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Strut your funky stuff, sister!

December 21, 2012

12 Days of Fatmas

Disclaimer: no bloggers were seriously injured during the writing of this blog.

I’m about to post my second glowing review in two days. And for the record, I really don’t wax lyrical about every product that crosses my path. I just don’t see the point in spending time and effort writing about stuff I hate. So, for example, if you’re looking for a dance-y present for yourself or someone else, and you’re thinking of getting Zumba Fitness for Wii, don’t. It’s a pile of $@*! There you go — review done. No need to waste extra words on that one.

Instead, I want to talk to you about a new DVD offering from Ragen Chastain of Dances With Fat fame. As well as being an amazing fat activist and all-round superhero, Ragen is a championship dancer and choreographer, and has recently released a two-volume set of dance class DVDs called “Every Body Dance Now.”

See what she did there with the space? Dance. For. Every. Body. Each volume comprises three routines — one each for beginner, intermediate, and advanced dancers. I quickly learned that I am a beginner. But it really is all about fun. Everyone says that, but doesn’t mean it. Or at least, their definition of fun is clearly not the same as mine. But with Ragen, it really is. So here’s the lowdown.

  • Each dance is broken down in sections by Ragen, and when you’ve got the whole thing, there’s a run-through from beginning to end with music, featuring Ragen and CJ Legare. They’re not freakishly in sync, they have their own take on things, and it’s wonderful. As Ragen says quite early on, “Great dancers don’t make mistakes, they just dance variations.”
  • One thing that I really LOVE about her teaching style is that unlike many DVDs, where they start with the full-on bit (then say that if you can’t manage it, you can follow Josie over there who’s going to do the simple steps for you), Ragen starts with the simple stuff. If you’re happy with that, she adds in optional upgrades, but always makes clear that they are completely optional and you can work at whatever level you like. You feel a real sense of achievement if you do one of the more complicated options, and don’t feel like an unfit, spatially-challenged failure if you don’t.
  • She also says things like “Just wiggle here.” Everyone should wiggle more. It’s fun.
  • Wiggling is aided by some very sexy music, particularly the somewhat raunchy songs from Candye Kane, who I wasn’t familiar with before. I challenge anyone not to strut their stuff to this!
  • The choreography is fab. She turns really simple seeming steps into fabulous routines, and you can’t help just rocking that extra little bit of fattitude — an extra swing of the hips, a gratuitous head flick. How to make a woman with two left feet (me) feel like Ginger Rogers.
  • As you move up to the intermediate routines, the moves themselves don’t really get harder, but there are a lot more steps in much less time. At least it seemed that way. And the advanced routines were way beyond my limited capabilities. In fact, that’s my one gripe with this set. If you want to do more at your level, you have to put the other DVD in. It’d be good to have a beginner DVD, an intermediate one, and an advanced one. But it’s not the greatest hardship to switch them over.
  • On Volume 1, the pace starts out really manageable and builds up gradually. Ragen breaks down the steps really clearly so you can see how they’re done. The step turn that I’ve tried in many videos, and rarely managed not to trip over my feet, was so ridiculously easy when explained properly that I couldn’t believe I’d been struggling with it all these years (well, the two times each year I dig out a dance DVD and have a go). I can now step turn like a pro. In Volume 2, these basic moves (step turn, grapevine, etc.) are used again in the beginner routine but without the extra instruction. Also, to my mind, Volume 2 did seem a little faster paced, and a little more challenging. As you can buy the DVDs separately, I’d definitely suggest starting with Volume 1!
  • One of my other gripes was that the routines seemed very short — maybe five or ten minutes. There were no timings on the DVD and they weren’t showing up on my player either for some reason. It wasn’t until I actually timed the second DVD (an hour and a bit) that I realised they weren’t short at all. Time apparently does fly when you’re having fun!
  • What this instructional set isn’t: a super-slick, produced-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life LA gym bunny workout. There is nobody in spandex. In fact, it isn’t really designed as a workout as such. It’s a series of dance routines — you learn a dance just as if you attended one of her classes. Six of them, actually. It does what it says on the tin. You could make it into a workout by doing the “Dance Class” segments back to back, but again, they’re spaced out on the DVD and you’d have to skip past the actual teaching parts. If you’re looking for a hardcore workout that you could do regardless of your dancing ability, this probably isn’t it. But if you want to learn some moves and have fun actually dancing, look no further. Particularly if you like the idea of dancing, but your feet have not quite come to terms with your hoofing ambitions yet. This is a great way to get started, and there’s loads of scope for improvement. And as an added bonus, you’re helping to support the incredible work that Ragen does for the Size Acceptance community.

The DVDs cost $20 each, or $35 for the two. That includes shipping within the US and Canada, but sadly, not for the rest of us. You can get more information and order the DVDs here.

Don’t forget to order your Amazon gifts through our associate store!

Amazon Link

(This is where Angela’s official Fierce Fatties badge will go for contributing, once she’s officially a Fierce Fatty.)

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. LittleBigGirl permalink
    December 21, 2012 9:16 am

    As a fat Zumba instructor, I was sad (but not really surprised) that you weren’t impressed by their dance game. I wish the company would focus more on the fun of movement and not on the “burn fat and get toned abs” hooey. I love the dance but I hate the cultish weight loss aspect of it. 😦

    Of course, leave it to my idol Ragen to create an awesome dance video by fatties for fatties (and everybody else). 🙂

    • December 21, 2012 9:34 am

      Hi LittleBigGirl, Thanks for commenting. Have you tried the Wii Zumba game? It truly is awful, from production to choreography to cueing (none) to teaching the basics (not so’s you’d notice!). I’m a bit of a connoisseur of home fitness and dance DVDs, not being the kind of person who enjoys trying to move in sync with a group of much more coordinated people. And that one was APPALLING. I have tried zumba a couple of times IRL and it was fun, so yep, go out and take a class folks.

      On 21 December 2012 at 15:16 “Fierce, Freethinking Fatties”

  2. December 21, 2012 9:39 am

    Logistics question I’ve been meaning to ask about these DVDs: As dance routines, I imagine they require a fair bit of unobstructed physical space to do them in, yes? As in, more than the square footage of a yoga mat (which is about all I’ve got at home)?

    • December 21, 2012 10:21 am

      Hi Tori. Yes and no. They’re designed to be done in your living room, so you don’t need a lot of space. I was doing them in my home office, currently storage space for all of hubby’s junk because the in-laws will be visiting for xmas and we had to get it all out of the spare room! So tbh, I didn’t have much more room than the square footage of a yoga mat. Maybe two yoga mats. It means you will be taking smaller steps, which was fine for me as I learned the moves. It can be done – it depends how vigorous you want to get with your workout. Ang 🙂

      On 21 December 2012 at 15:39 “Fierce, Freethinking Fatties”

  3. The Real Cie permalink
    December 31, 2012 1:04 am

    Ragen is wonderful. It’s great that they include music from Candye Kane. She is a kind woman with a big heart who has been through a lot in her life and still gives back to the world at every opportunity.

    • December 31, 2012 5:48 am

      I hadn’t come across Candye Kane before but boy am I a convert – she’s amazing. I don’t know anything about her history. Going to have to go look it up now! 🙂

  4. January 31, 2013 11:22 am

    What are the best dance games for the Wii?

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