Fit Chic: Fashion Your Body With Pilates

Niedra Gabriel
Year Released: 2002

Categories: Pilates/Core Strength

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I recently revisited this DVD after not using it for a while and would like to add a few more thoughts about this one.

This one is often recommend for its side leg kick series (here called “leg swings”), which is one of the longer ones on DVD. Exercises include forward & back, little beats (sometimes called hot potato), side kicks (aka up & down), little circles, big circles (aka ronde du jambe), and bicycle. A quick few leg stretches end this segment.

If done as shown, the reps are actually pretty high, in the 8-10 range per side (where applicable) per exercise.

Another thing worth noting is that this routine is heavy on the flexion, or forward-bending. There’s really only the swan dive sequence plus the single and double leg kicks for some balancing extension work. When I did this last week, I followed it with a yoga practice heavy on the backbends, and if I were to do this regularly I’d make sure to include some extra back extension work that week.

Niedra’s form bothered me much more this time around; her moves are jerkier and wilder than I remember. She too often sacrifices torso stability for an increased range of motion in her lower body, especially in the side leg kick series, and I agree with others who have remarked on things like how she pulls herself forward with her upper body in the neck pull (her elbows should be back, not forward next to her eyes, and hands barely touching her head, not pulling on it with all her might). I could almost see Romana clucking and physically yanking Niedra back into the proper shape. Obviously Niedra’s intention was to demonstrate the full exercise, but my understanding of Pilates is that it’s better to do a modified version with great form than the full version with sloppy form. That said, as I go back through the relevant parts of the instructional segment her form is noticeably better, and she even makes a point of saying to avoid doing what she ends up doing in the instructional segment!

I now consider myself at the intermediate / advanced level of Pilates, and this one was definitely doable for me. Nothing here is particularly advanced, but as any Pilates regular knows proper concentration can make even the most basic exercise tough for an experienced student.



I'm reviewing this workout after previewing and doing each segment once.

General workout breakdown: As has been stated, this video features the same routine presented in two different ways: Part I, the Routine, runs 21.5 min. and features the exercises without instruction or interruption. There is a slight change in the music between many of the exercises, and the names of the exercises appear on the screen as cues for you to move on. Part II, the Instruction, runs 40 min. Niedra discusses the exercises in detail, including mentioning the purpose of the moves, and performs them. She does include both sides where appropriate, so you can use this as a workout, but many people may find this too jerky to use frequently, especially if they are more experienced with Pilates.
See Normaís review above for a list of exercises. The exercises are performed at a fairly quick pace, more in line with traditional Pilates. The form, instruction, rep counts, and order are also based on classical Pilates.

Level: Iíd recommend the instructional segment to exercisers at least at the beginning / intermediate level of Pilates who are looking to advance their knowledge of Pilates and their practice of the discipline. Although this portion of this video is aimed at people with little experience, as shown by the suggestions for modifications, Niedra includes some rather advanced exercises (e.g. full swan dive, jackknife, crab). As a fully intermediate Pilates devotee I found this segment helpful to refresh my memory of form, etc., after a short break from Pilates.
Iíd recommend the segment without instruction to fully intermediate to intermediate / advanced Pilates practicers with a good deal of experience under their belt, who feel comfortable performing the moves without form reminders, etc. This segment is especially good for people who want to move at their own pace through the matwork series with the minimal amount of prompting from media. As a fully intermediate Pilates devotee I find this segment appropriately challenging.

Class: Niedra alone. There is no instruction during the 20 min. version; Niedra instructs live during the extended version.

Music: The routine has music while the instructional segments do not. I canít figure out how to describe the music except to defer to Kateís Cirque du Soleil comparison (which also fits with Niedraís outfit and sparkly bracelets). The vocals arenít distinct words, more of the ìooh-ooh-ah-ahî type stuff.

Set: purple mat in somewhat dim lavender indoor space.

Production: crisp picture and sound. Even with Niedra is face-down and her microphone thus muted, you can still understand what sheís saying. The camera angles are helpful, with lots of close-ups during the instructional segment but more total body shots during the routine. The only odd thing is that the camera sometimes starts at a slightly funky angle, e.g. over her shoulder before moving around to face her.

Equipment: Pilates mat (or equivalent); Niedra is barefoot.

Space Requirements: enough room to lie down with arms and legs extended and to sweep your limbs around.

DVD Notes: The DVD is chaptered as follows: introduction, the Routine all in one chapter, and the Instruction, which is chaptered by exercise.

Comments: This is an interesting and different Pilates DVD that certainly wonít appeal to everyone (the Cirque du Pilates factor may be too much for some) but will probably be ìthe Pilates DVD Iíve been searching forî for other people, especially with the short fully intermediate routine that flows quickly from one exercise to another. As I noted above, the two segments may have different audiences. In other words, this is probably something that someone getting serious about her Pilates practice could pick up for the instructional segment. Then, after working her way up to a more intermediate level, she could grab back off of the shelf for the shorter routine. I found this helpful to brush up on Pilates fundamentals since I donít have access to a regular class right now, but I will primarily keep it for the shorter routine.

Instructor Comments:
Niedra instructs well. I especially appreciate how she demonstrates what not to do as well as mentioning some very good modifications for those with limited strength and/or flexibility. She doesnít do a lot of left / right cueing, but when she does she refers to her right and left, which isnít such a big deal since sheís mostly seen from the side rather than facing you. Niedraís on the serious side, but there are signs of a sense of humor and a personality. Her form is good, although her hips rock more than Iím used to seeing during some of the exercises with movement (e.g. single leg circles). She does have a slight accent, but I have little trouble understanding her.



This sounded like such a good idea - one routine with instruction, and one without. But it doesn't really work. First of all, the routine with instruction isn't a routine. She shows things, then explains them, and it's too jerky to get a proper workout, in my opinion. Whereas say with Stott, she explains as you're working out, and you get your session.

The section without instruction is also badly done, in my opinion. The names flash on the screen, and that's it. which means you should be looking at the screen - what's up with that? We are meant to keep our head and neck in a very specific position in pilates, and craning to look at a screen is not on. It would have been better if the names were read out - like in Rodney Yee's Yoga for Energy. Personally I would have liked the names of the exercises followed by the counting of reps.

Lastly, her form is sometimes brilliant and sometimes incredibly bad. For instance, in the leg circles, her opposing hip is swinging wildly - anyone who understands pilates will know this is a big nono. Same with the Neck Pull Front - when she hoists herself up, her feet come off the floor - every time.

Instructor Comments:
I'm used to Stott and her meticulous instruction and demonstration. This instructor doesn't score high in comparison.



I consider myself an intermediate pilates student (although I can sort of do the advanced routines too). This dvd was one of the first ones that I bought. I didn’t realize that it would kind of advanced. It is difficult because everything flows together, you have to remember the form-pointers and/or modifications (if you need them), and it includes some exercises that you might not see on beginning pilates dvd.

Of course I wasn’t really paying attention to these things when I bought it, and I LOVE this dvd. It is one of the only completely dread-free strength workouts I have (excluding yoga). The moves correspond well with the music, and the program moves along fast enough that I actually sweat while doing it (which is not necessarily true with other pilates dvds). In other words, I think this music + flowing style of pilates has some added benefits: 1) it’s more mind-body (less distracting), 2) it gets my heart rate up a little, 3) it’s a thorough workout that’s over in 20 minutes, so it’s easy to fit in anywhere. Also, because there is no spoken instruction (on the first track – which is the one I use), I find it easier to incorporate my magic circle or stability ball in creative ways.

As far as I’m concerned, this dvd is a staple in my collection – and one of my two favorite traditional pilates workouts.

Alison (alikruegs)


I think of this video as "Pilates the Cirque du Soleil Way" because Niedra's green and blue outfit, the hot violet background, and the music certainly have that feel, but this is one of the best Pilates matwork videos out there. Niedra has been doing Pilates for 20 years and teching for 12 and it shows; her instruction is almost perfect and she actually explains what the purpose of each move is, something most Pilates video instructors skip over. As other reviewers have mentioned, Part 1 is the actual routine with just music and Part 2 is the detailed instruction of basic, intermediate, and some advanced Pilates exercises, which can be used as a workout the first few times though. The DVD is helpfully chaptered by exercise in Part 2. Probably the only weakness of this video is that if you need to use modifications, you will have to have them memorized because Niedra does not show them in Part 1. Otherwise this is a solid matwork video that beginners can grow with over time.

Instructor Comments:
Wonderful: warm, clear, and detailed in her instruction and an inspiration to watch in her movements.



Most of all, I love this one for it's inspirational value! It makes my heart sing! And as you may surmise, the instructor has a whole lot to do with it! Niedra Gabriel was trained under Joseph Pilates protege, Romana Kryzanowski, and it shows! She's a former ballerina and that shows, too!

Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Let me do myself and I understand. The format of this production makes for a most rewarding and effective learning experience. The dvd consists of 2 main sections. The first one presents a 20 minute mat routine with no interruptions and this means no talking. The name of the exercise is simply indicated in the upper right hand corner of the screen. And what a wonderful sequence of exercises Niedra has chosen for us! There are no background participants; only Niedra demonstrating on a lavender mat and with a lavender background. The music is very nice, sometimes classical, other times I heard a synthesizer or soft chanting. Quite lovely, like Niedra’s gracefully flowing form. Just wait until you see her Mermaid! It's the most beautiful Mermaid, I've ever seen! Somehow, someway, Niedra turns even perfunctory moves like the Saw into something beautiful. I especially love the way Niedra weaves in these lovely little stretches at the most opportune times without interfering with the flow. The mat practice flows. Niedra flows. I flow. I feel like I am dancing.

The second section presents the instruction for each exercise. This serves as your pilates primer. Niedra covers purpose, tips and modifications. I love the way she tells you not only how but why in her instruction! Her choice of words is as precise as the exercise she demonstrates. Niedra teaches the following exercises: The Hundred, The Roll-Up, Leg Circles, Rolling Like A Ball, Single Leg Stretch, Double Leg Stretch, Double Straight Leg Stretch, Spine Stretch Forward, The Saw, Open-Leg Rocker, Single Leg Kicks, Double Leg Kicks, Swan Dive, Neck Pull, Spine Twist, Leg Swings, Little Beats, Teaser, Jackknife, Can-Can, Mermaid, Leg Pull Front, Seal, and Crab.

This production is probably most suitable for those who already have caught the pilates bug and are becoming seriously interested in classical pilates. For those who are seeking more depth in their pilates instruction and have patience and persistence in their character, I do believe Niedra will reach them all, beginners and advanced alike! (Beginners please note: The glory of this production is the way it is designed to teach the principle of flowing movement. It does this exceptionally well! However, little or no attention is spent on elementary principles such as breathing.) A beginner may choose to spend more time watching and studying Niedra's demonstration of the matwork in the first section rather than actively participating. Then a beginner can practice the very same exercises, each with its own chapter on the dvd, with Niedra in the second section. More experienced students will likely appreciate an enhanced ability to focus and refine their movement as they practice along with a silent Niedra. The beautifully choreographed sequence of exercises with accompanying music is sure to please and inspire.

Instructor Comments:
I consider Niedra Gabriel to be amongst the finest pilates instructors on tape/dvd! She has over 30 years of international experience in pilates, yoga, dance, choreography and performance. I felt grateful to have this exposure to her!

Norma H.


This is the best pilates DVD I have seen thus far (I just have Moira's 3 tape series that is a few years old).

Niedra has the best personality, and a really terrific teaching style.

The format is a 20 minute mat workout, and then the next chapter is the instruction.

The instruction is perfect.

Instructor Comments:
WONDERFUL!!! She's an excellent instructor, and graceful, and really knows her stuff.