African Beat - Latin HeatMaDonna Grimes
Year Released: 2005
Categories: Floor Aerobics/Hi-Lo/Dance
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Although I really enjoy dance workouts, I was a little wary of this one, as I had heard that instructor MaDonna Grimes didn't cue very well and that there was a lot of "take-it-from-the-top" movements, which I dislike. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I LOVED this video! The workout basically breaks down into 3 segments: warm-up, dance routine, and cool-down (these are not chaptered on the DVD). The 10-minute warm-up gets right into some basic dance steps such as the merengue, getting your heart rate up right away. MaDonna sometimes fails to fully explain the movements, but my minimal experience with just a few prior dance videos allowed me to follow along with no problems. There are a few small jumps included in this segment, but they don't appear until about 5 minutes into it, when you're already well warmed up; some basic stretches conclude this section.
During the 12-minute dance routine section, MaDonna introduces new moves one at a time, gradually building up to a complete dance routine. When teaching the moves, she did something I'd never seen before that I really liked: instead of teaching one segment with 3 different moves, a second segment with 3 different moves, and then stringing the two segments together (I always find it difficult to remember the first segment), she'll teach 3 moves and then introduce 2 new ones, but she combines the last move from the first 3 with the 2 new ones (I hope this makes sense!). This method makes it very easy to remember the order of the moves, as you're constantly combining the older moves that you've already learned with the new moves. Even more importantly, the moves are FUN--mambos, hops, hip swings, etc.--and the time just flew by!
The workout ends with a brief (4-minute) cool-down. I liked the neck stretches that were included here, although some people might have to be careful with these. The DVD also includes a 10-minute bonus workout for the lower body: MaDonna leads you through 4 different types of squats, performing several sets of each, and she ends with some brief standing and floor abs work. An additional DVD feature is a music-only workout option. Some people might complain that this workout is too short (about 26 minutes overall), but MaDonna packs a lot of both exertion and fun into that time period, making this video perfect for anyone who wants to get in some quick, intense, yet extremely enjoybable cardio work. Highly recommended!
I've read several threads here suggesting that MaDonna didn't cue well, but surprisingly, I had no problems with her cueing at all--in fact, I preferred her style to other dance videos I've tried! She does sometimes fail to fully explain the movements, but if you've had ANY prior experience with dance videos (eg, Kathy Smith's Latin Rhythm workout), you should do fine here. She teaches a good-sized class of students, all of whom look like they're having a blast!
A little about me: I am a fitness instructor who loves afro-latin workouts and dance. This is a fun workout that is best described as a funk routine with latin (and to a lesser extent, African) elements. It also has a hip-hop feel to it. Itís targeted to beginners, but might work for a low-intermediate exerciser as well. This DVD has several bonus additions, including a separate 10-minute toning workout with MaDonna and the ability to do the workout without narration. What is really nice about this video is the camaraderie between MaDonna and her background crew. It is also nice to see a diverse collection of background exercisers, in terms of size, ethnicity and gender.
I really like the music in this video. Fun music is always nice (because bad music has a way of ruining an otherwise good workout). The warm up portion consists of a lot of mambos and mambo cha-chas-fun easy movements. She also previews some movements in the actual workouts. MaDonna does a lot of static stretching in the warm up, which is can be controversial in that your heart rate may drop a bit too much while youíre doing it if you donít do some movement right after. (To be fair, the warm up is fairly long and she does do a lot of movement beforehand to make sure the muscles are warmed up.) She also does a bit of jumping in the warm up, which is a big no-no in my book.
The actual workout routine is not too choreographically advanced, so it is appropriate for beginners. It consists of mambos and other afro-latin type of moves. Even though the routine is simple, I think it is a lot of fun. Some of the African moves reminded me vaguely of some of the dances that Iíve done in traditional west African dance classes. I didnít have any trouble following the workout, but MaDonnaís cueing is not the best. She often returns back to the merengue step, which can take away from the intensity of the workout. I found that I could get a better workout if I continued to do the movements while MaDonna marched in place. I also would have liked it if the actual workout was longer.
The cool down is a bit problematic. MaDonna does full head circles and leans her head all of the way back. This is contraindicated because it is stressful on the cervical spine. Watch out for some of the unsupported back and standing hamstring stretches if you have lower back problems. Other than that, she repeats the stretches from the warm up. I like the neck stretches a lot because I have tight neck and shoulder muscles. Thereís also a little dance routine where you can see MaDonna dance-and woman can move. You can see why sheís made a name for herself in the dance and fitness world! Some of background exercisers are pretty good dancers as well.
I think that this workout, with the add-on toning section would be a great workout to get a beginner moving. For more intermediate exercisers, this would be a good add-on to get your muscles loosened up after weight work.
Very enthusiastic and fun. She's a great dancer but needs to work on her cueing a bit in this one.
Okay, first what I didn't like about this workout: I don't think MaDonna cues very well. Her cue for one new move is "okay, now hips"..Another time she wants you to do a left turn and she says "turn to the back" so I thought we were repeating the same movement facing the back of the room, but I was mistaken. Another thing that bothered me is in one segment after teaching a new step, MaDonna and the background exercisers stop to congratulate themselves after each time they perform the step. I don't understand the point - I want to keep moving, so I just marched in placed during those moments - and they did it several times.
What I did like about this workout: The music is pretty good and I thought the choreography was fun!
The workout is short - a total of 28 minutes including warm up and cool down. There is an additional 10-minute bonus segment that is less dancey than the main workout (there are lots of squats, some toe taps, knee lifts and hamstring curls and a very short ab section.)
The background exercisers are miked in this one and the DVD contains the option of widescreen or normal format - I don't think I've seen that before on other DVDs.
I am glad I bought this one - it's quick and fun. A good add on for lazy days.