DVD Review: Fitness with the Pros, with Alec Mazo and Edyta Sliwinska

With my mom coming to town for Christmas, I thought it would be fun to pick up some DVDs for “movie nights” while she was here. Browsing the shelf, I found
Prairie Home Companion – I grew up listening to the actual radio show with my mom many nights, but neither of us had seen the movie
Time Travelers Wife – I had read the book but never seen the movie; my mom had done neither but I thought she might like it
-Season 6 of Gilmore Girls – I was always the same age as Rory, and started watching this with my mom in high school. It was neat to progress at the same pace as Rory/Lorelei, and have their big moments match my own! We continued watch even when I was in college, calling each other after the show to discuss
Fitness with the Pros, with Alec Mazo & Edyta Sliwinska – which of these things is not like the other?

My mom and I went pretty far through the Gilmore Girls DVD, since it was easy to have it in the background while cooking our Christmas feast. However, we didn’t touch either of the first two, preferring to finally get to see Up in the Air. In the first ten minutes, I was eagerly pointing out all Ryan Bingham’s travel tips and saying “see, I told you so!”, referencing the times we’ve traveled together and she’s been more like Natalie while I teach her the way to get through travel quickly. I kept predicting what he would correct, and I was always right. So the feeling was, “OMG, this is my life!” Unfortunately, as the movie progressed, it became kind of depressing – more like, “OMG, this is my life! Uh oh…” :(

But I digress. I didn’t come on here to write about my woes of the loneliness of business travel; I wanted to write a quick review of Fitness With the Pros.

First, I should caveat by noting that I didn’t do the whole DVD. It’s broken out into three levels: low impact (for those who are new to dance), medium impact (a slightly more challenging workout at a faster pace than the low impact), and high impact (a challenging cardio workout for the fitness minded). While I originally planned to try high impact, I thought instead I’d try medium but skip the intro where you learned the steps. After all, I used to be a dancer; besides, I usually find DVD dance workouts to be terribly boring and basic.

Not in this case! There were more than a few occasions where I wished I had done the instructions. That said, it probably wasn’t so much a problem with my dance skills as it was the camerawork. Awful, just awful! I suppose you were supposed to learn the moves in the intro (and there was a handy dandy little “help” button that would pop up, theoretically allowing you to go to that learning step and resume play of the routine later, though I didn’t try that), but the camera would annoyingly switch to closeups of the dancers’ faces when they would do a new step for the first time – making it impossible to pick up until it finally zoomed out.

The three segments included were the Cha-Cha, which was pretty good; the Samba, which was terrible; and the Jive, which I loved. The Cha-Cha was like your average dance fitness DVD, and I was surprised to see that my heart rate got up a bit doing it. The third segment, the Jive, was pretty awesome because it involved lots of hopping/jumping and really got your heart rate pumping; plus, the moves were the easiest to pick up, and it was fun! It was the second segment that really killed the DVD for me.

The Samba segment was the most guilty of zooming in to the faces and not letting you see the dance. I have never understood this. I know that cameramen and directors want to be creative and not just keep the same wide-angle shot for everything, but really, in a dance DVD, I don’t need creativity – I need to be able to see the steps and follow along. Furthermore, it became clear in this segment that the music was somehow recorded separately from the video – there was a good five minutes in the middle of the segment where the music was totally off the steps, and it became really difficult to follow along when you had to dance off the beat (and not even at the same tempo) in order to be in sync with the dancers on screen. Really tough!

One nice thing about this DVD was that each segment was only 10 minutes long – so if you’re really pressed for time, you could do just one or two segments or do some in the morning and some at night. There was a little stretching routine included at the end of each segment, too, which provided a nice break and gives this a little bit of an interval feel instead of an all-out workout for 30 minutes.

However, another con came up in the stretching when I realized she didn’t have us stretch evenly. For example, while doing lunges, we started on the left leg and switched back and forth, but ended on the left leg too. We missed the right side! And at the very end of the DVD, while doing straddle splits, we stretched to the left but never went to the right. Fortunately, that one was the very last stretch, so I just continued stretching to the right on my own while the DVD ended.

I think I’d like to give the high impact workout a try, to see what I’m missing, but so far I’m not super impressed with this DVD. It falls prey to a lot of the common flaws of dance fitness DVDs, but some of them can be mitigated in the ways I suggested (i.e., learn the steps beforehand so you can do them even if you can’t watch or you can do them on your own when they’re out of sync, and add in your own stretches to cover what they miss).

Overall: 3.5 stars

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