Element Ballet ConditioningElise Gulan
Year Released: 2007
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I am reviewing this workout after having done it a few times. I have no previous experience with dance, not even some ballet lessons in my childhood, but I found this workout easy enough to follow the first time I tried it.
This workout is very simple. Elise Gulan, a former dancer, instructs and works out alone in a beautiful outdoor setting. She performs simple moves with one leg and then with the other, always giving good form pointers and teaching them slowly before bringing some of them to a faster tempo. The simplicity of the workout makes it easy to do with good form, and while there are no modifiers, Elise often reminds you to work within your range of motion, keep the moves under control, and move with grace.
The emphasis is clearly on the lower body, although the arms are held out or up for many exercises, and the abs should be engaged to assist with balance and proper performance. There is a bonus ab segment at the end.
While I don't consider this workout exciting or fun, it definitely has its place as a good foundation in form and a very good lower body workout. It's short, straight to the point, and very thorough. I see it helping me build endurance and lower body strength, which is exactly what I need!
Elise Gulan instructs. She is pleasant and encouraging throughout the workout, offering form pointers and reminding you to work within your range of motion, keep good posture, and not sacrifice form.
The instruction is voice-over, not live, which may not be everyone's prefference. It doesn't bother me. Elise also makes some unusual remarks, but nothing that I find off-putting.
I have done some ballet/barre workouts in the past, but being an intermediate-to-advanced level exerciser, I sometimes find these types of workouts to be too easy for me. I am happy to report that Element Ballet Conditioning felt almost exactly right for my level. Instructor Elise Gulan begins with an easy, 3-minute warm-up that consists of some very simple stretching moves such as reaching the arms overhead and standing forward bends. She then asks you to step near your chair to begin the main workout. Again, she starts off easy with relevés; these feel fairly gentle to begin. However, Gulan starts to pick up the intensity in the next segment, which includes both demi- and grand-pliés using the chair; she also performs a series of pliés without the chair.
In series which follows, Gulan incorporates tendu, battement, and developpé, performed all on one side and then repeated on the following side. She then does the same with rond de jambe, knee circles (I don't recall the ballet name for this one), and grand rond de jambe. The final standing series includes simple leg lifts to the front, side, and back and then attitudes to the front and the back. Throughout the standing work, Gulan keeps the arms working as well, usually by holding them in a port de bras position. The standing toning concludes at about the 35-minute mark, and then Gulan leads you through approximately 4 minutes of brief cardio in the form of mini jumps. These moves are basically little hops--for example, jumping in first position, second position, from first to second, and switching the feet back and forth in fifth position. Gulan concludes the standing segment with some additional leg lifts while in standing splits, performing a seated twist (half Lord of the fishes pose from yoga) between each side.
At this point, Gulan brings the session to the floor for approximately 5 minutes of intense, Pilates-inspired abs work. Those familiar with Pilates will recognize moves such as the Pilates roll-up, single straight leg stretch (repeated twice), hip lifts, and single leg stretch. In fact, because Gulan performs quite a high number of repetitions and offers little instruction, I would only recommend this segment to those who have prior experience with Pilates. Gulan concludes the workout with approximately 4 minutes of stretching, performed mostly on the floor (butterfly stretch, wide-legged seated forward bend), although she does come to standing to finish, bringing in the total time for this workout at 49 minutes.
Overall, I definitely felt like I got what I wanted from this DVD: a nice, challenging lower body workout with a short but intense little abs segment to boot. I don't think that you need to have previous dance or ballet experience to do this workout, but I don't think that it's designed for beginning exercisers, either; also, as mentioned above, I would recommend the abs section only to those with some prior familiarity with Pilates.
I had no problems with Gulan's instruction, which I found to be simple and straightforward; she mirror-cues where appropriate.