I will learn this tape and love it, but even so there are some simple things that could have been done to make it easier to follow right off the bat.

Marisa Schmidt
12/5/00

About me: I'm an advanced exerciser who LURVES step workouts. I usually do Cathe, Franny B, and a little Kari Anderson. I am notably choreography challenged, but less so on the step than in hi/lo. I have somewhat limited exposure to Christi's videos before the Heavenlies, having done part of Stepping Zone once (a loan from Mandy), and attempting 9801 on numerous occasions - never getting past the warm-up.

I bought Hi/Lo Heaven about a year ago and fell in love with the first section, which I've done about a million times. The second section, however, was not so heavenly. I bought Still Jumpin' and liked it, but it simply took up too much room.

Now, on to my review of Step Heaven.

Let me start by saying, THIS VIDEO ROCKS!!! I love everything about it. The first section starts out with some really fun L-steps off the end paired with great music. Christi incorporates some movements on the floor as well. The first 25 minutes fly by and I found myself singing along to familiar tunes. I picked up on almost all the choreography the first time. The second time I did the video, I got all the moves and enjoyed it immensly.

The second section is a lot more complex. The fact that the step is facing vertically, rather than horizontally, makes it even more difficult because it's hard to tell which way the moves turn, etc. But it's worth the hassle of learning it. I've done the second section twice and have only mastered about 80% of it, but I still have fun doing it.

The first time I did the second portion, my step was at 6" and I almost tripped a couple of times because of the quick changes and moves over the step. The second time I tried it, I removed all the risers (lowering my step to 4") and I still kept my heart rate in my target zone. I think I'll continue this at least until I've mastered the steps.

I haven't done the third section yet, but I'm sure it's as much fun. Overall notes:

*Music is exceptional
*Choreography is challenging but doable
*Impact is minimal

This tape is a must have for any step lover looking for a challenging step routine with fabulous music.

Instructor comments: Christi knows how to match music and movement. Her choreography is complex and fun. Well worth the struggle to learn.

Tami Skelton
tamiskelton@hotmail.com
2/2/2002

I am a former cardio klutz who has been experimenting with complex choreography for the past year. I have been trying (and liking) workouts by instructors like Andre Houle, Marcus Irwin, Donna Read, Breakthru fitness, etc. With complex choreography that I do not ďgetĒ the first time through (which is true of most of the workouts I have tried), I start them as an add-on to my regular workout and keep expanding how long I do that new workout until Iíve learned enough of it for it to stand as a workout on its own. Choreography does not come naturally and probably never will, although my capacity for what I can do has greatly improved over the past year. Anyway, so I finally screwed up the courage to try Step Heaven. After all the raves, Iíve really wanted to try this workout. It took me several times to get Stage 1 (the more simple choreography) and it took quite awhile to get Stage 2, but I have put the two sections together. I have not tried Stage 3 and probably wonít since I donít really enjoy circuit workouts.

My conclusion after all this effort? I LOVE this workout. I grin like an idiot throughout it and feel graceful and coordinated Ė even when Iím stumbling around trying to keep up. The combination of moves and music and Christiís personality makes it such a FUN workout.

Christi has a group of background exercisers and the modifiers are in the back. However, most of the time, the modifiers are doing the same steps as Christi and the rest. They do no modifications in Stage 2, the more complex section. She uses her usual style of ďwatch meĒ followed by explaining what she is doing. The music is GREAT; it really drives the workout and I sing along in parts of it (when I have the breath for it).

I highly recommend this workout, but only if you are ready for it. If you are just starting to learn complex choreography, work your way up to it. When you are ready to try it, youíll know itís time and youíll look forward to it. This workout has definitely stood the test of time and will continue to do so.

Instructor comments: She is such a good instructor. She makes complex moves doable AND fun.

Laura S.

October 29, 2004



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