Monday, May 3, 2010

Ballet DVD Review: Ballet Class Intermediate and Advanced with David Howard

Ballet DVD Review: Will Ballet Class with David Howard Help you Shape Up?

I’m always on the search for the perfect ballet DVD. I have dance training but am by no means advanced or expert. Also, it has been a long time so when I’m searching for ballet DVDs, I’m looking for something that I can do now but that I can work with and will challenge me long term too. If you are looking for a good ballet DVD to sculpt your muscles and get a dancer’s body, read on to see if this one might work for you.

In summary,  Ballet Class: Intermediate & Advanced is one that I first tried on netflix and then purchased it because I felt like it was the closest thing to taking a real class that I’d found.

The DVD is taught in a traditional class setting by renowned ballet master and soloist David Howard. The music is classical piano like you’d find in a normal ballet class. I personally don’t like when I do a ballet DVD and the music isn’t classical but instead a new age or electronic music.

Mr. Howard teaches the class to a small class of students featuring a couple of former American Ballet Theatre dancers. These are real dancers going through a REAL ballet class. It’s great because as he is correcting body placement on the dancers, you are made aware of these adjustments and can make them yourself.

The class starts just as most ballet classes do, at the barre with plies and goes on through tendus and the rest of the exercises ballet dancers typically do ending with grande battements and a stretch at the barre to condition muscles and practice technique for the center work.
I found some of the barre exercises complicated but not so complicated or so fast that I couldn’t follow along somewhat at the beginning and as I learned them – I found them to be easy to follow but a very good workout allowing me to focus on more lift, better placement and extension.

I wouldn’t recommend this to individuals with no former ballet training as Mr. Howard does not teach the basic positions or exercises. Just like in an intermediate class, you are expected to know the basic terminology. It wouldn’t be a worthwhile workout if you are simply following along without some knowledge of how the movements work, placement and which muscles are working.

Following the barre, Mr. Howard leads the class in an adagio. Again, if you are a beginner, this may be challenging. However, it is very similar to an adagio one would find in an advanced beginner ballet class.

Mr. Howard leads the class (and you) in some center work including some turning work, some combinations and a series of jumps that I found made my heart rate soar. I found a couple of the faster combinations with jumps took me some time to get. It’s great because you can go back on the DVD to the beginning of the combination in most cases making it easy to re-watch and study the movements that are challenging.

Like any ballet class, you can really go at your own pace and modify the movements to your skill level. I found myself sweating during the workout, especially during the barre work, and during the jump series at the end of the workout. More advanced dancers will probably find the class easier but can make modifications to make it more difficult for their needs.
I noticed as I learned the exercises after a few times of doing the ballet class DVD, I actually was working harder as I was able to focus on extension, body placement and on really pushing myself.

The negatives I find with this ballet DVD are these:

  • It is very dated – the style, the clothing, the color and quality of the DVD – it’s not sleek and modern
  • Floor space – for the barre portion – you may use a small area and a chair or counter top but for the center work, a bit more of an open space is needed. 8 x 8 would be the minimum that I think would be comfortable for the center floor combinations and a large room would be ideal as Mr. Howard does lead the class in some “virtuoso” leaping movements across the floor. You can of course make modifications to suit the amount of space you have.
  • I also wish that there were updated webisodes to supplement the center work to mix it up as it would be fun to do some different combinations after a while.
However, for me – the “Ballet Class Intermediate & Advanced with David Howard” DVD had far more pros than cons. I also liked David Howard as an instructor. You could try the ballet class for beginners if you haven't had much ballet experience. He's obviously a renowned dancer and knows what he is talking about - the dancers have beautiful, slim bodies and he encouraged me to push myself and be aware of small changes I could make to improve the exercises.

The Ballet Class DVD started with into and then went into the following barrework:
1. Plies
2. Tendu from First position
3. Tendu from Fifth position
4. Degage
5. Rond de jambe
6. Frappe
7. Fondue
8. Rond de jambe en l'air
9. Stretching
10. Grand Battement
After this, Howard has one of his dancers shoe you how to properly put on pointe shoes before going to the center work.
11. Adagio
12. Releve and Developpe
13. Pirouette en dehors
14. Pirouette en dedans
15. Allegro combination - mostly jumps
16. Allegro combination 2
Then the dancers demonstrate what they call virtuoso variations where they are doing leaps or other exercise across the floor- if you have the space, you could do these, otherwise you can skip them
17. Grand Battements at the center
The combinations are not terribly complicated which I found good as it allows you to focus more on technique and placement. Another benefit is that each combination is separated by chapter so you can skip or replay them easily as desired.

If you do it daily, you will see changes in your body. It’s a great way to get a long, lean, dancer physique by doing actual moves that dancers do in a ballet class. To lose weight, it would be necessary to add in diet modifications but you will still see changes in tone, and the fit of your clothes by just doing the ballet DVD alone over time.

Which ballet DVDs have you tried and liked? I’m always looking for new ballet DVDs to try. David Howard also has a "Ballet Class for Beginners" which I have not tried. Let me know if you have tried it and if you saw results. I had also tried the NYC Ballet Workout DVD which I didn't love along with the Elements ballet DVD which I review in another post. I have recently tried the Ballet Bootcamp DVD taught by Jessica Sherwood. I liked some sections of the ballet boot camp DVD and disliked others. It didn't feel like a true class overall. However, the choreography for the center work in the end of the DVD is great and I have actually added that and a few other sections of Ballet Boot Camp with Jessica Sherwood to my home ballet class routine. I have not yet tried Ballet Boot Camp 2 so I can't give a review on that one yet. Now that I have been doing the Ballet Class Intermediate and Advanced with David Howard for a while, I am looking for another similar format ballet class to alternate with it so that I'm not doing the exact same class every day.

We would love to hear your ballet DVD reviews in the comments!

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