Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What A Feeling! Freedanse and Flashdance

VIDEO: Freedanse, free on YouTube
STYLE: Dance aerobics and conditioning
INTENSITY: Light to moderate/high
STRUCTURE: Warm-up (8 min.), Pilates-style conditioning (17 min.), dance aerobics (20 min.), cooldown (6 min.)
GIST: Height of '80s aerobics earnestness, with an appealing Euro twist. Takes a minute to get going, but a quality sweat sesh overall. Beginner friendly, but those with choreography pickup and Pilates skills will have an easier time.


Yes, nostalgia junkies of the internet, there it is: that ass belongs to Marine Jahan, the French dancer best known for bringing the flash to the famously overrated Flashdance (1983). Nobody cares about the lame love story that takes up the bulk of the movie; they remember, in reverse order, 1) Jennifer Beals in a welding mask and 2) the dance sequences—training SOHARD to "Maniac," the one with the water dumped on her, and wowing the snooty judges at the big audition. That was Marine! She crushed it, made the movie, yet never got a film credit for her work. (I found several other sources confirming this, my favorite being the Marine Jahan entry in this self-published reference guide, "The Jennifer Beals Handbook: Everything You Need to Know About Jennifer Beals.")

Freedanse (1984) was Marine's shot at marrying the film's success with the burgeoning aerobics craze to make a hit of her own. With her hairspray-encrusted Julie Andrews 'do and a game troupe donning the height of hi-cut activewear, Marine brings a loose ease and a hint of European sophistication to the proceedings. Note the French-style spelling of "danse" in the title—mais bien sur

Before we get started, though, Marine needs to take some slow-motion time in the spotlight, serving up at long last her byline, along with some danspiration, the theme song ("All your dreams will come true with Freedanse!"), and a good look at her leotard's crotch strip.

It goes on for a while. Then we get to the actual workout, and we're ready to go, like ready freddy doing the freddy ready—and she starts with head rolls. Which, ok, yeah I've been to dance classes that start straightaway with stretches, but lady, you're in the world of workout videos. That means cardio warm-up. In class, you get by on the threat of public shame; you don't stop just because your stiff head rolls are like a busted rake across your shoulders. At home, you need a smewwwth transition past the "I am but a tatty jumble of nerves and fat" stage. Don't make me wait for those step-touches, Marine.

So we're stretching . . . 

. . . reaching . . . 

. . . pulsing our pubes, together.

I like these downward-dog relev├ęs; she does them neutral, turned in, and turned out. The calves appreciate the thoroughness. 

There's a decent amount of floor work, much of it in the Pilates vein. Lots of butt clenching. The music goes from generic keyboard groove to aggressively corny synth-harmonica. You have to either get on board with it or face sudden feelings of hostility and self-doubt. "Am I this music?" you'll ask yourself. "Do I look like how this sounds?" You probably do, but that's ok.

The cardio section begins pretty innocently, with simple step-touches and arm raises, but quickly gets you panting with a long, high-kneed pony section. And she's very precise, Marine. No grapevine or reaching palm is taken for granted. 

The harmonica funk returns, this time with lyrics about "going to the health spa, better than the corner bar," and you're doing this broken jumping jack spine roll thing, and if you stick with it you actually ascend to a higher level of human comedy, and that alone is an accomplishment.

It's usually by about this point in the video that I'm totally sold on it. All the conditioning exercises are just a long preamble to Marine's body beats dramatiques. The big finish is a series of step turns, which you're encouraged to jazz up into Freedansing ecstasy. Just look at this guy on the right:

Those are head rolls to make the angels sing. 

Once I finally did this video to completion, I looked forward to doing it again, and we enjoyed a fun week-long fling together. I haven't felt the desire to do it since, but it's totally decent and as authentic to '80s aerobics as you'll get outside of the Crystal Light National Aerobics Championships. Find yourself a dance belt, inhale hairspray in a brightly lit closet for a while, then give Freedanse a try.