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'Step Up Revolution' fitness DVD review: EW feels the 'Hip-Hop Cardio Burn'

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As a trained dancer — and also someone who is still ashamed she struggled with Darrin’s Dance Grooves — I know how hard it is to find a good dance-themed fitness DVD. There’s something inexplicably disorienting about the instructors facing you while they teach… maybe because everything starts to the left. Still, as a passionate fan of the Step Up series, I had high hopes for Step Up Revolution Hip-Hop Cardio Burn (out today). And so I boldly committed my night, or at least 70 minutes of it, to learning the moves that rocked Miami in the 2012 film. Hip swivels, minor injuries, and Channing Tatum lookalikes ensued. Read on…

Following in the pops, locks, and steps of last year’s Step Up Revolution Dance Workout, vet Micki Duran returned for a second rotation, joined by fellow dancer Misha Gabriel (pictured above). Each segment teaches the routines in about 18-20 minutes, though I wouldn’t suggest going by the order the DVD lays out. I didn’t — because I’m a real rebel, just a Revolution demands — and I was happier for it.

First on the menu, in fact, is an all-guys routine called Hip-Hop Hard Core that’s taught by Gabriel — who is officially my new crush, if only because he appeared in Center Stage: Turn It Up. Hard Core seems simple at first but gets much more challenging as it goes along. It’s aptly named, for sure, but it might be a little overwhelming for newbies to try to master the stylized elements and complex arm movements on a first pass. To quote my colleague, whose name I will protect and who tried out the DVD separately: “There is no way I would even attempt Hard Core.”

Instead, I’d suggest beginning with the ladies-only Hip-Hop Latin Burn. Helped along by Duran’s spicy commentary, it’s ideal for the kind of lady — or fellow — who’s been to a couple (dozen) Zumba classes. And I am that lady. That said, since I’d seen a routine featuring the whole group of dancers before the Latin portion of the DVD, I’ll admit I found myself missing the ingeniously cast Channing Tatum doppelgänger Noah Valinsky (who has a very colorful Twitter, I have since learned!)… but if you start here first, you’ll never know the difference!

After that, the best bet is the Hip-Hop Cardio Challenge, where the guys and girls unite. This is actually the routine I started with, and I was sweating within in 10 minutes. Between an African-style dance move and a deep lunge, I was also feeling my quads. In case I haven’t made it clear, this is not a krump-and-dump DVD. It’s no shame if you need several workouts to learn the routines fully.

The only problem with that? You might get bored. The music behind the instructors is oddly quiet and super-generic, so it’s hard to get in that club vibe that the Step Up films create so well. Only once the entire routine is finished do you get the “featured” music for the routine — which is not an actual track from the Step Up Revolution soundtrack, mind you. The musicality in the choreography is definitely there when all the pieces come together (especially on Hard Core), but it was a little frustrating to learn I was dancing to a different song after all that choreo with the first.

On the flip side, the DVD’s best feature might be its “Class Angle” customization. Filming the routine behind the instructors and dancers, it simulates being in the back of an actual dance class. I only wish you could get the entire routine experience, including the half-speed instruction, from that angle. On the upside, it is useful after you’ve learned the routines to be able to go straight to the action.

After grabbing a glass of water, I moved on from the Cardio Challenge to the Hip-Hop Flash Mob, which was definitely the most fun of the four routines. It was also where I learned an important lesson: Don’t attempt to Step Up without ample space and/or before dispatching of any area rugs that might slip underfoot. Somewhere between flirting with a faceplant and hearing a distinctive “POP!” sound coming from my ankle colliding with my couch, I decided it was time to slow down. Apparently I am not ready for Revolution, or another go at the Hard Core routine, just yet.

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