Kukuwa Dance Workout: KirangoKukuwa Nuamah
Year Released: 2005
Categories: Floor Aerobics/Hi-Lo/Dance
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I’m reviewing this workout after previewing it once and doing it several times.
This single video is labeled as Latino! Africano! Caribbeano! Kukuwa Dance Workout: Kirango, Vol. 3; it can also be found on the compilation Kukuwa Dance Workout DVD.
General workout breakdown: This approximately 30 min. dance workout combines elements from Latin, Caribbean, and African dances. Kukuwa introduces 2-4 steps which are repeated, more or less, during the course of a song. Most steps have a fairly simple lower body move combined with movement in the torso and/or an interesting arm pattern. You repeat a step several times in a row and then move on to the next one, which is repeated several times in a row. At the start of the next song you learn new steps but never go back to the previous combos. So there isn’t really TIFTing (taking it from the top). One combo serves as a warm-up and another as a cool down, but I found that several times I still needed to walk around a bit to get my heartrate back to resting at the end.
Level: I’d recommend this to a beginner with some exercise and preferably a little dance experience through an intermediate / advanced. I consider myself at least a high intermediate in terms of floor aerobics, and this gets my heartrate up. Although I have a “boomsey,” I’m funk-impaired, despite (or perhaps because of) my experience with ballet, tap, jazz, and ballroom dancing. Still, I found this pretty easy to catch onto or at least fudge.
Class: two men and three women join Kukuwa for a diverse cast. One woman shows a lower impact modification for one move. (At the end of each song, the crew stops to high five each other. I kind of feel left out when they do it because they’re all really into the dances and having so much fun.)
Music: lively Latin-Caribbean instrumental music.
Set: a pool-side patio at a Caribbean resort. The sun comes and goes.
Production: decent picture, clear sound. There are several camera angles focusing on someone’s upper body while a new lower body move is introduced, particularly at the beginning; there is also at least one shot where the camera focuses on a background exerciser while Kukuwa introduces a new layer.
Equipment: You’ll probably want shoes (make sure you can pivot), especially if you don’t have a cushioned workout space.
Space Requirements: Ideally you should be able to take at least two or three decent-sized steps front, back, and to each side; but you might be able to adapt it if you have only enough space for one or two big steps in each direction.
DVD Notes: I have the original release, with each dance on a separate DVD. This particular DVD is chaptered by song - more or less.
Comments: I like these in spite of myself. I know I look silly doing these, but somehow I don’t really care that much. (The first few times I tried these, however, I was afraid I might invoke evil spirits by doing the wrong moves. I swear, I’m not responsible for the bird flu!) Of all of the cardio dance workouts I’ve tried (Veena & Neena’s belly-dancing, Quick Fix Cardio Hip Hop, the cardio segments from New York City Ballet 2 and Ballet Boot Camps, Zumbando with Special K), Kukuwa’s workouts are the most intense for me, right up with or perhaps even a smidge more than Chantal Pierrat’s Soul Sweat, perhaps because they’re the most different from anything else I normally do.
I’ve heard Kukuwa’s workouts billed as low impact, and if you know how to modify you could make it that. There are a few little hops, cha chas, etc., however. Also, there are a number of quarter and half pivots. Personally I usually just stay front and center for most of those moves, especially if the pivot happens during the course of the move itself. I don’t care much for the moves where you throw your head back, so I just keep mine forward.
Kukuwa is a bundle of energy and enthusiasm. Normally that much energy and enthusiasm would be too much for me, but for some reason I don’t mind Kukuwa. She doesn’t pause to break down the moves much nor does she cue a great deal, so you need to be able to learn by watching (and, due to the camera angles in a few spots, guessing or improvising). The upside of that is that there’s little pressure to do it “exactly right”; I felt free to do my own thing if I don’t quite get it or aren’t able to shake my hips quite like she does. I do like that she tends to group the dances together by area of origin and tells you where they’re coming front. By the way, she has amazing abs, and I mean amazing!
On cardio work, my absolute favorites are those that many complexity lovers on VF would classify as intermediate because the instructor takes awhile to build combinations and/or explains more than the most complex instructors (like Christi, Patrick, or Andre). Recently, I’ve been on a quest to find short cardio workouts that still give me an effective exercise session because I’ve been incredibly time-crunched recently.
This workout (a) fits the bill for what I have been looking for and (b) is the ONLY dance workout I’ve ever kept – in fact, the only dance workout I haven’t popped out and thrown on my trade pile after 5-10 minutes. I have discovered that I like DANCEY choreography, but I have an incredibly hard time following DANCE workouts. (If you have ever seen the movie “Footloose”, the guy Kevin Bacon teaches to dance looks like John Travolta next to me!) This workout, though, just kept me moving and smiling throughout the workout.
The moves are easy and it really doesn’t matter if you get it exactly “right”. She has a large group of exercisers with her and they don’t always do it like she does. The dance moves come from Caribbean and African roots, so they aren’t the same as ones that have frustrated me in other dance workouts.
The music fits the Caribbean or African theme. The workout is set outdoors on some sort of a patio, which is nice. You do need a moderate amount of room front to back and side to side in which to move. It isn’t a HUGE space hog though.
She seems like an experienced instructor who knows how to motivate her students to move. She does use some terms that I go, "Huh", but I'm so in the groove of following along visually it doesn't matter.
This workout is led by Kukuwa Nuamah, and dancer from Ghana who teaches LAC dance: Latino, Africano, and Caribbeano. She designed this workout for those who are short on time, as it comes in under 28 minutes. In that short amount of time, however, you will still get a great workout. The workout begins with a 4 1/2 minute warm-up of simple dance moves such as shaking the hips. I found the moves to be a little repetitive--there are several "take it from the top" rounds--but otherwise okay. The workout itself is broken into five separate dance segments which range from about 3-5 minutes long. Each segment contains a different song and different moves, and because the segments are so short, it's easy to follow along, and the time goes by very quickly. Kukuwa uses some familiar Latin moves such as the merengue and cha-cha-cha plus a variety of African and Caribbean moves.
I think that one of the best things about this workout is that you don't need to be following Kukuwa's movements exactly; everyone in the class makes the moves their own, and Kukuwa encourages the viewer to do the same. However, I found most of the moves fairly simple to execute, so I didn't really have much trouble following along. One thing I didn't like about the workout was that Kukuwa and her class frequently perform the moves facing away from you, which I found unnecessary and confusing (I just stayed facing forward). I also didn't like her use of some hops/jumps in what is billed as a low-impact workout, but these were easy enough to modify. Finally, I didn't feel that this workout was quite as fun as some of the other dance videos I've tried, but despite this, I did enjoy it and felt great afterwards. Overall, I definitely would recommend this workout and would rate it 4 1/2 stars.
Kukuwa's enthusiasm is infectious; she definitely seems to be having a great time. She doesn't always explain the moves well, but it doesn't seem to matter, as there doesn't seem to be the need to follow her exactly.
Background about me: I guess I'd consider myself an advanced exerciser who relies on high-intensity for building cardiovascular health but who also enjoys dancing from time to time. My dance background is ballet as a child, jazz as a young adult, and ballroom/partnered dancing (Latin, swing, Argentine tango) as a not-quite-as-young adult. I have no real training in African, modern, or bellydance.
Structure: Kirango is a 30-minute dance workout consisting of a warmup followed by six separate dance sections, each done to a different song. The sequence of dances is cha-cha, African, merengue, African, merengue, cha-cha, with the second cha-cha also serving as the cooldown. Each song is chaptered separately.
Choreography: The choreography is very simple to follow, insofar as the steps and arm movements are relatively basic and repetitive, with lots of back-and-forth, side-to-side motions. There was no fancy footwork, and no sweeping leg or arm motions; the workout takes very little space. The other movements are more subtle-- the hip-shaking and -swaying, the upper-body contractions, the pulsing. I know I didn't "get" all of these, but I still don't "get" them in all of my dance classes, or in Yoga Booty Ballet and Zumba.
"Feel-good factor": Many have commented on the upbeat mood of these workouts. For me, although I enjoyed it, I didn't get as much of a feeling of joy as I do with YBB and Zumba. That might be a function of my familiarity with the kinds of dance on which they're based, since I'm quite comfortable with ballet, jazz, and Latin dance, whereas I'm very much a novice at African dance. As I mentioned earlier, I still don't get all the moves in YBB and Zumba, but I feel freer and more comfortable making "mistakes" and improvising to them (again, possibly because I'm more familiar with their dance styles). But I also think that Kirango suffers for lack of rhythmic variety in the choreography; even in the cha-cha, I felt I was just moving back and forth, not dancing. Much of the time, it seemed like I was just stepping repeatedly from one leg to the other.
Another part of my perception might also come from the production values: I was disappointed that a workout filmed in the Caribbean was shot with a cloudy sky rather than the rich hues so often photographed for travel advertisements. The quality of the video also isn't that high; it appears to have been shot with a digital camera with inferior resolution, like Latin Kick. In contrast, Zumba overflows with color despite having an indoor set, and YBB boasts a variety of beautiful outdoor scenes throughout. I also found the music in Kirango rather quiet and uninspiring. While I could certainly hear the beat, I felt that I was executing moves because Kukuwa was telling me to do them, rather than dancing to the music. I actually don't typically notice the music much in my workout videos, so I was surprised to realize that I was missing that feeling of having the music move me instead of me moving to the music.
Intensity: While the workout did elevate my heartrate a little, I would rank this as less intense than Yoga Booty Ballet and both of the Zumba tapes. Again, it's possible that I would find it more intense if I were to engage my core muscles more for the subtler movements, but I'm uncertain whether this alone could make up the difference. This seems ironic since the merengues in Kirango had a tempo of 152 bpm, while the merengue in Zumba Beginner rated 126 bpm. I suspect that I may be adding more extra hip and core motion for Zumba in between beats, thereby getting more out of the workout.
Overall: I think the appeal of these workouts may rest on your personality and preference for various types of dance and movements. Those who already know they enjoy African and Caribbean dance may find them more rewarding. Others may want to watch the video clips very closely and even dance along to them to get a feel of how much they'd like 30-60 minutes' worth of these types of moves. They could be fun for a light workout.