Evolution: Step FusionMarcus Irwin
Year Released: 2004
Categories: Step Aerobics
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I’m reviewing this workout after doing it 2-3 times.
General workout breakdown: Erin has described this workout so well there’s not much else I can add! Well, I can give the exact time of the different sections: section 1 = 32.5 min. (not counting the ~1.5 min. intro), section 2 = 27.5 min., section 3 = 16 min., and section 4 = 22.5 min., for a total of almost 100 min.
And I’ll note that although Marcus teaches symmetrical combos (meaning he does them on both sides), he doesn’t always spend the same amount of time on each side building them up (meaning sometimes he’ll get you to a certain point on one side, then have you try the full block up to that point on the other, then alternate once or twice before moving on).
Although Marcus clearly introduces this as a tool for group fitness instructors to learn new choreography to teach in class, he does acknowledge that some will use it as a workout. As a home exerciser who has no ambitions to teach step classes, I find this works perfectly well as a workout, although as Erin said it’s for those who want to have fun with choreography during their workout rather than those who want to sweat out every last drop of water and wring out every last bit of energy from their bodies.
Level: I’d recommend this to at least intermediate exercisers who are experienced steppers comfortable with moderately complex choreography.
I consider myself an int./adv. exerciser, although I feel more like an intermediate plus when it comes to step, not because I find choreography tricky – in fact, I consider myself a big choreo hound, able to pick up choreography that’s taught at least halfway decently with relative ease – but because I just don’t have the cardio endurance on the step that others do. This is a fun, doable, moderately challenging workout for me in terms of cardiovascular and choreography, although I can’t do this all in one go – one or two sections at a time works better for me.
Class: 2 “back-up babes” join Marcus, who instructs live. Yes, they all mess up, but Marcus is said to have filmed videos in pretty much one take, plus the background exercisers are fellow instructors, many of whom learn the routine when they show up to film their own videos. It’s also worth noting that many of them are also from European countries where English is a second language at most.
Production: clear enough picture, somewhat quiet but clear enough sound. Marcus’ voice is definitely louder than the background music, so you may have to crank up the volume quite a bit if you want to hear the music (which appears in A LOT of Evolutions). The camerawork here is actually some of the best Evolution has done, with close-ups of the lower halves of bodies in appropriate places and not too many strange shots cutting off feet or zooming in on faces when you really don’t want them to do so. And the black screen with the rotation e pops up from time to time, usually before TIFTs but sometimes between blocks or other run-throughs.
It’s worth noting that both Marcus and his background exercisers all wear black pants, which isn’t ideal.
Equipment: step (Marcus and company use Reebok steps) and sneakers that can pivot on your step and workout space’s flooring.
Space Requirements: You’ll need to be able to move comfortably all around your step. I had no trouble fitting this in my workout space (8’ wide by 6’ deep), but I wouldn’t want to try to squeeze it in a significantly smaller space.
DVD Notes: This DVD is chaptered by block (with 26 total chapters for the workout). It also has extensive previews of 2003 and 2004 Evolution titles.
4x4 Step vs. Step Fusion vs. Step Pro vs. Step Tools
Step Fusion is the only one of the 4 Marcus Irwin step titles currently available on DVD (well, excluding Topless Blocks, which is half step, half hi/lo). It’s also the longest by a mile. And it’s the only one that doesn’t begin with a warm-up, TIFT all sections together, and end with a cool-down / stretch (although that’s also true of Topless Blocks). While there are some step taps side to side and basics as holding patterns, this doesn’t feel like it has as much marching and other filler moves as some of Marcus’ other ones, most notably 4x4 and Step Pro.
If you’re new to Marcus, this might be a good place to start, particularly because you’ll get the most value for your buck here, even if the DVD still is on the pricey side. The choreography here is also representative of Marcus’ usual style (Step Pro and Step Tools, his swan songs, are a bit of a departure for him).
Marcus is one of the better cuers out there. He breaks down everything and cues descriptively enough that I can dust this video off after too long of a break from it and have little trouble following it. Marcus mirror cues, but he tends to provide directional cues somewhat sparingly, waiting until just when you need them, and he also provides some additional directional guidance like telling you to turn to the outside or to use the leg that’s closest to the television. Sometimes he relies on gestures (pointing, grabbing his pants on the leg you’re starting on) rather than verbal cues, not just for direction but also for the name of combos, but since he frequently uses the “watch me” method to show the next layer you’ll want to watch him closely anyway.
I love Marcus’ personality, with his giggle, his concern for and joking with his back-up crew, and his self-deprecating humor. He’s so natural on camera you feel like you’re right there with him, and yet he never loses sight of the fact that he’s an instructor filming a video.
To give a bit of background, I am an advanced exerciser who adores complex choreography. Christi Taylor, Patrick Goudeau, Seasun Z., Rob Glick, and Marcus Irwin ( of course ) are among my favorite instructors for both hi/lo and step. If you are NOT a choreography lover, let me say right up front that Step Fusion is NOT the workout for you. Step Fusion is a 100 minute step workout in the Evolution series, and it is PACKED with fun, dancy choreography. There are lots of mambos, cha chas, and other treasures as you work your way through. The set is pretty dark, as usual, but not quite as much as some of his other workouts because instead of just 4 monitors in the back with a rotating “e” in blue on them throughout the workout, there is also a large screen in the middle with a bigger rotating “e.” There are 4 red, flame-shaped lights along the back, which also helped it seem less gloomy than some of the other sets. The music was stuff I had heard before on other workouts, but nothing I disliked. There is no warmup or cooldown, but intensity builds gradually in combo one, so I was nice and warm before the intensity got too high. I definitely needed to cool down on my own, because you end right after finishing a big combo. There are 4 sections. The amount of taking it from the top ( TIFT ) was very reasonable. There was some as Marcus built the combos, but not so much that you got sick of the beginning before ever catching sight of the end. In each major section you put the combos from that section together and go through twice on each side, but there is no TIFT from the very beginning of section 1 to the very end of section 4, which was a disappointment to me. Then again, I'm known to be a bit strange. :) Interestingly, the red flame lights flashed on and off rhythmically during the parts where the whole section was being put together. They were steadily on during the teaching sections.
Within the workout there were 2 tendencies of Marcus's teaching style that served to reduce the intensity. One is that he often adds marches as place holders to fill out a block of choreography, and then shows you what goes there while you march. The other is that he does a LOT of step taps on the step while he explains the next change or demonstrates the next step. Both of these are easily remedied if you're looking for more intensity by throwing in jogs or other power moves. Sometimes I did that. Other times the intensity of the workout was enough that I was perfectly happy to march in place, thank you very much. :) Marcus has put together some really great combos that combine athletic and dancy moves. For example, you do an L-mambo into an over the top, straight into a pendulem over the top. Clearly there is a mix of impact in this workout, but as usual, Marcus builds up to each higher impact move with lower impact ones that use the same counts. You could certainly stick with a lower impact move if the higher impact was not your thing that day. That said, since noone is doing lower impact, and this IS so packed with choreography, you would have to be really on the ball to remember just what your version is supposed to be. Plus the higher impact versions are so darn fun, how could I NOT want to do them? There aren't as many turns as in some of Marcus's workouts, but he gets a few in there, and they flow so well! This workout qualifies for me as “party in a box” material. Marcus has his usual great, positive energy with his “background babes,” and the workout itself is a choreography lover's dream! I do have 1 major peeve with this workout. At several points in the workout they throw in a break with a screen with a red, rotating “e.”Some of the places they put these breaks made sense, like between the 4 sections. Other places it seemed rather random and broke up the flow. I was rarely in step with Marcus and “babes” when it came back. At least they usually were doing “holding” moves when these breaks came and went. But in 1 spot in section 4 they come back on count 1 of starting through a finshed combo, and it's practically impossible to catch up quickly because by the time you figure out they aren't step tapping, they're on the other side of the step. Very annoying.
The 1st 2 sections clock in at about 30 minutes, while the 3rd and 4th are about 20 minutes each, making this a workout that lends itself beautifully for tailoring to the workout needs of the day. The DVD is chaptered very well, so adding them onto another workout or putting sections together to match your time available would be no problem at all. I personally found sections 1 and 2 to be more intense, but that can be pretty subjective. None of the sections are killer, but they are a solid, moderate intensity. And really, with such fun choreography to tempt you to keep going, who wants to physically incapable? :) Even though this DVD is pretty pricey, given the length of the workout and the flexibility of the workout's superior chaptering, I think it was well worth my money.
Marcus is excellent at cuing and has a unique way of combining dancy and athletic choreography. He is a complexity lover's instructor all the way! He has a great, upbeat personality that makes working out with him a pleasure.