Monday, January 9, 2012

Tracy Anderson's no-fun middle school sleepover workout

VIDEO: "Tracy Anderson Beginner Dance Cardio" (Bubi and Babe Exercise Inc., 2010)
STYLE: Dance aerobics
STRUCTURE: Intro; short warm-up; four routines in 10- to 15-minute sections; cool-down
GIST: The routines themselves are pretty good, but they're undermined in so many dazzling ways, from chintzy production values to Tracy's own blandness, that all I can only summarize thusly: It sucks.

Remember in 6th grade, when you and your friends would have sleepovers and eat pizza and bake brownies and watch Romeo + Juliet for the 46th time, and at some point someone would be like, "OMG guys, let's make up a dance and record it like a real music video!" And you'd put on Ace of Base or the Now and Then soundtrack and get maybe 16 counts down before the whole thing dissolved into hastily-flung criticisms, arguments and tears?

Well, if a) y'all had actually finished the video, and b) you'd shot it in a Pilates studio with someone's overconfident boyfriend operating the camera, it would look more or less like "Tracy Anderson Beginner Dance Cardio."

This is for a British version of the U.S. videos, but it's the same footage. 
The fact that this title is currently out of print in the U.S. yet only 2 years old is telling.

This video could have been good, but it's not. As a trainer to GOOPy Gwyneth Paltrow, shimmying Shakira and ever-calcifying Madonna, Tracy Anderson had some serious blonde buzz behind her with  this video. (Both Gwynny and Shakira talk sugar about her on the video jacket.) But apparently that wasn't enough to get Anderson a decent production budget, because it's put together with as much craftsmanship as my Stay Awake-fueled PowerPoint presentations from freshman year of college. Specifically, I'm talkin bout:
  • Awkward angles and cuts; spazzy zooming in/out
  • An inability to play the video all the way through without it reverting back to the menu after each section, which could be infuriating if you actually wanted to do this video over and over
  • Jumping between a live soundtrack and overdubbed music, which can result in the performers being completely off the beat
  • The set's not even a set. It's some room somewhere that they got permission to use for 2 hours.  Come on, now.
  • What is that thing in the corner of the studio? I got bored when trying this video out, so I started to focus on what it could be -- heat vent on wheels? one quarter of a baby crib? rack of unknown purpose?

That's just the technical stuff. Want more complaints? I got em!
  • Tracy instructs the first routine, and each of her three backup girls instruct the remaining three, which is a nice idea in theory but sort of not what you want in a fitness instructor? Who's in charge here? Why are she and her friends having egalitarian fit club time and expecting me to just go along like the lame follower of the group? There are rules to fitness video presenters: You can be an enlightened monarch; you can be the eager-but-wisecracking pupil under a trainer of your own; but you can't be the Queen Bee in some clique of "master trainers." You can't have four different presenters. CHAOS, I TELL YOU. Also...
  • Tracy's boring. She just is. Maybe I'm biased because of how EFFing seriously she's taking herself on the DVD jacket. She's trying reeeeeeally hard to nail the Hollywood Sexpot thing, with the blond wavy extensions and pancake makeup and wet-wet pout, but she's got this expression that says, "I hate myself inside and so should you." Not encouraging! In the video she's not so bad, just kinda boring, but we don't get to hear from her much because of the rotating presenter thing as well as... 
  • There is no instruction to the warm-up, either overdubbed or presented live. Wha happened?
  • The routines could be OK, but they have two fatal flaws: 1) Each presenter instructs them without any music at all; it's only when they do the whole thing through a few times that it kicks in. This is baffling to me, because no one at home wants to put up with the silence of that sad, sad studio. It can be hard enough to block out distractions and negative self-talk when exercising; having no music for minutes on end practically invites you to talk yourself out of doing it. What's more, 2) The routines recycle almost all the same moves. Why go through the soundtrack-less instruction if, by routine 4, you're just rearranging moves we already know? Why sacrifice precious, BPM-driven, determination-fueling momentum?
I think this video was one of Tracy's first, and I see that she has a bunch more recent YouTube-specific, UK and U.S. titles, so she must be doing something right. If I come into one of her newer videos I'll check it out forthwith and give her another shake. This video, though...iz no good.

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