Michelle Austin
Year Released: 2006

Categories: Ballet/Barre

I'm going to review the set as a whole and then each video separately. The kit includes a portable ballet barre, two resistance tools, 4 DVD's, a rubber ball and pump, and two booklets.

The ballet barre is fantastic. It alone pays for itself; if you don't use the videos or other equipment at all, this barre is worth it. It's better than other barres because you can work from beneath and use it for pull ups in addition to the traditional barre work. Also, there is another barre beneath for those whose hamstrings are not as flexible. The barre is fully and easily adjustable to any height. It's extremely sturdy and well made in every way. It has rollers on the bottom so you don't need to have a lot of strength to move it from room to room. The barre folds away under beds or can be stored on its side. There is a yoga mat attached to it that folds out for comfort during the workout. I admired the way that the equipment can be well-secured with the sturdy velcro straps wherever two of the pieces meet, which helps keep it together in storage mode. This barre comes fully assembled, which is a plus as I hate assembly-required anything. My only complaint in regard to the barre is I would've liked the ends of the barre to have been finished off with round, smooth wood. Since it doesn't come into any contact during the exercise, it is purely an aesthetic thing for me. I'll probably varnish the barre as well, again just for aesthetics.

I was surprised to see the resistance bands. They look like long, rubber scarves and they brought back memories. Following a serious abdominal trauma in childhood, I developed scoliosis. For years I had to go to physical therapy and the PT used rubber dental dam for my resistance work. These are not the ugly gray dental dam I used, but lovely muted pastel colored resistance bands. They are used in the Intermediate and Advanced videos for upper body work. I really liked using these as opposed to resistance tubing as they allow for more freedom of movement.

As I mentioned earlier, I will review the videos separately. But I will make comments here on the DVD's overall. The titles include: Instructional/Beginner, a very challenging workout; Intermediate; Advanced; and finally Seat and Thigh. The music is very pleasant but unobtrusive. The interesting thing is that each of these videos features a beginner, intermediate and advanced approached to each pose. This makes it easy to use all the DVD's from the beginning, or at least very soon after starting this program, as you can pick and choose which level you are able to do in any of the workouts. For example, I did the Beginner DVD and worked either the Intermediate or Advanced forms from the beginning. On my 4th workout, I tried the Intermediate DVD and was able to do Beginner and Intermediate form. This makes the set a lot more user friendly, and a lot more interesting to those who lose interest quickly. There is some overlap in the poses from DVD to DVD but each one introduces new moves.

The ball and pump are used in the Seat and Thigh DVD. I was able to use the pump to fill my ball, but the needle broke off quite easily when I used it on another ball and rendered the pump useless. That would be my one complaint, although that was my own fault for using it where it wasn't designed!

There are two booklets, one on healthy eating and another focused on the exercises. The nutrition one would be very informational for someone who is new to fitness and healthy eating as it discusses macronutrients and what comprises a healthy diet.

The second booklet breaks down many of the moves used in the series in step by step description. This was very helpful to read through and I was glad for its inclusion. I wish more videos had a written description of their exercises.

As for visible results, I can say that my stomach is flatter and my bottom is definitely higher than before -- it is no longer hitting the back of my thigh. This doesn't surprise me as my body responds quickly to this sort of exercise. The big surprise for me is that I noticed myself moving much more gracefully when I walk, and my posture is markedly improved after only doing these a brief time.

These workouts act on me much as yoga does -- afterward, I am both invigorated and relaxed and always in a better mood.

Overall, I felt like this set was well worth the money and probably would've paid even more for it had I known how well made it was in terms of sturdiness and design. This set would be great for use with Callanetics, The Barr Method, ballet exercises and especially Lotte Berk DVD's. Since I received this set, I have actually done it every day but one - and that day I had to force myself to take a rest. I really enjoy these workouts and would recommend them to anyone, especially in light of the 30 day return policy.

Instructor Comments:
Michelle to me resembles a combination of Karen Voight and Jamie Curtis and her voice reminds me of Lara Flynn Boyle's. She is very fit and for the most part matter of fact. I really like her.

Michelle Morse