Step Mechanic

Rebecca Small
Year Released: 2007

Categories: Step Aerobics

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I’m reviewing this workout after doing it once.

General workout breakdown: This DVD contains approximately 65 minutes of step aerobics. Although meant to serve as a demonstration of choreography (and its breakdown) for step instructors, this works well as a steady state workout for an at home exerciser who doesn’t intend to teach anyone.

After Laura’s great review I’ll just add a few more details on Rebecca’s style.

There are, IIRC, seven total combos, all done symmetrically, alternating between right and left without stopping or tapping to switch between sides. The first three are, as Laura mentioned, simpler, and Rebecca says they’d be stuff she’d pare down a little for her Level 1 (i.e. least complex) classes or teach as is to her Level 2s (i.e. mid-level). The fourth and fifth are definitely more complex; Rebecca seems to suggest she’d use them for Level 3s (i.e. most complex) or break up to alternate with less complex blocks for Level 2s. The final two blocks return back to Level 1+ to 2.
The first five blocks are 32-count blocks, while the last two are 16-count only. Rebecca teaches 16 counts at a time, so for the 32-count combos she works you all the way or almost all the way through the first half, then continues to run through that while adding in the base pattern, then building up the second half. She’ll then put any finishing touches on. The halves are never split or reworked, however (in other words, she won’t do something like take 8 counts from the first half, do the whole second half, then do the remaining 8 counts from the first half).
Rebecca teaches all blocks in a throw away style, meaning after you learn a combo it disappears. You might not even run through the final product more than once or twice. So needless to say there is no TIFTing (taking it from the top).

The teaching method Rebecca uses begins always with simple base moves that are layered and tweaked until the final combo emerges. You might see the same base move (e.g. 7-knee repeater) a few times, but the final products each have their own personality. Rebecca builds things up slowly, changing only bits and pieces with subsequent run throughs, so if you don’t like a lot of breakdown this might not be for you, but because this is for instructors to learn choreography and breakdown Rebecca doesn’t run through as many times as you might expect, so things move a little swiftly for someone working through this the first or second time.

Rebecca keeps the moves fairly straightforward, using mostly classic step moves, with a few dancey elements like a mambo cha cha, a spin, or a twist thrown in. She does have a more athletic flair than some of the other Evolution instructors, though. I agree that Marcus Irwin is a good comparison in terms of type of choreography, although Rebecca might be a bit more complex, if for no other reason than she incorporates more rhythm changes (which Marcus added in his last two step releases).

Rebecca likes to move all around the step. She does pivots and spins both on and off the step, rebounds over the step, and lower body twists that could be problematic if your sneakers like to catch on your step or carpet or if you have knees that don’t like torque. There isn’t a lot of impact, although Rebecca demonstrates a few places where you can add some oomph to moves by getting some air.

As Laura mentions, there is no warm-up, which isn’t that big of a deal since it starts off simple, although the pace picks up pretty quickly. There is no cool-down or stretch, which is a bigger deal since you stop right after running through a combo one last time. I wish the sixth and seventh combos had been reversed, because the sixth would have made a decent final and/or cool-down combo, since it’s probably the least intense and complex one on the DVD.

Level: I’d recommend this to experienced steppers. This is well suited for intermediates through maybe intermediates / advanced and is definitely more for those who like choreography over intensity.
I consider myself an intermediate / advanced in cardio, although I’m more of an intermediate plus when it comes to step, since I’m still working my way through more complex step aerobics workouts. I pick choreography up pretty quickly if it’s broken down and cued well, which is very true here. I felt confident with the choreography after just one run through (again, know I think I’m better than average at picking up – although probably not exactly executing – choreography), although my brain was starting to get a little tired by the end and I could clean up a few moves. This gave me a solid steady state workout that had me in a moderate zone according to my heart rate monitor.

Class: 2 women join Rebecca, who instructs live. From time to time Rebecca will stop to explain something, but she usually chooses to do this during a very basic move and will resume the full routine when it gets back to the top.
All three wear mikes, but the background exercisers don’t contribute much except for some nervous giggles when they accidentally go the wrong way or something of that sort.

Music: upbeat songs, some of them with vocals. It suits the workout well and does not distract from Rebecca’s voice. But if you have many Evolutions you’ve probably heard much of it before. (In her review of Rebecca’s Step Formula, filmed and released at the same time, Pam L mentions that the same soundtrack appears in both, and I think she’s right.)

Production: clear picture and sound. For the most part this does not have the extreme close-ups or too many funky camera angles characteristic of a number of the Evolution videos on this European warehouse set, but there are some times when I wish Rebecca’s feet had been included in the shot.

Equipment: step. Rebecca and company use only the platform. I used the platform plus one set of risers and felt this was appropriately challenging for me.

Space Requirements: You should have enough room to move comfortably all around your step, with enough space to work around the front, take a few steps off of the side, plus move around with both feet behind it. There is one combo that has quite a bit of lateral movement, and it’s best if you can take two big steps off to the side and just behind of your step. The other combos are more compact, however.

DVD Notes: After the standard Evolution introduction, which you can fortunately skip, the main menu options are Play All, Select Chapter (there are 16 total, including the presenters montage, which is surprisingly short and just about Rebecca, and Rebecca’s intro), and Bonus Features (Behind the Scenes, Bloopers & More, Bonus Blocks – here you get a short combo from Robert Steinbacher’s Step Sensation, Evolution Aerobic, Dance & Step Previews, and How to make an evolution video?).

Comments: Honestly, Laura’s review already captures so much of what I also feel about this video so well it seems silly to have written so much - and so much of the same thing - but I must echo the love for Rebecca. This is only my second of hers, and it will not be the last. I will be trying to pick up more of hers (thank goodness Marcus has released some of her older ones, previously only available on VHS, on DVD), and I will be snapping up any future productions, even if she sticks to DVDs aimed at instructors rather than at home exercisers.

Instructor Comments:
I can’t add anything to Laura’s spot on description of Rebecca as an instructor; I’d just end up repeating everything she’s already said. I agree that Rebecca is the rare natural talent who also works hard, but it doesn’t take much to appreciate how much effort she puts into her work even though it appears so easy for her. After only two videos Rebecca has vaulted onto my favorite instructors list, and I clearly see why she’s called the Queen of Step!



A little about me before plunging into what I think. I am a committed intermediate exerciser. Recently, life has been out of control, so I have had to deliberately try to do longer and/or more intense workouts (for me). If I manage a 30-minute workout, that's good. A 45-minute workout is MAJOR. I have arthritis and the worst joints in my body are my hands and wrists. This precludes many, if not all, moves which require me to support my body weight on my hands. Finally, I much prefer cardio workouts to strength usually. The complexity of choreography I prefer ranges from intermediate into advanced, but I don’t enjoy the super advanced, like Patrick.

I felt like I should write a review for this workout because it is one of my most favorite step workouts and it’s advanced and every advanced stepper on VF should have at least one Rebecca Small workout! She is just so much fun and is one of the best cuers in the industry. She says, “Now we are going to ___________, “ and I think, “Yeah, right!” Then, we do it and, with her cueing, I end up doing exactly what she said I was going to do.

There is no warm up. The first three combos are simpler than the later ones. In every case, she adds layer after layer after layer. She enjoys doing workouts from the viewpoint of teaching other step instructors new choreography AND how to teach it. As a non-step instructor, I still enjoy the process because it’s really interesting how she builds combos. She does things like hold the leg of her pants on the side you are working, so you know which way to go. She explains how you know which foot to lead off with when it’s not obvious. She cues phonetically when there are rhythm changes. She is just a born teacher and she obviously loves the subject she teaches.

The set is the standard Evolution set, which is a vast improvement over their earlier sets. It’s fairly open and bright. The music is standard Evolution music, but it seems to fit this workout well. The background exercisers seem to be enjoying themselves and are good. Once in awhile they mess up, but it’s just part of the process and not a big deal.

My favorite moment of this workout (and there are many of them) is when I am spinning around the step having a blast and Rebecca says, “Wheeeeeeeee!” I simply repeat what she just said because it fits so well.

Instructor Comments:
She is a born teacher and she loves the step. She is focused on what she is doing, but she still has a sense of humor about the whole thing.

Laura S.