Sunday, August 26, 2012

Review: Chair Aerobics for Everyone: Chair Bellydance

The cover of the Chair Aerobics for Everyone: Chair Bellydance dvd.  Has a long, curly haired woman sitting down on the cover with a coin scarf tied over her sports bra, coin scarf on hips, black pants, arms overhead. Text reads "restore energy, dance without impact, lose pounds and inches, tone back and arm muscles"
The cover of the Chair Bellydance dvd
I was given a copy of this video for review on my blog.  I've been looking around for commercially available seated dance videos, and this came up in a discussion I had with my friend Tracy over at A Foundation for Change.  I decided to ask the makers of the Chair Aerobics for Everyone series for a copy to review on this blog, so here we are!

The introduction states that this is a full body workout that requires a chair, a shawl or veil, and a cane or broomstick.  The instructor Ronit Amaya demonstrates a few quick movements, both upper & lower body.  She says that this video is good for a variety of folks wanting a workout, from people who cannot stand for a length of time to others that just want a different kind of challenge.

You're given the chance to select either a full workout or quick workout.  The full workout warmup shows the instructor perched on the edge of her seat and doing marches & step-touch movements with her legs (making this video potentially not as useful for folks who are paralyzed or need to be really careful with hip movements, like me).  She demonstrates pre-workout stretches as part of the warmup, which can be problematic for many folks.  With the body not fully warmed up, some people may be prone to injury.  If you're new to exercise, the warmup given may be sufficient if you are really gentle with the stretches.

After the warmup stretch, the next section focuses on the lower body.  She uses hip lifts, kicks out to the front, and leg circles in front of the chair.  Like I mentioned in the warmup, this section will probably need to be skipped if you have paralysis or lower body impairment.  For me personally, I could probably get by skipping the hip bumps and doing the rest of it.

The upper body section included some pretty arm patterns (the instructor didn't name them and I don't have a good name for them from my own dance experience), head circles, shoulder bumps (she calls them shimmies, but they're a slowed down 3/4 pattern), snake arms (she doesn't name them), torso circles, and an upper body undulation that she calls the snake (known more commonly as a camel in some dance communities).  For someone without dance experience, it may be difficult to pick up some of these movements as they aren't broken down for the viewer.  However, as a workout video, the purpose is to keep moving versus having precision.

The next section utilizes a cane.  She uses a medical cane for the instruction versus a dance cane (probably because the target demographic might have one easily accessible), but demonstrates several movements that are covered in the earlier upper body section.  These are movements that are many times seen in raks assaya (cane dance...the video is a friend of mine Xavier Shadowdancer performing a cane dance), so it's a nice addition to the video. 

A veil or scarf section is next.  Ronit uses a pretty small scarf for this section, presumably to show a prop that someone might have easily at hand (versus a full size veil).  She uses the same shoulder bumps from earlier, then combines some more traditional veil moves.  During most of these three sections (upper body, cane, & veil), the instructor is moving both her upper and lower body which as a dancer was a bit frustrating because she wasn't isolating her movements (great for keeping the "full body workout" theme going though).

The last section was a cool-down section that was very similar to the warmup.  I really was hoping for more stretching and less cardio work as this section really didn't do much to transition to a "not working out" state (although that may be more of a function of my pretty decent fitness level).  I was glad that she didn't advocate for any really deep stretches, something that can be potentially dangerous when done incorrectly (that's how I broke my vertebra actually).

Overall, this video would be best for folks that are new to fitness and have use of their lower extremities.  The video uses bellydance moves as a means to move one's body in a fun way, but really doesn't teach bellydance technique (something that bothered me as improper dance posture can contribute to injuries).  Thankfully the instructor didn't mention fat burning or weight loss often in the video, which was a nice change to traditional exercise dvds (although I wish it wasn't there at all).  There were some audio issues that made the music louder than the instructor at times, but since her verbal instructions weren't about specific technique it was still pretty easy to follow her by watching.

I don't think this video is going to be part of my personal dance/fitness repertoire, but I can see it being good for someone with a bit of dance experience that wants to get their body moving.  That being said, I would like to take a look at some of the company's other exercise dvds like Chair Salsa (which might have similar issues for my spine-related disability), Chair Tai Chi, and Chair Boxing.

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