2005, $1.99, at Goodwill Superstore on San Fernando

First Impression: I will learn a hyped-up blend of hip-hop, cheer, tumbling, and step.

Second Impression: And I will also learn how to rock a slightly askew visor and one superfluous sweat guard.

This DVD begins with a commercial for the program you are currently watching. An excitable narrator yells, “all moves are age appropriate!” The coach then asks me to decide, and decide now, am I ready to take it to the next level? Oooh, intense.

Both urban cheers on this DVD follow the same instructional pattern. First the routine plays, using the “exciting MTV–style editing” called out on the cover. Then the host teaches the moves so quickly, it’s like a race against time. Most tutorials involve progressively reviewing what you’re already learned, in order to cement the choreography in your head. Not so much with this one; I guess they thought kids would get bored. Then they show the entire dance from behind. And then you’re done. It’s not much of a workout.

The second routine doesn’t play automatically. You have to hunt for it in the DVD menu and select the demonstration, tutorial, or rear view individually. The menu is also where I discover that the routines are labeled “972” and “214,” which are area codes in the Dallas, Texas area. Naming a dance after an area code is so urban.

The “bonus feature” 20-minute behind-the-scenes documentary is fascinatingly dull. There’s footage of crew members draping duvateen around lights, makeup artists pawing through an assortment of brushes, and talent eating bagels. The dancers sit on couches with their legs tucked up underneath them, looking completely disinterested, because they are normal teenagers. This humdrum footage is intercut with cheerleaders saying in their soft little voices, “Hi, my name’s Samantha, I’m 15 and from Galveston, Texas.” They seem so sweet and girlish, compared to the urban cheer attitude they project while performing the routines.

There were at least eight other copies of this DVD at the thrift store, and the website listed on the cover no longer functions. I’ll bet if I went to the studio where this was filmed, a mysterious old crone would say, “No one’s made an urban cheer video in the last thirty years!” And then she would disappear, cackling, in a puff of smoke.


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