Dance Fitness for Beginner with Joby Brava: Havana Health Workout/Latin Dance In

Joby Brava
Year Released: 2004

Categories: Floor Aerobics/Hi-Lo/Dance

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In the instructional portion of this video, instructor Joby 'Brava' teaches four categories of Latin dance: bachata, salsa, merengue, and cha-cha-cha. She spends about 10 minutes on each segment, and they all follow the same pattern. First, you briefly watch Joby and a partner perform the dance while her voiceover describes the origins of that dance. Next, Joby alone teaches the variety of different moves that make up that dance. She starts by demonstrating the move with music, and then without the music, she breaks the move down, teaching it very slowly from both the front and the back. Finally, the music returns, at she encourages you to practice the moves several times with her at tempo. Although Joby's instructions were clear and precise, there were several things I didn't like. First of all, viewing the move from the back seemed unnecessary, as this made the video move along extremely slowly and caused left-right confusion. Secondly, Joby explains how each move is counted, so you need to remember this and be able to follow along--no easy task for those new to dance! I was also surprised by the complexity of some of the moves which Joby selected for this video; the salsa section in particular includes quite complicated foot movements that I found very difficult to replicate. The entire instructional portion is about 45 minutes long.

The second part of this DVD is the Havana Heat workout. Like the instruction, the workout is broken down into separate chapters for the bachata, salsa, merengue, and cha-cha-cha, plus there is also a warm-up and cool-down. The 5-minute warm is a combination of moving and static stretches, and then Joby begins the workout with the bachata. Surprisingly, I found this 5-minute segment to be quite boring: the music was very low-key, and the routine seemed to be very low-energy. The Salsa segment (6 minutes) was a bit more upbeat, yet the footwork was quite complicated and the moves repetitive. The merengue section was probably the most enjoyable, as the moves were easier to follow yet still fun; this segment lasted 6 minutes. But then Joby finishes with a short (4 minutes) cha-cha-cha, which I also found to be too complex for my liking. A very brief (1.5 minutes) stretch brings the workout in at just over 20 minutes.

The DVD includes several bonus features: a couples and group performances (Joby is obviously an excellent dancer), a workout without narration option, trailers of three other Natural Journeys videos, and a photo gallery of Joby (I can't understand why Natural Journeys always includes these). Overall, I was disappointed with this video, especially given that I had difficulties following the workout and did not find it to be at all fun. I think that this DVD might be more suited to someone who is looking to learn Latin dance moves for use on the dance floor rather than someone who is looking to use dance for fitness.

Instructor Comments:
Joby's voice and personality were not as rich or strong as I had expected. I found her instruction to be both too slow and inadequate at the same time, if that's possible. During the workout, she cues by saying the name of the move only, and I was frequently confused about left-right issues. On the plus side, she is quite fit and clearly (at least to my untrained eye) an excellent dancer; ditto for the background exercisers.

Beth C (aka toaster)


First, a little about me. I love teaching fitness and I love latin dance. I actually teach a fitness class with latin, African and Caribbean music and dance moves. So you can only imagine how excited I was about this video!
This video (DVD version) includes an instructional portion, the actual dance workout. Also included are several special features, such as a bonus couples dance, a group dance, Ďphoto galleryí (Joby in several poses) and the workout without narration.

I began with the instructional portion of the DVD (which is billed as a separate workout). What immediately stood out from many of the Ďlatin danceí aerobics videos that Iíve seen is that her instruction did not merely consist of just steps, but really including styling techniques that usually only come in dance instruction videos or hands-on lessons from instructors. This styling can be taken directly to the dance floor and I saw a couple of moves which I know Iíll use in my class and at the club. The video also uses authentic music. Vasquez also gives background about each of the dances that she demonstrates, including bachata, salsa, merengue and cha-cha. She demonstrates from the front and back, which is helpful but unfortunately, doesnít mirror-cue (thatís sort of a pet peeve of mine). This can be especially confusing when it comes to executing turns. For example, something she describes as a left turn is actually a right turn-until she cues it from the back. At times, she seems to dance slightly off-rhythm or not exactly with the music (Iíll explain during the review of the actual workout.)

I was so excited to get started with the workout, but was in for a huge disappointment. I now know why good dance videos arenít made all that often. Because being a good dancer does NOT a good aerobics instructor make. The too-short warmup consists primarily of a series of head rolls and static stretches. Many of the moves are contraindicated (full head rolls-hyperextension of cervical spine, barely or unsupported forward flexion, deep knee bends, etc.). Many of the static stretches should certainly not be executed without adequate movement beforehand.

I also figured out why the dance instruction pre-workout is so detailed-there is NONE in the workout. The Havana heat workout simply consists of the moves in the instructional portion done back-to back a few times. Vasquez doesnít review any of the moves in the workout, she simply says, now weíre going to do ______. Iíll be honest; I had some trouble following along at times, particularly because Vasquez and her crew donít seem to actually dance with the music at times. For example, in the salsa section, Brava doesnít quite dance on the beat (salsa-on 1) or off the beat (mambo on 2). Interestingly enough, the dance sequence she seems to demonstrate most competently is the cha-cha (which she actually dances on 2-not on 1). The intensity is probably beginner level, but beginners may get so frustrated with the lack of instruction in the actual workout that they may not be able to get their heart rates up to a desired target level.

The cool-down is also inadequate and is less than 90 seconds. The cooldown stretches may also be a bit stressful for someone with lower back problems. All in all, I really wanted to like this video. I thought some of the moves on the video would give latin dancers (although probably not beginners) some great moves for the dance floor. The instructional portion is actually the best part of the video. This is not an appropriate video for beginners, who will almost certainly get frustrated with the slightly complex dance moves. More importantly, the safety issues with the warmup and the cool down as well as the lack of instruction in the actual workout make what could have been a good or great video a very poor one. I'm glad I rented this first at Netflix.

Instructor Comments:
A good dancer-but instruction skills need work.