Friday, May 25, 2012


I've recently become even more aware of the fact that my opinion of an entire release, and the tracks within it, can change considerably over time.  This was absolutely the case with BA76.  My initial reaction, and what I've told people as a general synopsis is:  "You know how 75 was, in a word, fun?  76 is... dark."  I won't lie, the first time I watched the release, I wasn't thrilled.  To be fair, I went into this release with incredibly high expectations, as we had just come off BA75, which is, to date, my favorite release.  I knew this would be a challenge for me, but as I continued to learn the release and even as I practiced it, I wasn't looking forward to it.

However, one thing I've learned is that teaching a track or release is entirely different from simply seeing or participating in it.  Basically with BA76, the more I taught it, the more I liked it.  Although I loved 75 right from the start, I ended up liking 76 pretty well by the end of launch.  With each class, the energy got better, the vibe more challenging.  My guess is that this happens because classes are an organic experience.  The energy of the participants, instructor, music and moves all come together to create a vibe and an experience.  When any of those elements are missing or altered, the feeling changes.

As I stated above, the release has a very dark vibe musically.  There are lots of huge beats and club sounds, with most tracks musically feeling like they are in a minor key.  Only 4 songs are arguably "uplifting", and even at times this isn't the case.

The warmup is "San Francisco" which is a Cascada remix.  I like pretty much everything they do, and the song got better as launch went on.  Apparently Les Mills loved it, since offhand I know it was used in Pump and RPM this same quarter (not sure about the other programs).  The song does the job, and although it's not the exact feeling I hope for in a warmup, it's good enough.  Next we have "Mas" in mixed impact.  I appreciate the latin feel of the track, as this helps with themed parties, variety, etc.  With that said, this is probably my least favorite track of the release and was the first to be mixed out.  I found the repeated high pitched "muevelos" (which I renamed "wave it low" or "wave it high" according to the arms) extremely annoying.  I'll bring it back on occasion, but it won't be a regular on my playlist.

The aerobic track, "Notorious", is great!  Because the song is much more conducive to female instructing, I had more fun shadowing and singing along, and because I can sing to it, I find myself missing it now that launch is over.  Crowd response was pretty good here as well.  "Twilight Zone" (the plyo track) has an appropriate feel for the first peak.  Musically, it's a pretty boring/repetitive song.  The choreography makes up for it, and the song actually comes off really well once you see it.  I just wish the song was more dynamic.  In upper body we have "You Got The Love", which has a different feel from most of the upper body tracks.  The song is dialed back just a little, with more focus on the beat as opposed to the melody.  The main riff is what drives the work.  We pick back up with "Ridin Solo" in the running track, which grew on me with each class.  At first I thought the song was silly (especially with the chorey... see below), but again, I found myself missing it once we began mixing again.  I'll probably end up teaching it more than I initially thought I would, because of the song.

And then, we get to agility with "Badman Riddim".  This was my absolute favorite song of the release. It is unlike anything we have ever gotten in agility before, both musically and choreographically.  This track is largely instrumental, with spoken vocals, but I love it!  Those of you who know me know I hate most non-verbal tracks and avoid them like the plague.  The beat and rhythm of this song is funky, sexy and just really motivated me to try harder in this track, which is pretty challenging cardio-wise!  Moving on to intervals, we get "Angels", which I recognized from Combat.  I know a lot of Attackers didn't particularly love it, but I thought it was one of the better interval tracks of the 70s.  It's the most "uplifting" song in the release, which is appropriate for this track, but the song is, once again, borderline too-repetitive.  It's kind of on par with "Heaven Is A Place On Earth" from BA74 for repetition, but I happen to like this melody better, so it gets slightly higher marks in my book.

The final peak was "Don't Wanna Go Home", the second Jason Derulo song of the release.  We're back to the "club" feeling that we've gotten in most recent power tracks.  The participants love this particular track because there's plenty of room for them to interact.  My biggest complaint here is, once again, the repetition.  However, in this case it's particularly noticeable.  There were several times while learning the release when I would pause this song for a phone call or other interruption, and then go back to it.  I couldn't find where I was choreographically... that's how repetitive the song is.  More variety = better.  With that said, it's not a throw-away track.

If I look at this release with just the cardio blocks, I'm not that impressed or excited musically.  Yes there are a couple really good ones, but nothing else was memorable.  The release redeems itself with lower body conditioning ("Night Of Your Life" for legs, "Tonight Tonight" for abs) and the cooldown ("All That You Are").  I love all 3 songs and will teach them all pretty regularly, especially the cooldown.  The leg track really pushed me to try harder, with good musical highs and lows.  The ab track is super fun to sing to, and made me forget that I was hovering pretty much non-stop for 2 minutes.  And the cooldown?  I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm very picky about warmups and cooldowns.  I think they should do very specific things mentally and emotionally, and this one is fantastic... probably one of my new favorites.  It leaves a message which, when self-focused, drives the participants.  The melody itself leaves the class on an emotional high, but still calm and appropriate for a cooldown.  I loved it!

There are plenty of innovations and moves we haven't seen for a long time.  In the warmup, we get a new combo where we do 8 tap repeaters, followed by 8 knee repeaters, on the same leg.  We also get the return of the one step-one tap combo last seen in BA61's "Faith".  This move can be difficult for the participants, but I feel like it's a good change and a good challenge.  Otherwise, this warmup is straightforward.  (Interesting side-note:  My favorite part in the whole song is the 2-step following the one-step/tap combo.  I like the change from the first 2 rounds a lot, and think it's appropriate for the big beat).

I get the feeling that Lisa has been encouraged to inject a little Shbam/Zumba flavor into Attack, because with tracks like "Party Rock Anthem", "Dirtee Disco", and even the upcoming 77 mixed impact track, we are getting more dance-ish inspired moves.  This is a smart business decision, but I wish it was a bit more spread out.  In this mixed impact, we get wavey-dancy-arms (or "Wave it low... super low" as I queued it).  Those are fun enough, but the back half was a little too repetitive.  This is also the case in the aerobic track.  I really liked the superman square (apparently it's in one of the BA 30s or 40s releases too).  But I felt like it drug on too much.  The music in the track is virtually identical for the last minute of the song... there are 5 complete squares plus room for 32 jumping jacks.  I felt like an additional move in there would've broke it up a little better.

The plyo track is great because of the choreography.  The song is flat, and the moves make it 3D.  We get a 2-step-jump-run back combo that we've seen in BA51's "Jump".  After this, we get alternating 3 step runs and 3 step power runs (or 3-step skates as I call them).  The explosive power comes in squat jumps, which are then leveled up in round 3 with a mid-air leg split.  There are no plyometric lunges, which we haven't seen since BA64.  This was a nice change for variety, but the track is just as challenging as if there were lunges.  Mission accomplished!

Upper body, as usual, killed me.  With this we've got a tap-out, jump-out hover, and then plenty of single tricep pushes and bottom half single chest pushups.  Three identical rounds, which helps put the focus on strength.  No real surprises here, but there are plenty in the running track.  There's a new skip-knee move (think BA70 leg track, but add direction).  It's a fantastic leg workout, and a different feel for the running track.  I will admit, it makes me feel a tad silly, especially considering how tall I am.  In agility, tennis makes its debut.  I thought the step combo that progresses to the tennis move was perfectly executed.  We also have a new move called "Attackers-and-Defenders" which I absolutely love.  You basically run towards the center, jump and sink into a squat, and then fast feet back.  Add a few turning squat jumps, and repeat X2.  Brilliant innovation and matches the music perfectly!

The interval track has 3 different sets of moves which are repeated in the following sequence:  A,B,A,C,A,B,A,C,A,B,A.  The "A" sequence is 8 run-and-reaches with 8 kicks.  "B" is 8 single knees with a high punch and 8 kicks.  "C" is a jog on the spot, then single and double side flicks.  The 2nd and 3rd "B" sets have squares.  As you can tell, once again, repetition is the word, but this is usually the case with interval tracks.  Finally, in the power peak, we have 4-traveling knees to each side, which then progresses into a really cool 4-knee, 8-club jump back combo.  This is followed by drop squats, a bounce forward-jack combo, high knee runs forward and back, and a "Power combo" which is 4X8 jacks, 4X8 high knees, and 4X8 plyo lunges (did you really think you'd get an entire release without them?)  Finally, once again, an accelerating high knee sprint to finish... sigh.

The leg track includes plenty of innovation, with a combo of plie squats, and alternating front lunges, but done to the corners.  Cool, new, and effective.  The core track is a really nice change.  The first half is hovers, done first to the front, then on each side individually, then to the front again.  Finish with single crunches, and then pulse crunches with legs up.  A fun song plus a lack of leg extensions = happier Chad.  I actually can forget I'm working so hard in this track.

Finally, the cooldown.  Nothing fancy or overly complicated, which is perfect for me.  :)

There was a really large team involved this round.  We had Lisa, Amy, KC, Ivens, and then we had Kendall Kimball and a french guy who's name I don't remember (but whom several told me I look like) who shadowed.  Six attackers is rather large.  Most releases feature 3 or 4.

Lisa Osborne, as always, is phenomenal... and I can't help but comment on how great she looked.  Her outfit and hair were virtually identical to BA58 (but with the newer shirt), and she looks incredibly fit and healthy, and just glowed.  She taught the warmup, the running track, legs, and abs.  We got a little of each dimension, and a lot of great energy.  Next we have Amy Styles back in the house, who I always enjoy watching.  Lisa intentionally gave her  tracks 3,4,5 (aerobic,plyo,upper body) so we could see the change of coaching in each dimension.  I thought this was brilliant, and I always think Amy does great, although I feel like she's truly in her element in the sports dimension.  They seem to be a power duo, and I enjoy seeing them together.

Next we have KC from the UK, who I enjoyed watching teach agility and power.  I actually thought his presentation of agility was one of the best I've seen in a long time, and I tried to emulate some of what he does in my own classes.  He also taught the cooldown.  Ivens from Portugal delivered mixed impact and the interval track, and once again, I felt the language barrier served to be a disadvantage.  He tried to make up for it with fitness magic hips, but it was busted out too much.  The shadowers were a fun addition, but I felt gipped at not getting to hear Kendall.  She is fantastic and such a great lady, and a special shoutout to her twin Kerry who is also fantastically fun.  Kendall will be in Step soon (WITHOUT a hat!  But she gets to talk...) but I hope we get her back in Attack sooner rather than later!

Ultimately, BA76 is a grower.  There's lots of repetitive choreography, but the pairing of moves-to-music, in most of the tracks, is well chosen and provides for a simple (but extremely effective) release.

Thanks Lisa!!!