CIA 2204: Step Till You Drop

Mark Hendricks, Melissa Cantillo, Laura Downing
Year Released: 2002

Categories: Step Aerobics

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On cardio work, I am an intermediate to advanced exerciser who enjoys with complex choreography at some level. I also enjoy my ďeasierĒ workouts on those mornings I donít feel like thinking that much. After trying many different cardio workouts with varying complexity, I have found that I enjoy many different workouts, but 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). I got this workout as part of one of the compilation DVDs sold on the CIA site.

The warm up is a blast. I usually donít ENJOY warm ups, but I do this one. It is fun and seems different than a lot of them. I just get sucked into it. Mark Hendricks leads it.

The first segment is led by Laura Downing. Granted, I may be biased in her favor because she has such a great name :D , but I really did enjoy this section. It is very athletic and it takes a lot of energy to do it. She basically does three combinations, TIFTs them, and then splits them and does them on each side. She really seems to be enjoying what she is doing.

The second segment is led by Melissa Cantillo. I canít give a real review of this segment because I canít STAND it from the moment it starts. I donít know what it is Ė but, I think itís mainly Melissa and the way she leads the workout. Plus, I find the moves themselves boring.

The third segment is led by Mark Hendricks, who does the warm up as well. I was sooo ready to have fun, but was disappointed. I found the moves hard and kind of jarring because they include a lot of hopping over the step. Like Lisa, I thought that if I had longer legs, it might have helped, but it just wasnít fun. And, I thought he could have been easier to follow.

I was so prepared to like this workout for some reason, but I found it disappointing. I will pull out the warm up and Lauraís section when I want an intense step workout that I donít want to think about much that can be done in under 40 minutes.

Instructor Comments:
I liked Laura. I didn't like Melissa. I did like Mark, but didn't like his workout section.

Laura S.


Unlike many previous reviewers, I liked the first two workouts and didn't really like the third, which is Mark's. The first 30-minute segment with Laura was surprisingly tough to me, thanks to all those long across-the-step moves, "rubber band" and 360-degree turns around the step. Melissa's was an enjoyable, less intense workout though I got tired of her self-conscious "ovah!"s and "Lay-dee!"s. Both segments were simple enough that even when they missed a cue here or there, I could catch on fast enough.

Mark's segment I gave up on 10 minutes in. I guess I just really don't like ultra-dancy intricate step workouts that sacrifice intensity. Let alone with Mark's, you have to lower the step in order to have any hope of doing some of these moves. I felt like I was trying to do standard hi-lo dance moves while simultaneously clearing an 8-inch barrier. Even at 6 inches it was a big ankle-toe bruiser. Mark seems not to care that not everyone is over 6 ft tall with long legs.

I can see where complex step lovers would like his routine, but it was a real let-down for me. I particularly hate moves where you "swing" one foot back over the step to meet the other one.

Instructor Comments:
They were all pleasant enough with reasonably competent cuing, but none of them really made the A-list of step instructors for me. They all tended to repeat certain phrases and sometimes the jocularity felt forced to me.



When I got this video, I thought I really liked it, but I just did it again this week and it turns out I am pretty neutral. I guess I am just becoming more picky the more videos I try. Only one workout really stands up to my criteria for an enjoyable workout.

The part I like is the first routine by Laura. It is a nice short, but intense routine. It reminds me of a Cathe workout in several ways. She cues well and puts together a balanced routine that is interesting enough and pretty intense. The routine consists of 3 32-count combos, and she puts them all together at the end and also splices them. It is a good amount of choreography for a 30-something minute routine.

Melissa's routine actually has some promise, but it doesn't make the cut for me. Some of the choreoraphy is fun, but she teaches her routine in the style I most hate. It is a longer combo (64-count?) and she TIFTs after teaching a short portion of it. The most irritating part for me was that after you do the intervals (which are actually fun, but not super intense) you go back to the main combo a few more times. By the end, I am really sick of this combo. This routine could have been so much better if she broke the combo up and put it together at the end, and inserted her intervals in a different way. I didn't think her cueing was very good either. This routine is more intermediate in intensity, so I thought it belonged at the beginning of the video. It starts out slow enough so you could probably start this routine without a regular warm-up.

I first thought Mark's routine was fun, but I didn't enjoy it this last time. There are quite a few moves where you are taking large steps from the front to the back of the step. This is very annoying for me and my short legs. I was able to come up with modifications for many of these moves, where I just step up onto the step instead, but it bothered me to have to do that. I could do the jumps over the step, and I'm sure that really increases the intensity, but I often just feel like I am going to trip. The real disappointment for me though, is that he taught the routine like Melissa, TIFTing quite often while putting together one really long routine. I think his choreography was 96-counts. Mark's personality seems to inspire love or hate. I didn't really care for his style. A little too much \"sexy\" talk for me.

There is a nice little yoga workout at the end and after that a decent stretch. So, overall, there are good parts to the video, but it could have been so much better for me with less TIFTing.

Lisa C


This is my favorite step workout right now. If you're an advanced stepper--especially if you love advanced choreography--this tape is a must have.

After a fun warm-up taught by Mark, Laura leads "Athletic Stepping." Her choreography reminds me a bit of Cathe. "Athletic" choreography usually translates to me as the opposite of dancy but there is plenty of fancy footwork in Laura's section to keep even the choreo addict happy. Laura is a superb teacher and cuer; she breaks the moves down very well. There is a lot of movement both across and over the step. I find that this section is by far the most intense; my heartrate stays up there throughout. She teaches all the combos, then takes it from the top a couple of times, then breaks it in half so the whole combo is done on the right and then the whole combo on the left. Keeps it interesting.

Melissa's "Interval Stepping" is next. I agree with the other review that this segment is misnamed. There are not really any intervals and certainly not the kind of intervals an advanced stepper would expect. This 30-minute section is better suited to a light day, or as an add-on to Laura's or Mark's. It might also be a good place for the intermediate stepper to start with this workout, as the choreography and intensity level are not as high as in the other two segments. Melissa comes up with cutesy names for her combos--"Pretty" and "Lady" are two. She is a fun instructor, but this section is weaker than Laura's or Mark's. She miscues often enough so that I noticed and felt bothered by it. She also takes too long teaching some of her combos, especially compared to Laura and Mark. This section offers the least amount of choreography as well.

If you make it through to the end, you are in for a huge treat with Mark's section. Mark is incredibly charismatic and dynamic and he puts together some very creative and dancy choreography. Many of these moves I've never seen before. This section is not as intense as Laura's, but thanks to the many times you have to step over the step (an easy move for Mark who is very tall; a hard move for me who is very short), you can keep your heartrate up quite easily. For those who aren't as tall as Mark--probably all of us!--it helps to keep an eye on Laura and Melissa in the back during the step-overs. Mark is an excellent cuer as well as an absolute joy to watch--he is so graceful. I can't say enough good things about his section: I do the whole thing grinning madly. It's that much fun. It's like dancing, only there happens to be a step there.

Mark then leads a very short cool-down. I find the cool-down a bit too short and not varied enough: it mostly consists of a bunch of hip circles. There's a brief stretch before Laura teaches the yoga section.

This section makes an excellent add-on. It's about 15 minutes and consists of a nice series of strength building yoga moves.

Melissa then leads the final stretch.

The music is quite good on this video as well. It's all instrumental, fits well with the choreography, and is very motivating.

Instructor Comments:
One of the great things about this video is that the two instructors who aren't teaching a segment serve as background exercisers. That makes this video a rarity: one where you the background exercisers do the workout as well as the instructor. I find I often have to avert my eyes from the background in CIA videos, but here Laura and Melissa, as background exercisers, add a lot. Mark is also fine but he shines much more when he's center stage. All three have a great rapport and interact with each other throughout the video. Laura and Mark are especially dynamic instructors and need to make more videos!



This workout is fantastic! It's a full 2 hours from beginning to end, which I have yet to attempt! Each instructor does a stepping segment (about 30 minutes) and a shorter segment. Here's the structure of the tape:

Warm up: Mark
Athletic Stepping: Laura
Interval Stepping: Melissa
Advanced Stepping: Mark
Yoga Stretch/Strength: Laura
Stretch: Melissa

It's intermediate choreography for the most part, with lots of turns and optional power moves, especially in the Athletic stepping. My favourites are the first and third step segments, as they are the most challenging for me. But Melissa's segment is growing on me! The name "interval" is a bit misleading though, as it's really two combinations and one interval in the segment. Mark's advanced stepping is excellent. It's very dancy in its choreography and a lot of fun to do! I really enjoy stepping and am grateful for the more challenging choreography that's available now on video. In the past, I could only get it at the gym. Definitely a keeper, however it's used. I usually do two step segments per day, but it could also be three days of workouts. In any case, it's fun and challenging, and will keep me going for some time.

Instructor Comments:
All three are fantastic, but for very different reasons. Laura is very athletic and precise; excellent cueing and demonstrations of correct form. Melissa is fun and a little wacky; great cueing. Mark is a star: he's dramatic, dancy, and completely engaging.