Step Formula Workshop Symmfit Systems

Rebecca Small
Year Released: 2007

Categories: Step Aerobics

I’m reviewing this workout after doing the whole thing once.

Note: I am reviewing this as an at home exerciser who has never taught a fitness class (although never say never…). Even though this DVD is marketed towards fitness instructors, specifically step instructors looking to take their game to the next level, I agree completely with Pam that this works well as a workout, too. So I’ll be reviewing the workout from that perspective.

General workout breakdown: Pam has already described this DVD well, so I’ll try not to be redundant.

The purpose of this workshop is twofold: a) it’ll teach you combos you can take away and use in class tomorrow and b) it’ll show you how an experienced instructor creates different combos from the same template and then breaks down and cues those combos to her class. Rebecca stresses that she really wants to get across the methodology to help make good instructors great. She’s looking to fill in that gap in instructional materials available to newbie instructors and then experienced instructors looking for new ideas; her target audience is someone who’s been teaching for a few years but is looking to take his/her instruction to the next level.

Rebecca creates three different combos each from three basic 32-count templates, for a total of nine 32-count combos. The first one, for example, starts just with basics and a repeater. She’ll introduce the first 16-count template, work it to the final or almost final version, then add in the second 16-count template, continuing to run through the final version of the first as she builds up the second. She’ll then add any finishing touches to the final 32-count combo. There are a few times when Rebecca will demonstrate variations that are not used in the final version just to give you an idea of what else you can do or how you can make it more interesting for a class that creaves more complexity. Although Pam writes that the three combos are TIFTed together, I did not find that to be true: each combo is run through multiple times from the top, but they are never combined together, neither the three combos formed from each template nor all three sets of combos.
Rebecca keeps the moves fairly straightforward, using mostly classic step moves, with a few dancey elements like a mambo cha cha, an Elvis, or a twist thrown in. She does have a more athletic flair than some of the other Evolution instructors, though; I agree that Marcus Irwin is a good comparison in terms of type of choreography, especially his last two videos which introduced some rhythm changes. You will see a few steps reappear throughout the workout in both the templates and final combos, although only one 16-count template becomes the same thing (a basic into a step up with a lunge) in all three final combos.

Rebecca likes to move all around the step. She does a few pivots, rebounds over the step, and lower body twists that could be problematic if your sneakers like to catch on your step or carpet or if you have knees that don’t like torque, although she doesn’t do nearly as many spins as she could. The impact is minimal, although Rebecca demonstrates a few places where you can add some oomph to moves by getting some air.

There is no warm-up, which isn’t that big of a deal since it starts off simple, but there is no cool-down or stretch, which is a bigger deal since you stop right after running through a combo one last time.

Level: I’d recommend this to somewhat experienced steppers. This is well suited for intermediates through maybe intermediates / advanced and those who like choreography over intensity. Avoid this if you don’t like a lot of breakdown, however.
Rebecca says that she’s slowed down and simplified the choreography a little bit. She mentions a few times what she’d teach to her level 1 (i.e. least complex) classes; she might bump the choreography up a notch after that, presumably to what she’d teach her level 2 (i.e. mid-level complex) class. Now, some of you might think she’s optimistic about teaching that choreography to people who claim to have two left feet, but with Rebecca’s expert cuing you may find yourself able to keep up surprisingly well.

I consider myself an intermediate / advanced in cardio, although I’m more of an intermediate plus when it comes to step, since I’m still working my way through more complex step aerobics workouts. I pick choreography up pretty quickly if it’s broken down and cued well, and it definitely is both here. I felt extremely confident with the choreography after just one run through (again, know I think I’m better than average at picking up – although probably not exactly executing – choreography). Now, I found that this gave me a very solid steady state workout, even if I did this after warming up with something else (some kettlebell swings and a short Pilates video) on a day when I wasn’t my strongest (I hadn’t done a cardio video in a few weeks due to being away and then being sick). I found it interesting that one template (the second, IIRC) turned into a combo that wasn’t all that intense and was very low impact, but in the very next combo Rebecca turned that very same template into one with a surprising punch.

Class: As Pam mentioned, one woman does the entire routine, and she keeps going throughout the whole video, which is what makes this usable as a work-along workout. Rebecca usually does the routine alongside her, but sometimes she stops to explain how she’s breaking things down, etc. Rebecca mentions that the “back-up babe” had not rehearsed the routine to demonstrate just how effective good breakdown and cuing could be. Even though Marila (sp?) is an instructor in her own right, she does a great job picking up the routine for the first time while being filmed, and Rebecca points out that she only goofs up when not well cued.

Music: upbeat songs, some of them with vocals. It suits the workout well and does not distract from Rebecca’s voice. But if you have many Evolutions you’ve probably heard much of it before.

Production: clear picture and sound. For the most part this does not have the extreme close-ups or too many funky camera angles characteristic of a number of the Evolution videos on this European warehouse set. There are a few times when the camera focuses on Rebecca explaining her techniques, but fortunately it quickly cuts back to a shot that also includes the background exerciser plugging away.

Equipment: step. Rebecca and her student use only the platform. I used the platform plus one set of risers and felt this was appropriately challenging for me.

Space Requirements: You should have enough room to move comfortably all around your step, with enough space to take a good-sized step off of the front and sides plus move around with both feet behind it. This is fairly well contained, though, as Rebecca assumes you’ll be using this in a studio with other people around (she does find one move with her arms held out problematic in close quarters, though).

DVD Notes: The main menu options are Play All, Rebecca Intro, Teaching Template 1, Teaching Template 2, Teaching Template 3, Bonus Features (Behind the Scenes, Bonus Blocks – which here includes a clip from Robert Steinbacher’s Step Sensation and Rebecca Small’s Step Mechanic , Evolution DVD Previews, and How to Make an Evolution Video?), and Evolution Montage. Each teaching template has the three combos in separate chapters. Note that there is an Evolution intro when you pop the DVD in – which you can skip – plus a several-minute long Evolution montage that starts “Play All.”

Comments: This was my first Rebecca Small, and it will not be my last. She cues excellently, she has interesting routines that aren’t complex or high impact just for the sake of being so, she puts thought into what she’s doing, and she has a very pleasant, engaging on screen persona.
I did this Rebecca Small because it seemed like it would be a good introduction to her style, as Pam suggested, and it worked very well for that. [Update: I did Step Mechanic a few days later and was able to keep up very well; I could see Rebecca’s methodology at work and recognized a few of the templates, which somehow became totally different combos there.] Because of the emphasis on instructing this may not be one I pull out often, and if I have to make more shelf space for more Rebecca Small workouts it may get passed on to another Rebecca Small or complex choreo newbie or perhaps to a step instructor. But I’m glad I have it now.

Warning: this video may make you students angry when you come across poorly broken down and/or cued videos or live classes! Rebecca makes it seem easy, yet you can tell that she puts a lot of work and thought into not only designing but also teaching her routines, which will make you ask why others don’t. It’s nice to see someone who’s as naturally talented at stepping and teaching like Rebecca put that work in, though.
A training workshop like this video gives students a heads up on things instructors do, including non-verbal cuing, that may help you get more out of other teachers who maybe aren’t as clear or deliberate. For example, Rebecca mentions something about how she uses an arm to “block” a student from going the wrong direction by alerting them to stop and not to go that way, and it’s something that probably a number of teachers do unconsciously, so in the future if I’m having trouble remembering whether or not to keep spinning I might look to see if that’s true of the instructor I’m trying to follow.

Instructor Comments:
Yet again I have to mention Rebecca’s superior cuing. Talk about someone who knows how it should be done! She mirror cues so smoothly. Also, she doesn’t just cue verbally, but she includes non-verbal cues, too, doing things like point, pull on her pant leg, etc., to indicate which side. She gives you every opportunity to succeed at picking up choreography.
I agree with Pam on Rebecca’s personality. She keeps things professional yet still has a likeable presence and a sense of humor. She’s encouraging without being perky or patronizing. And her Australian accent is easy to understand (although I’ve been talking to a lot of Australians lately, so I don’t normally have a problem with that).