Gliding Pro: Latin Dance FiestaJeff Howard
Year Released: 2004
Categories: Floor Aerobics/Hi-Lo/Dance , Gliding Disks
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My background: I love Latin dance! I've been exercising to videos for about a year now, and I enjoy high-intensity cardio (such as Cathe Friedrich's). Once in a while I like to try different types of movement for my cardio. Since I just don't dance nearly enough in my daily life, this is one way I like to add in more opportunities.
Breakdown of workout:
Ch. 1: Warmup (9 min) - merengue, stretches
Ch. 2: Fiesta (24 min) - merengue, "salsa", "tango"
Ch. 3: Cooldown (1 min) - stretches
Jeff starts with a long warmup that's loosely a merengue. He gets you accustomed to moving on the gliding discs in the classic merengue pattern, shifting your weight back and forth and also moving forward, back, right, and left. I think it serves all three purposes well: as an introduction to merengue, as an introduction to the gliding discs, and as a means to warm up the body. He follows this up with some stretches, occasionally using a little gliding action with the discs, before proceeding to the workout.
The body of the workout ("Fiesta") includes three short routines: another merengue, a routine he calls "salsa", and something that he calls "tango". The salsa is really a cha-cha; Jeff himself cues the steps as "mambo, cha-cha-cha". The tango is something of an improvisation from the tango style, but it doesn't have any real tango moves, from what I could tell. At the end he briefly puts all three routines together, but he doesn't repeat it.
I won't focus on the individual moves in the workout, or the music, since neither was spectacular enough to really catch my attention. (The moves were generally basic merengue steps, crossovers similar to a jazz square or a box step, some cha-cha's or triple steps, a few lunges, and a couple rond de jambes, all of which were very easy to follow even the first time around.) But somehow the mix of gliding, Latin music, and the foundation of some Latin dance steps was sufficient to spark my "happy-workout-meter"-- the gliding discs let me add a little bounce to my moves without adding impact, and I just kept going all around the room and improvising on my own rather than following Jeff's choreography strictly. It was enough to kick this into intermediate territory for the intensity (i.e., wanted a towel to wipe off the sweat).
Other details of note: While the gliding discs added to the fun of the workout, I do want to caution people that there is the risk of torquing the knees inappropriately due to the discs. I sometimes have this problem when I do Latin dance in dance shoes on a hardwood floor, and the discs don't make that any easier. Also, the discs force you to keep your feet apart, which is a serious stylistic flaw for authentic Latin dancers. The occasional "oops" of knocking the discs into each other can get in the way of the moves.
I am completely torn as to whether I would recommend this DVD as a do-along workout video. I had an absolute blast when I tried this workout myself, but I don't see this as a must-have. I can see that the music, the set, the choreography, and the instructor's style are all imperfect, since this DVD was designed as a demo for new gliding instructors to see what's possible with gliding, after all. But it does the job in terms of showing what you can do with the discs and how much fun you can have. I do feel that I am now equipped to make up my own moves using the gliding discs and to modify other workouts to accommodate them.
Jeff has a certain "nice-guy" style that's pleasant to work with. He doesn't quite have the grace and poise of a trained dancer, however, or the electrifying screen presence and flair of Mark Hendricks or Patrick Goudeau, or the encouraging motivational charm of Zumba's Beto. I'm partial to dance instructors who move with pizzazz and unique style, since that inspires me to work on that kind of detail in my own dance.