New York City Ballet Workout

Unknown, Peter Martins
Year Released: 2000

Categories: Ballet/Barre, Total Body Workouts

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Please note that I wrote this review back in 2004 (yikes - that's 5 years ago!). I have copied and pasted the review as I originally wrote it. I'm not sure how often I did this workout, if at all, after writing about it, and although I held onto this DVD for a while as a lovely workout to watch and a means of evoking lovely childhood memories of dance class (ah, nostalgia... how you make us forget the agonies), I passed it on a few years ago, as ballet workouts are no longer a staple in my collection.

I’m reviewing this after having it used it somewhat regularly in the past.

General workout breakdown: 6 minute warm-up, 38 minutes of unweighted strength and flexibility work, and 7 minute cool-down / stretch for a total of 51 minutes. The workout consists of 17 sections, with a slight pause between each. This means that you can’t rush through the program. Exercises 1-3 are a moving warm-up done standing; Exercises 4-9 are doing lying on the floor, with Exercise 4 being stretching, Exercises 5-6 working the abs, Exercises 7-9 comprising the “floor barre” (leg exercises traditionally done standing at the barre, but here done on the floor so you don’t have to worry about falling over and can concentrate on your legs, butt, and abs); and Exercises 10-17 are done standing, with Exercises 10-15 working your legs through basic ballet moves (plies, tendus, degages, passés, attitudes, arabesques, etc.), Exercise 16 consisting of little jumps, and Exercise 17 being the Reverence (cool-down / stretch). If you have difficulty with balance, consider doing Exercises 10-15 next to a wall or chair. The moves focus primarily on lower body with some abs and minimal upper body work. The standing work is, as far as I can tell, all ballet. The floorwork includes some traditional stretches, crunches, pushups, and yoga / Pilates-inspired work for the back.

Level: I’d recommend this to an intermediate exerciser. Familiarity with ballet is extremely helpful; familiarity with Pilates and/or yoga is also helpful. You don’t have to be a dancer, though. (Heaven knows I’m not!) I took ballet lessons for 6-7 years 15-20 years ago, and I’ve been practicing yoga for about three years and Pilates for a little less. I’m not sure I’d be able to pick up the form quite as well without some of that experience, although I’m sure more athletically gifted people could. By the way, I don’t have the related book, so if you’re determined to use this video but need extra instruction, you might consider picking that up.

Class: 1-4 dancers from the NYC Ballet corps, with 2 women and 2 men of diverse backgrounds featured. One woman is slightly older, but all four are fairly young.

Music / Set / Other Production Notes: You can choose between gorgeous classical music (which I use) or a modern jazz-inspired soundtrack, both with or without narration. Regardless of your choice, the sound is clear. The interior set is minimal (think solid color backdrop), as the focus is on the dancers. This, along with NYC Ballet Workout 2, is one of the few workout videos in letterbox. The choreography and production are truly beautiful.

Equipment: optional mat for floor segment. The workout can be done barefoot, with ballet slippers, or you can use special split-sole dance sneakers from Bloch or Capezio. I used to do the workout barefoot, pausing for shoes before attempting the jumps because of past knee and ankle problems. Now that I have my Blochs, I use them.

Comments: You need some space for this workout. You should be able to take two big steps to each side and be able to kick front and back. I have to get creative with where I start and end the passé series, but other than that I haven’t had any trouble fitting the movements in.
There is an introduction by Sarah Jessica Parker, who doesn’t otherwise appear in the workout; you can’t skip it, but you can fast forward through it.
In comparison to the New York City Ballet Workout 2 or even Jessica Sherwood’s Ballet Boot Camp (1 or 2), this has less explanation and more basic moves. There is no “movement combination,” so it feels more like a class than practicing a routine for a recital. However, with no standing barre work it doesn’t feel quite like a true ballet class.

DVD Notes: The DVD comes with a booklet offering workout tips and a summary of the program. (Don’t let the photos of the super-flexible dancers intimidate you; you won’t have to do any of those stretches in the workout.) You have the option to select chapters (i.e. segments), so if you only want to do part, you can. (For example, you coulf do the warm up, floorwork, and stretch one day and the warm up, standing work, and reverence another day.) In addition, there are pre-programmed routines for racquet sports, football, and skiing. The DVD extras include biographies of each of the dancers, a behind the scenes look at making the workout, and a brief “Dance and the City” documentary. If you have access to a DVD-ROM, you will also get to see a video glossary, a photo gallery, a trailer, music listings, and weblinks. You may find the book version of the exercise program helpful, particularly if you have little ballet experience, but it is not necessary.

Conclusion: There’s no way I’ll part with this one, even if I only pull it out once in a blue moon. I wanted to be a ballet dancer when I was little, and then reality set in. This video won’t make me sweat buckets, give me that “dancer’s body,” or substitute for real ballet classes with the pink legwarmers and everything, but I don’t care. I enjoy pretending I made it as a dancer after all for those 50 lovely minutes.
With two videos available, I might as well throw my two cents in as to which I prefer. Personally, I have both NYC Ballet Workouts and use them equally. I’m partial to 1 because I’ve had it longer and because it breaks the exercises down into fairly basic moves, but then I like two because it combines moves into little routines. So which one you choose should depend upon what you’re looking for in your ballet video. I say get both. (Insert evil grin here!)

Instructor Comments:
Peter Martins, NYC Ballet Master in Chief, and his British accent instructs (or should I say narrates?) via voice-over. You’ll have to rely on watching the dancers to pick up the exact number of repetitions, the exact moment they begin a new movement, etc., as Peter simply names the exercise and offers a few pointers at more or the less the same time the dancers start doing it. He even ducks out at the end. You’ll need to be familiar with or else quickly pick up ballet terms, because he gives little explanation during the workout, and some of the explanation is rather obvious (e.g. bend your knees to plie). You will have to choose whether to follow the direction cues (their “right” is your “left”) or mirror the dancers, although often it doesn’t matter since Peter doesn’t mention a direction at all.



I've been doing Middle Eastern Dance since 1994 and am always looking for ways to improve my dancing, and I thought ballet would help with some of my posture issues. I just finished up an 8 week "Very Beginning Ballet for Adults" class and while I'm not interested in signing up for another class, I did really enjoy some of the barre work, so when this video started getting such good reviews, I decided I would try it.

While I enjoyed this workout, I have to disagree a little bit with previous reviewers. One said she had no problem following the instruction and one said there was enormous emphasis on torso placement and alignment. I didn't feel this way, in fact I felt there was a huge lack of instruction and form pointers, so much so that someone with no ballet background whatsoever would probably be discouraged. (Previous reviewers had both taken ballet.) My piddly little 8 week course (of which I missed 2 sessions, but which had a *great* instructor) really made a difference. I didn't remember all of the terms, but as soon as the dancers began demonstrating them, I knew what I was doing. But if I hadn't had that course I think I would have been really frustrated. There are very few close-ups of the dancer's feet or legs so it's hard to know *exactly* what they're doing with their feet and ankles unless you already have an understanding of ballet form. Of course, anyone who was really serious about ballet would probably take live classes, but were those not available, I don't think this video would be a good place to start. I think a 10 minute basic instructional part at the beginning of this would have been most helpful, either that, or more instruction and form pointers in the voice-over. (It sounds like the DVD has more instruction--I bought the VHS version)

Also, I wasn't wild about the fact that it was brken up into 17 short segments. It just made it seem longer somehow.

Those comments aside, it was beautifully produced, with very nice music. I agree with a previous reviewer that the intro from Sarah Jessica Parker was useless fluff (and I like her and watch her show!) I didn't finish watching the dancer interviews (really, you could include all of that on the tape and not an instructional section?? Tsk, tsk.) but probably will at some point (I'm just so nosy!)

Renee Drellishak


I'm someone who timidly tiptoed on the shores of dance classes in NYC. I took a fair amount of ethnic (African, Afro-cuban, Afro-Brazillian, haitian). I also took some beginner jazz (Broadway Dance - Frank Hatchett), I made a couple of forays into very beginner ballet floor-barre technique, but the intimidation factor (skinny people who'd been on pointe since the age of 6) was just too much of for me.

So this production is just paradise for me! A well produced, accessible, serious ballet barre/floor technique class that I can do in my attic. I'm ballerina bound!

When I say well produced I'm not kidding. The classical music is gorgeous and the sets are spare and elegant. It's imbued with the atmosphere of a dancers life in NYC. There is a "mysterious voice over" which is Peter Marins - the troupe's choreographer.

Their are four dancers. Two are principle dancers in NYC Ballet. The other two are younger corp dancers. There's a nice ethnic diversity (so NYC) and of course, they're all ridiculously beautiful.

"But what about the workout?" you ask.

The program focuses on posture, alignment and core strength. There are a series of warm up stretches and limbering movements, followed by floor work which includes some abdominal strengthening and some slow push ups. The standing work allows the student to obtain the goal of performing basic ballet movements with grace and ease. There is an enormous emphasis on torso placement and alignment.

I can tell you that the morning after I feel the muscles in my hips and thighs and I feel, generally, long and lean.

This is an extremely rewarding, enjoyable program. Its what I've always wanted from a yoga tape and never quite got. I makes me feel stretched, poised, tall, limber and strong. To do these movements correctly involves a tremendous amount of core strength, flexibility and stamina, but the road to that blessed state is accessible to most people.

This tape is far more ambitious that earlier, respectable efforts such as Balletcise.

NYC Ballet Workout is available in VHS and DVD formats. I in no way regret shelling out the money for this DVD. FYI, Collage only carries the VHS version. The DVD must be ordered directly from the website.

The DVD allows a choice of classical or contemporary music (!) and has interviews with the instructors, and "day in the life" segments as program options. I've only heard the classical music and its wonderful.

Jane C.


I just received this video in the mail and have done the workout once. I had four years of ballet and pointe as a child and about a year more as an adult (about two years ago) and am eight weeks postpartum. That being said, I love this workout. Out of all the ballet workouts I have done (including The Method, The Ballet Workouts one and two, Balletcize one and two, Muscle ballet and Balletbootcamp) I rank this one the best (followed closely by Balletbootcamp.

The tape consists of 17 sections, with each section including one or two exercises each. It progresses through a warm up (with some easy dance moves), then through stretches, ab work and traditional ballet moves. Peter Martins, a leader of the New York City Ballet Company does the instruction via a very calm, soothing voiceover. I had no trouble following his instruction. On screen were various combinations of four dancers from the company doing the moves: two men and two women. They were dressed in black shorts and (for the women of course) crop tops. The set was empty with shadowy lighting.

I think what makes this video standout for me was the music quality. Ballet (indeed any dance) is mainly interpreting music through movement. The music selected for this workout was of the best quality I have heard and Martins voiceover with it somehow put me in a calm mood and helped me concentrate on my form. (By contrast, other ballet tapes had music that sounded much more canned somehow).

I get the feeling that this is a tape I can grow with. (Again by contrast, Balletcize was a ripoff because the "Advanced" tape was the same as the beginner tape but without the preliminary instruction) and Ballet Workout I and II often seemed to assume the viewer had more flexibility and enough regular ballet training that s(he) could do the choreographed sections at full speed right off the bat. In New York City Ballet Workout, I can concentrate on increasing my flexibility and not be frustrated that I can't lift my leg as high as the professional dancers and still work on it.

The workout is 51 minutes long and is followed by a very interesting segment on the dancers' lives. I love the fact that one is a mother of two (Yay! There's hope for me!).

Sorry, but the introduction by Sarah Jessica Parker did nothing for me. I don't watch her show and am not very familiar with her. She seems overly made up here, especially compared to the dancers. I see no point in having her there.

My only other (slight) gripe is there is a segment of back exercises which are done face down on the floor. I hate doing these with any tape because I can never see that I am doing what they are doing on the screen. A little more voiceover direction would have helped. At any rate, if you are seeking a ballet workout tape, I strongly suggest this one and/or balletbootcamp.

Laura Brestovansky