Ballet Bootcamp

Jessica Sherwood
Year Released: 2000

Categories: Ballet/Barre

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Please note that I wrote this review about 5 years ago; I'm copying and pasting it as originally written, with one or two corrections. At the time of the review I had only done it a few times, and it had been a bit since that last time through.

General workout breakdown: dance routines and stretches meant to serve as a warm up, unweighted strength-oriented floorwork, standing ballet work to test strength and balance, and ballet routines intended to be cardio. Youíll need to add a cool down and/or closing stretch, as there is none. This workout takes about an hour from start to finish.
This is not a true ďboot campĒ workout; the name reflects the fact everythingís counted out in 8s [I'm not sure what I mean by this - did Jessica say that, or did my not so knowledgeable younger self make this up?]. The class set-up and the standing ballet work are more or less reflective of a ballet class, while the floorwork is a combination of standard moves with those from Pilates and similar methods. The workout is intended primarily to work the lower body, with some abs and minimal upper body work.

Level: Although the cover states that this is for all fitness levels, I wouldnít recommend this to true beginners because of the length and difficulty of many of the moves. The aerobics contain some high impact moves and fairly challenging choreography with little break down of the individual moves. Iíd recommend this to a solidly intermediate exerciser because of the importance of form in getting the most out of the exercises. I think an advanced exerciser might find this good only for light days. Familiarity with ballet is extremely helpful; familiarity with Pilates and/or yoga is also helpful. You donít have to be a dancer, though. (Heaven knows Iím not!) I took ballet lessons for 6-7 years 15-20 years ago, and Iíve been practicing yoga for about three years and Pilates for a little less. Iím not sure Iíd be able to pick up the form quite as well without some of that experience, although more athletically gifted people could. When I did this last several months ago, it was challenging for me but not impossibly so; what made it particularly difficult was the length, particularly that of the abs section.

Class: There are some short instructional segments where Jessica uses a student to demonstrate a move. The class in other segments varies from 3-20 students of various ages, sizes, and races. Most students are women, but some men figure prominently.

Music / Set / Other Production Notes: The music is classical; you might recognizes some selections if you also have the NYC Ballet Workouts. The sound is louder here than in BBC2, for what itís worth. The class is held in a dance studio with a nice wall of windows to one side and a wall of mirrors to another. The camera people attempt some artsy shots, both with the class arranged in patterns (e.g. all in a circle or lined up in alternating manner) and with different angles, hues, etc.

Equipment Needed: optional mat for floorwork. You can do this with bare feet, ballet slippers, or split sole dance sneakers (available from Bloch or Capezio).

Comments: The timing and flow isnít quite as jerky as in BBC2. Itís hard to find time to complete the whole workout at once. I usually stopped before the dance routines because I had trouble fitting it into the space I had (approximately 8í by 6í; Iím 5í8Ē). The rest of the workout fit, though.
I intended to alternate this with the New York City Ballet Workouts. For me the major differences between the two series boils down to these: Ballet Boot Camps are instructor-led ballet-type classes of ďnormalĒ people who perform a variety of standing ballet moves and non-ballet floorwork exercises while New York City Ballet Workouts are narrated videos featuring professional dancers performing basic ballet movements and combinations with some traditional stretches, crunches, and push ups thrown in to round out the workout. Both are of similar difficulty level; if you need instruction in basic ballet moves, your best bet is not the BBCs but NYC Ballet Workout #2, which also features a movement combination at the end.

DVD Notes: The chapters cover each segment, such as abs or standing floor work. The menu and chaptering is basic, so have your remote handy to fast forward, skip, etc.

Conclusion: I ended up trading this one along with BBC2. I know I could have worked around the long running time, no cool down, etc., but Iím not motivated to do that unless I love a workout or find a set of exercises particularly effective. I did enjoy the ballet portions; the floorwork, on the other hand, had a high dread factor for me. I know people love floorwork, but unless itís Pilates or yoga, I havenít found floorwork I even tolerate doing. Another factor in my decision to trade this was that I decided to base my lower body strength training around weights, Pilates, and yoga, which meant something else had to go. I personally like the NYC Ballets better for their superior production and shorter running time, so I kept them instead of the BBCs.

Instructor Comments:
Jessicaís cuing during movement changes is sufficient and her instruction is clearest in the few one-on-one tutorials previewing upcoming moves. Sheís not as helpful during the standing sections because she uses ballet terms without explaining them. She works both sides evenly. I canít remember if she mirror cues or not. As a former ballet dancer, her flexibility is incredible. Iím no expert, but her ballet technique looks good.



This is a somewhat strange video. It feels quite uneven and disjointed. While it is very common in dance classes to start off with some stretches, in video land it is customary to start with a warm up and follow that with stretches. So you stretch then do a dance warm up (which I enjoy quite a lot) and then you do floor work, then standing leg work then a final dance. First of all the floor work is very toning oriented and its shot in a bizarre way. Push ups in huddle (I wondered if anyone got an elbow in their face), there was virtually no instruction in the ab work, or any of the floor work, for that matter. Even the standing leg work seems under-instructed. And the final dance is fun, but its built then all of sudden just dropped and the workout is over. Further, the filming changes from color to black and white. The camera focuses alot on Jessica's face rather than her feet and legs, which makes it hard to figure out what you're actually supposed to be doing. Jessica also seems somewhat awkward in teaching (although she does move beautifully). But having said what I find distracting and unappealing, this is not a bad video. The music is wonderful, the cast is an exceptional mix of sizes, shapes and colors (especially for a ballet tape), the standing exercises are also challenging and I found them enjoyable and the dance sections (warm up and final dance) were a lot of fun. A better production company and more experience for Jessica can only help her improve if she makes further videos. Overall, I enjoy using this with other videos by doing the standing section, some of the world (the inner thigh section on the back, namely) and the two dance sections. Its a lot of rewinding and forwarding but they are the gems that I enjoy in this workout. People who fancey ballet workouts will want this in their collections.



Ballet Bootcamp is a great tape. It's misnamed. It's tough, but it's not boot camp. It's a ballet floor /barre routine with a dance combination at the end. It includes abdominal, arm and leg strengthening segments that, properly done, are quite challenging. The 10 minute dance combination uses add-on choreography and is challenging for someone who has never done that kind of work. The tape is over an hour so even if the last ten minutes are beyond you, there's still lots of interesting stuff to do.

It is an intense tape, but it is not a cardio tape in the sense of keeping your heart rate consistently elevated for any length of time.

I gather this routine is taught in different New York City gyms, including Crunch and New York Sports, but the packaging and official website are mysteriously secretive about the instructor's name. I gather from Collage that it's Jessica Sherwood. She is the quintessential ballerina.

The set is a nice, sunny loft space and there is a fairly large class of diverse gender, ethnicity and body types.

Sherwood uses real ballet terms, interspersed with more generic descriptions. The tape remains true to a ballet sensibility but is not haughty or pandering. It's a glimpse into the ballet world, and many of us are fascinated with that. Fans of NYC Ballet Workout will like this tape, and it's actually very similar in concept. The ending dance sequence is much more challenging than anything in NYC ballet, but the floor/barre work is similar, maybe a little tougher.

Complaints are minor. The dance cuing could be better, the audio over dubs help but they aren't enough. There's some dreaded "creative camera work" (head shot while a leg move is demonstrated, that sort of thing). The dance segments are space hogs. Still, these points are nitpicking. The routines terrific, the production values are good, the classical score is quite good. Overall, Ballet Bootcamp is fun and beneficial. Recommended!

Jane C.


This workout is not for me, but might appeal to someone who takes ballet classes or wants to. It starts with a short dance sequence, followed by several sections of toning exercises, and then at the end is another dance section. I thought the dance was hard to follow for someone who's not used to ballet. The toning sections are EXTREMELY repetitive. You do pushups, legs, thighs, abs, etc., and you do about a gazillion repetitions of each. The only section I liked was the inner thigh section, where she does the exercises lying on your back. I don't have any other tapes that do it this way, and I did feel a nice soreness the next day after doing it. However, that section alone isn't enough to make me want to keep the tape. The set is very unappealing -- a drabby gym-type setting, and they keep changing the picture from color to black-and-white. Collage describes it as "artsy," but I can only call it "ugly." The instructor was fine -- you can see that she has had a lot of dance experience, because she's very graceful. Grade B.

Annie S.


BalletBootCamp, the title's first impression to me was a workout that was rigorous but also elegant, what I saw was not quite what the title suggested. I expected a bit more of a fusion between the current BootCamp workouts and Ballet training. The tape itself is 60 minutes long, and broken up into distinct sections. The tape overall is really a toning tape using the body's weight for resistance with a little bit of "dance" work. It can be rigorous in some sections but overall I would say that was due to the 32 repetitions on each side that overloaded the muscles. Also, beware the camera work tends to focus on the "art" of making a scene look good than showing the moves well. I constantly felt like screaming - "BACK UP WILL YA!" When the instructor say now do this with your feet, SHOW HER FEET! You know that simple stuff that you think is obvious, but you get the feeling that the camera-person has never done or watched a workout tape before in their life.

The workout consists of:

Warm-up/ Standing Stretch- basically forward bends, side bends, range of motion arm sweeps, lunges, plies and hamstring stretches.

Warm-Up Aerobic Dance- a series of moves are previewed then linked together. These are pretty basic moves and they are called out first in layman terms then ballet terms. (this section lasts about 4 minutes)

Abdominals- 32 reps of crunches with arms at sides, then hands behind the head, then bicycle crunches, then arms at sides and then legs up doing full crunches.

Plies/Scissors- You lie on your back and the first section is keeping your heals together and do plie moves. Then you do inner thigh work by opening and closing your thighs (like scissors)

Push-Ups- 32 push ups from a knee position

Hip Rotations- On hands and knees you lift your leg up, heal to ceiling then holding that there you rotate your leg so your knee faces outward. This is the starting position. You rotate in knee down then out, and lower your leg and tap your foot on the other foot and raise it. This sequence 32 times on each leg.

Floor Exercises- Laying on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor near your butt, is the starting position. You do a number of bringing your foot up to your other ankle, pressing out 2 inches above the floor and bringing it back. Then you do a series of straight leg raises then flexing the leg straight and bent then, raising the leg toward your chest and then lower to 2 inches above the floor.

Arm Rotations- Holding your arms in "second" position which is basically like a lateral raise with bent arms. You rotate your arms from your shoulders, bringing the elbows down then horizontal again.

Centre Barre- There's no barre used, this is standing plies and leg work done in first and second position. Also a number of full leg lifts and pulses. You need lots of balance to do this section, probably one of the hardest sections of the tape (for me.)

Choreography- For about 8 minutes you preview and do the five sections of choreography then in the last 3 Ĺ minutes you do the routine about one and 2/3rds through. Then the workout ends.

My overall impression of the tape was that is was very uneven in layout. The stretching beginning I found a bit archaic because it would much more beneficial to have had the dance warm up precede this. Then toning sections were not particularly new and then only section that really had a ballet feel to it was the arm rotations and the centre barre work. The choreography at the end was really disappointing. I can't believe that such a long time was spent reviewing all these moves and then you only did them once and a bit through!!! Then the tape endsÖno cooldown at all. What a strange tape.

Overall- I enjoy doing some of the toning work, but still get very frustrated with the dance work at the end, due to the lack of cueing as well as the run through getting cut off. I find that I have done the tape all the way up to the choreography section and then stopped and gone on and done something else. So, I don't know what to say specifically in terms of recommending the tape. It may appeal to a number of people who like to do "toning" work vs. strength training. The dance section, I think would be a big draw for many but there is just a dash of thatÖ So, I am a bit disappointed in the workout overall, I truly wished for something a bit more "fun" and "dramatic". I have a feeling that an instructor like Michelle Dozois could pick up this idea and create a workout that would be much more in keeping with what I was hoping for.
Instructor Comments- It seems that Jessica Sherwood is new to being on film. She's nervous and doesn't look at the camera throughout most of the workout. She doesn't cue well verbally or by body gestureÖ I also found that she didn't really explain the form of a number of exercises throughout the workout. I think she explained a bit of form during the abdominal section, which many people have done, but practically none on the center barre section. I felt like I needed to take her aside and give her a few coaching lessons on how to lead a workout on tape. I don't expect absolute perfection from instructors. But I do expect enthusiasm and an ability to draw a person into a workout and explain how to begin and progress. These qualities did not shine through on the video.

Lisa Kucharski