Saturday, November 19, 2011

The DIY '90s dance workout

So when I said that Paula Abdul's "Get Up and Dance!" video is the best primer of '90s dance moves you're likely to find outside of period music videos, I was onto something. Because for all the stompy footwork in that offering, it really can't touch the wellspring of workout-able moves found on your friendly neighborhood '90s YouTube playlist.

My dance team in real life (Star-Steppin' Cosmonaughties, what!) has been working on a routine to Technotronic's "Move This," so I turned to Paula for support. I picked up a few potential moves from her workout video -- and delighted in watching her shout "JUST SIT ON IT!" with a chair-position-y move -- but I quickly realized I should be tapping her music video choreography output. It started with Janet's "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" and snowballed from there.

May I present a rough template for a DIY/YouTube '90s dance workout. The possibilities are endless. All these videos resist embedding in blog platforms, so just click to watch in YouTube. Take it away, Janet!

THE VIDEO: "What Have You Done For Me Lately?"

HOW TO WORK IT OUT: Janet, deep down, knows her man's a scrub, but she's holding onto some of that denial, trying to keep it all under wraps. Her shoulders are the key to her simmering resentment. They say, "I'm tryna give you another chance, but I'm bout this close to dumping your ass right here in public and then getting a cheeseburger and whiskey rocks to go."

Focus on shoulder isolations with this one. Start by rolling them forward and backward a few times to warm them up, then start raising them both straight up and dropping them down every 4 beats, or up for 2, down for 2 (slow), then every two beats (medium: up 1, down 1), then every beat (fast). Then just follow along with whatever her shoulders are doing in the video -- alternating up/down, popping both up/down -- and adding a step with it if you like. You can find more isolation exercises in this video.

THE VIDEO: "Good Vibrations"

HOW TO WORK IT OUT: This is the high-bpm portion of your workout. Remember when Carlton started taking amphetamines on "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and was found maniacally hoofing his way toward a Jessie Spano-style breakdown at the prom? That's what dancing to "Good Vibrations" is like. It's the essence of that '90s super-fast, macho, PUMPIN IT UP!!! vibe.

There are sooooooo many moves in this video, many of which I'm still trying to figure out. But a lot of them are just variations on -- is there a name for it I don't know about? -- an X-shaped dribble-hop. (Like my taxology there?) Start out slow and jump, landing with your legs wide in a diagonal position; jump again and land feet together, center; jump, land legs wide in the opposite diagonal; jump, land feet together center. Like you're tracing an X with the pattern of your jumps.

Keep doing that and gradually speed it up, trying to get to where you can do it with Marky Mark's dancers. Then feel like you're going to trip over yourself or pass out, take a short breather, and start again, going slow and speeding up once more. Do it for 5-10 minutes, trying to follow the different variations and arm movements in the video, and you will be panting.

THE VIDEO: "This Is How We Do It"

HOW TO WORK IT OUT: This song is awesome for practicing your party-perfect step-slides. Refer to 0:28-0:29 for a general idea. You're just stepping right, sliding your left leg to meet ya, and then reverse. Get some bounce in it. The video also has some great stationary moves -- easy enough to do while tanked! -- done with your legs spread and knees bent in a loose horse stance. You can swoop your torso right, left, right, left as seen in 1:27-1:28, or you can just stay there and rock, pulsing your arms down (1:38-1:40).

If all else fails, just keep playing music and dancing around your living room. DON'T STOP IF YOU START FEELING STUPID. I've done this so many times, y'all, and it's so much lamer than occasionally looking lame while you work on your moves. If you get stuck or frustrated, get a drink of water and then go back to something easier. Set a timer so that you keep moving until you've worked out a decent amount.

Go forth and kick it.

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