Thursday, September 24, 2009

Library Acquisitions

It seems as though homeschoolers can never have enough space on the bookshelves for all of the books and instructional DVDs they amass.

Not that our recent purchases have much to do with standard homeschool subjects. Unless you consider them under the heading of Phys Ed and/or physiology.

In other words, if you're not interested in those topics, this post will be crushingly boring.

FIrst up we ordered Zena Rommett's Floor Barre. I couldn't decide between Series II,which is for beginners/intermediate, and Series IV for the young dancer. By ordering from and using a gift card I talked myself into getting both. And I'm sort of glad I did.

Series II is for adults. It's a film of a class she is giving to several dancers.

Cons: The sound isn't that great -- sometimes she seems to be muttering. Sometimes the filming isn't so great -- I don't really want to focus on blue-leotard-guy's head, thank you, I'd rather see what his feet and legs are doing. No time is spent with close ups of corrections such as showing the precise placement of body parts (she verbally corrects and an assistant gently guides the student's body to the correct alignment). It's very long, and you can't skip through various bits to get to the specific exercises you're interested in. The pianist is incredibly distracting -- what's with the left hand flipping all over the place? -- the music and gestures remind me of Chico Marx.

But, my understanding when I purchased was that this DVD is actually a supplement to a live class -- in other words, it isn't meant to be a stand-alone product that will teach Rommett's floor barre methods to the general public. So I'm not too disappointed, since I feel like I'm getting a nice peek into her classroom.

Pros: It's really amazing stuff. If you really work at it you can feel your muscles developing. The pace of the exercises is very slow and controlled. Also, these are professional dancers taking the class, and some of them are flubbing up, so it's sort of heartening to see pros struggle.

After working with this DVD a few times we tried Series IV for young dancers. In this DVD Zena Rommett is working with a single young dancer. The sound is MUCH CLEARER, although her voice does start to fade out (perhaps she was tiring -- she looks rather old in these DVDs). The moves are different, and she emphasizes different things -- for example, for the young dancer she doesn't mention how to gradually point the toe as a deliberate action (although the student does it anyway). My biggest quibble is midway through the class Rommett decides to use a different approach so the student can do something or other better -- it's a moment when you realize that this is really a customized class for an individual rather than a follow-along DVD for home viewers.

Both DVDs end with barre exercises performed standing. My understanding is that floor barre is, indeed, to be done prior to a regular class so that your body can use it's new understanding of alignment in the vertical position.

Overall, I really like having 2 different DVDs because I notice different things in each one. Annabeth prefers the Series IV, while Thalia like Series II. We are all much better at understanding instructions to degage, coupe, passe/retire , extend our leg in attitude vs. grand battement, etc. etc.

Next up, since Annabeth had nearly hurt her ankle during drills at dance class, I decided that enough was enough (way too many kids are injuring ankles and feet), and purchased a used copy of Dancing Longer, Dancing Stronger, which has strengthening exercises that are helpful to prevent injuries. Side note: I ordered an inexpensive used copy that was listed as "Very Good Condition" and it arrived looking like a brand new copy; hurray for used books.

I read through it myself, then started figuring out the exercises. Many for ankle and foot strength are what we already have in The Perfect Pointe book. And many of the leg strengthening exercises are duplicated in Rommett's floor barre, although the book doesn't force one into the slow, deliberate pace that makes you work so hard (it also lacks Rommett's memorable way of saying "now point your foooooooot"). Fascinating how all of this stuff repeats, eh?

I've also recently pulled out a book I'd purchased months ago and never read: Progressive Plyometrics for Kids. Well, actually I'd read it and then set it aside. Now I've gotten it out, actually took the DVD out of the back and watched it, and started doing some of the stuff in it. The DVD is well done -- simple and to the point. The exercises are varied and fun. Annabeth and I did one session of Bronze Level so far, and it was like one of those gym classes from years and years ago, with the two of us zooming around the yard, jumping around, figuring out which exercises were easy and which were hard. I'll admit that the "fun" factor might be because it was just the 2 of us -- I was never really a huge fan of gym class, but maybe if I'd done it individually with an adult who focussed exclusively on me I would've felt differently.

Our other big purchase for the month was Lisa Howell's new Front Splits Fast book and DVD. I never, ever would've spent so much on an item I'd found on the internet EXCEPT THAT we have her Perfect Pointe book and know that she puts out high quality products. It arrived last week, and Thalia and I read through the book. We've popped in the DVD a couple of times, and, wow, I could watch this over and over just for the sheer geekiness of hearing her explain how the bones, muscles and fascia work together -- this stuff absolutely fascinates me. Also, I'll admit, it's fun to listen to Howell's accent.

Frankly, much of the information isn't new to me. I've read Eric Franklin's Conditioning for Dance, I've been doing yoga for years, etc. etc. But Lisa Howell has put it all together in a nice, neat, seemingly do-able package.

So far we've all done the pre-test (oddly, I was the most flexible in the 2 specific tests used, which were a seated forward bed and a leg raise -- I guess all of those mornings of yoga have accomplished something). We've learned to massage our necks. We've tried some new stretches. And Thalia decided that her kicks were a wee bit higher in dance class last night. But we're not even halfway through all of the instructions for all the stretches; we're somewhere in Step 3 of How to Use This Course page, and already noticing results. Woosh. I wonder if we'll get to the point that we can lift our feet over our heads? Stay tuned.


km said...

I hear there's a big feis in Irvine, CA soon. Are you planning on traveling to that one (and making it a Disneyland trip). I'm thinking I'll take 4 to see her friend compete at that one.

Lisa Howell said...

Hi there! Great to hear that you are going well with the program :) if you need anything cleared up, or have more questions feel free to drop me a line. I want this to become the norm in flexibility training! I wish I had access to it when I was as young as your daughter!

Kindest regards,
Lisa Howell

Anonymous said...

What a great resource!

Anonymous said...

Hi ! do you still use you Front split fast method? I would like to buy it from you. -it 's too much expensive for me..- thank you
Laetitia from Paris France