Dance Off the Inches: Dance It Off Ballroom

Kristina Milova
Year Released: 2008

Categories: Floor Aerobics/Hi-Lo/Dance

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I’m reviewing this workout after doing it twice.

General workout breakdown: This approximately 40-min. dance workout uses ballroom dancing moves for exercise rather than for the dance floor or competition, and you don’t need a partner (and won’t even have to pretend to have one).
After about a 2-min. introduction, the warm-up (6 min.) runs through some simple dance moves (swivels, breaks, traveling side to side) before doing some dynamic moves to warm up the body a little more (hip circles, arm reaches overhead, roll through the low back, rib cage isolations side to side) and some kicks.
Kristina teaches three distinct, stand alone dances: Cha Cha, Samba, and Jive, each of which are about 10 min. She teaches each dance in little blocks, then runs through the whole routine as you know it up to that point before moving onto the next block. Once you’ve learned all of the moves you’ll do about three big TIFTs (or taking it from the top) before moving onto the next dance. To give you an idea of the moves you’ll see, here are the ones Kristina covers in the Step Guide: breaks (front, side, and back), triple step (cha cha, samba basic, jive triple step, step together touch), lock steps, Cubans (side and front), New Yorker, Volta, Botafogo, Pas de Bourre, Kick Ball Change, and Heel Toe Heel. One move she doesn’t teach is the chicken walk, which IMHO is overused in the jive, but maybe that’s just because I feel so silly doing it. Kristina includes a lot of arm patterns to go with the feet and hips. One thing I like is that in the step guide she covers these, too (so the step guide is more about teaching you how to do the steps for this routine, not necessarily how to do them in general).
The cool-down (6 min.) begins with some slower dance steps like breaks, hip sways, and hip circles. She ends with some dynamic stretches for the upper body like reaches overhead and shoulder rolls, then moves into some dynamic lower body stretches before holding them for a short bit. You’ll end with some bows.
Overall this is a low impact workout, although there are a few hops, especially in the bouncy jive section. I would caution those with sensitive knees, especially if you’re on carpet, as there are some quick moves, some partial pivots, and some lower body twists that could be aggravating.

Level: I’d recommend this to experienced beginners to those at the beginner / intermediate crossover point who feel comfortable with dance choreography, although you don’t need to be a dancer. Once you start getting up to an intermediate level you’re going to have to put some real oomph into the moves to get much of a workout out of this.
I consider myself an int./adv. exerciser, although because of some health issues I’m more int. than adv. these days. I picked this up to use on those hot summer days in my un-climate controlled workout space when I just couldn’t face my usual workouts, and it worked well for that purpose; now that the weather has cooled down I’ll use this on lighter days or as an add-on after strength. I pick up choreography easily, provided it makes sense and is taught and cued decently, but even so I’m glad I worked with the Step Guide before doing this. I felt comfortable with the routine after one run-through, but I definitely needed another to clean some things up.

Class: 2 women, who seem to be dancers but more as a hobby than as a profession, join Kristina, who does the full routine; no one shows modifications. Kristina is by herself in the Step Guide.

Music: upbeat exercise video issue stuff appropriate to the dance in question.

Set: interior set made to look like a (giant) living room, with “windows” looking onto “trees” (this is kind of dark and makes it look like an overcast day, unlike the “sunny” sets on other DOTI videos).

Production: clear picture and sound, camera angles that are helpful rather than distracting.

Equipment: Don’t worry if you don’t have a revealing, sequin- and rhinestone-bedazzled gown (or snug-fitting tuxedo that bares your chest) and dance shoes at the ready; your regular workout outfit and sneakers that won’t catch on your workout room’s flooring are all you need.

Space Requirements: You won’t need a ballroom to do this one. Just make sure you can take a few steps in each direction. I was able to fit this in my workout space of about 5-6’ deep by 7-8’ wide.

DVD Notes: Your main menu options are Dance it Off Ballroom - Play and Chapters (Intro, Warm Up, Cha Cha, Samba, Jive, Cool Down, and End Credits) and Step Guide - Play. Disappointingly, the Step Guide here has no chapters.

Comments: I have 6 DOTI titles – in addition to this one, Fat Burning Cardio Jam, Sizzling Salsa, Hip Hop Party, Hip Hop Cardio, and (Fat Burning) Belly Dance – and of those I feel this one is the least intense and among the trickiest to pick up. Part of my difficulty in learning this may be due to my relative lack of ballroom dancing experience and knowledge (I took two semesters of ballroom dancing in college with an instructor who had an unnatural obsession with the fox trot, which doesn’t help me here, and one of the reasons I’ve watched little of Dancing with the Stars is the absence of discussion on what makes a good jive or waltz in favor of the judges’ repeatedly noting sloppy lines or illegal lifts or inane discussions about how it felt out there). But I think others may struggle with this for one or two different reasons: while the steps themselves aren’t particularly complicated, Kristina does packs a lot of moves into a short period of time (unlike many of the other DOTI instructors, Kristina doesn’t repeat moves several times before moving onto the next; she might do three moves together in the time it takes the others to do one) and throws in some syncopated rhythms, especially in the jive section, which she doesn’t really explain (so some people may wonder why she seems kind of “off beat”). I’m feeling more comfortable with it after just two run-throughs, but I definitely sympathize with anyone who feels overwhelmed and/or out of synch with Kristina their first few times through this one. Although I don’t dislike this one, it may be my least favorite of the DOTIs I currently own because I feel like I have to put a lot of effort into it to keep up with all of the steps without getting as much of a workout out of it as I do with the others. As much as I love choreography, on those days when I’m reaching for a lighter workout it’s not just because I don’t want to work my body hard but also often that my brain is looking for something easier. (On the flip side, if you do cardio at more of a more beg./int. level and are bored out of your mind with too easy choreography, this could be just what you’re looking for.)

Instructor Comments:
Kristina instructs and cues pretty well, and she mirror cues. I certainly am not qualified to speak to her ballroom dancing qualifications and skills, but according to Collage she has an extensive background in dance and performance, including some ballroom championships, and considers herself a dance instructor. All that said, she presents with authority and seems passionate about dancing. She doesn’t have the warmest, strongest, most engaging on screen camera presence (she’s somewhat stilted when reading the cue cards for the intro and outro), but she is professional, focused, and not at all obnoxious (no side chatter, no attempts at a stand-up routine, and other than the obligatory “let’s dance off those inches” statement few comments on how many calories you’re burning or how great your butt will look), and I’m fine with that. She does ask you to work those hips, etc., but she presents these moves in more of a matter of fact way (“salsa is all about the hips”) rather than trying to be a sex kitten or whatever. She has the slightest hint of an accent (Russian), but I found her very easy to understand.