Step Revolution

Rebecca Small

Categories: Step Aerobics

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I’m reviewing this workout after doing it once.

General workout breakdown: This video teaches nine 32-count symmetrical and tapless combinations for almost 71 minutes of step aerobics. [I know the back cover says eight combos, but I think the copy got mixed up with the one for S Express.]
There is no warm-up or cool-down/stretch; the video launches right into the first combo and stops as soon as the last run through of the last combo finishes. There is also no TIFTing; each combo is taught separately. The combos progress in relative difficulty, with later combinations often having more rhythm changes, and after the first three or four Rebecca starts spending a little more time building up the combos.

Rebecca’s teaching method begins with simple base moves that are layered and tweaked until the final combo emerges. This may mean doing a later part of the combo first, especially if that’s the more complicated part or if that’s the part that changes leads. Rebecca also likes to play with order here; about half of the combos have their elements switched around from how you originally learn them. You’ll see many of the same base moves from combo to combo, but Rebecca combines them differently so each final product has its own personality.

Rebecca mentions that she hasn’t spent as much time with the breakdown / build-up as she would do in a class; the back cover says it should take about 15 minutes to work up to the full combo in a live class, and here they’re taught in about half that time. That means there’s a learning curve, as you don’t often have as much of a chance to repeat things before moving on. Even so, because Rebecca only adds on a bit at a time, clearly giving you a heads up that a change is coming and then often using the “watch me” method, to which she adds a clear verbal breakdown, before asking you to do the new or changed move, you may be surprised at how quickly you pick up things.

Rebecca’s style is to take basic, standard step aerobics moves and combine them in surprisingly fresh and interesting ways; you will hardly believe she gets the final combos out of such simple starting steps. Filler steps in breaks between run throughs or as place markers while building up combos include marching, step touch, basics, leg curl, and repeater knee; you’ll do Elvises, mambos, cha chas, stomps, and straddles; and the final variations include stepping over the step, sweeps around the corners, playing with rhythm, reverse turns, and lots of pivots.

There are a few higher impact moves, but those whose knees complain if there’s too much torque may want to be careful because there are a good number of twists, pivots, and turns, both on the step and on the floor.

Rebecca’s choreography has a natural-feeling flow. Of course, her superior cuing helps there; she knows just what’s going to give you trouble, such as telling you to use the same foot that you started on to do the new move or which direction to turn. Any time I found myself thinking that a transition between steps felt almost awkward she promptly announced that she was layering on something that suddenly made much more sense.

Level: I’d recommend this to at least intermediate to intermediate / advanced or so exercisers comfortable with complex step choreography. This is not for those who want to sweat while their minds take a break; in fact, if an instructor who says it’s time to back off a little to avoid getting too tired makes you scream, this isn’t for you. You must be willing to sacrifice intensity for interesting choreography, and, boy, will you be rewarded.
I consider myself an intermediate / advanced exerciser who likes and thinks herself better than average at picking up complex choreography, and I found this one fun, interesting, and surprisingly doable. I generally pick up choreography easily if it’s broken down and cued well, which is certainly true here; I felt confident in the combos after the first run through.

Class: 2 women join Rebecca, who instructs live. These two seem better rehearsed than often happens in Evolution productions, although as usual they work through any oopsies.

Music: upbeat pop-type vocal music. Usually I find Evolution soundtracks better than average, if overused, but this one is even better than that and was new to me. I didn’t recognize any of the songs, really. Still, because I found it pretty darn good it made an already fun workout even more so.

Set: the “black abyss” Evolution set, which is an all black studio with monitors along the back featuring a revolving E (the Evolution logo). Note that Rebecca and her two back-up babes wear black pants, but fortunately Rebecca’s has white stripes and shapes down the side so she doesn’t completely blend into the background.

Production: clear picture and sound, camera angles that vary between helpfully showing everyone and zooming in just when you don’t really want them to, like the one camera angle cuts off Rebecca’s feet – no! that’s just what I need to see.

Equipment: step (Rebecca and company use those Reebok steps; my full-sized club step was just fine) and sneakers that can pivot on your workout room flooring.

Space Requirements: You’ll be doing moves all around the step, so make sure you have enough space to move comfortably along each side; you’ll need to be able to kick off to each side and need extra room behind and in front of your step, where you’ll have both feet down doing mambos cha chas or mambo pivots or walking back with a knee.

DVD Notes: After the Evolution intro (which you can skip), the main menu options are Play All (which plays through an Evolution intro plus Rebecca’s intro), Zap to a Block (only 8 chapters are shown, however, so the combos aren’t all chaptered separately), and Evolution DVD previews.

Comments: Like many Evolution productions, this was made for somewhat experienced step instructors to learn new combos to teach to their class as well as ways to break down and teach choreography. However, this works perfectly fine for an at home exerciser, including one who doesn’t intend to teach aerobics. Rebecca says things like, “When you’re teaching this to your students…”, and she points out several times that she’s teaching things rather quickly in an effort to include as much choreography as possible on the tape, although she’s not as focused on discussing methodology here as she is in many of her more recent releases. This actually kind of works to the home exerciser’s advantage because it means that she’s very conscious of cuing moves well and spends most of her time running through the routine rather than marching about.

I’m so happy this has been released onto DVD so those of us without VHS players can satisfy our desire – no, need – for more Rebecca Small workouts. There are no signs this is a VHS transfer other than Rebecca telling you to rewind the tape as needed; it looks exactly like other contemporary Evolution productions released directly onto DVD and may have even better sound quality (I find the Marcus Irwins I have from this time period on the quiet side).

This is the third Rebecca Small workout I’ve done this month. I think I had even more fun with this one between the combos themselves (even Rebecca says, “Whee!” several times) and the music. I found this similar in intensity and complexity to Symmetrical Step Solutions but a bit less intense and complex than Super Step.

Instructor Comments:
Rebecca’s cuing is so easy to follow. The amount of preparation she does, thinking through not only the choreography, how it flows together and works with the music, but also the cuing, how best to cue current moves and how to prepare for upcoming ones, makes such a difference. She mirror cues verbally a lot more here than she does in later videos (although she messes this up a time or two), where she’ll use more visual cues; either way it’s easy to follow her, especially when she adds in the direction of turns. I really like her personality: professional and focused while being pleasant and positive, she’s pretty much my ideal fitness instructor personality type. She clearly enjoys what she’s doing but never loses sight of her job as a fitness instructor.