Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pre-"Idol" Paula Abdul: an homage

It's hard to remember, but there was a time when Paula Abdul was a singing, dancing, cartoon cat-romancing dynamo. Not an incoherent but empathetic, sympathetic, pharmie-laden judge on a TV singing competition.

Yes, kids, at one time, Paula Abdul was up there with Miss Jackson in the badass babe department, except OH WAIT Paula was actually schooling Janet in sassy dance moves! "Control"? "Nasty Boys"? "What Have You Done For Me Lately"? All that iconic fierceness? All choreographed by Paula. (And executed with the necessary Janet-ness, no disrespect.) Brava! Here's some fun footage of these two grande dames at work in their prime:

Other remarkable items from Ms. Abdul's resume: 
  • After becoming choreographer for the LA Laker Girls, she was tapped by The Jacksons to choreograph a video for their grasping-at-shadows-of-Michael single "Torture." Girlfriend was barely drinking age! And telling The Jacksons how to dance?! Sass.
  • You know that giant keyboard scene in "Big," like the only part of "Big" that anyone ever remembers? Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia didn't just get those melodious twinkletoes all by theyselves. Paula was the mastermind.
  • Ok, this is weird, but remember this part in "American Beauty"? (I didn't until I found the clip; crazy that it's been 12 years since that movie came out.) Anyway, yes -- Paula, going back to her cheerleader roots.
After conquering the music video landscape of the '80s and early '90s, Paula released her first and very entertaining workout video, "Paula Abdul's Get Up and Dance!" In it, she and several entire "Rent" casts' worth of 20-something urbanite dancers get down in a big ol' warehouse. Though not long enough to be a solid workout, (technically 45 minutes, but there's some padding), it is probably the best primer on '90s dance moves you're likely to find without skimming C+C Music Factory and Technotronic videos -- which I have also done and heartily endorse.

She doesn't do too much to explain the moves, so you have to just hang in there and pause when necessary to practice on your own. I had this video in mild rotation several years ago, and I've since chucked it off my hard drive, but I remember that the first time I did it, I kept alternating between giggle fits and foot-stomping frustration. Like, hahaha the Running Man! but then WTF IT SHOULDN'T BE THIS HARD TO LEARN A VARIATION ON THE RUNNING MAN.

Sadly, the soundtrack doesn't help inspire you to keep going, as it doesn't feature any '90s jams, just muzak. And I never was able to get down with the cool-down, a super hokey group sing-along to "YMCA." Ick. But the real reward of this video is less about the video itself or weight-loss results and more learning the moves enough to bust them out next time you're at a throwback dance party. Imagine the looks of awe and envy! The freedom in your flailing body! Why, it could even be as magical as this:

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