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STRAIGHT OUTTA LOCKDOWN: ‘A STRONGER YOU’ RELEASES

by Sarah Shortt

q1 release
q1 release

THE CHALLENGE

"The biggest challenge – and also the biggest win – for the Q1.22 round was actually being able to complete it!" says Producer Ross Peebles. "New Zealand has been lucky to avoid a lot of the devastating effects of the Delta and Omicron variants so far – but the flipside is that New Zealand has also had some of the strictest lockdowns in the world. In the lead up to Q1.22 filming, New Zealand was again in a strict COVID-19 lockdown. With all but essential services closed for several months before filming, there was never any certainty that Q1.22 filming would be able to go ahead. We continued to change plans on a daily basis depending on what we thought might be possible by the time our filming dates came around. It was clear that Q1.22 filming would be like no other!

"There was no travel allowed in and out of Auckland, so all equipment, filming crew and Presenters had to be Auckland-based," continues Peebles. "This alone led to a lot of disappointed Presenters who would not be able to be part of this round. We also had to reduce the number of Presenters and crew to the absolute minimum, so as to decrease the risks around COVID. We scheduled every class to ensure Presenters came to location as little and as briefly as possible. This meant many Presenters filmed two – and sometimes three – classes in one day, so they didn’t have to attend filming more than once.

"Every single person involved in filming was viewed from the perspective – 'Is this person absolutely essential?'" - Ross Peebles, Producer

 

THE PRESENTERS

"We had to reduce team sizes to manage filming regulations because of COVID," says Creative Director Diana Archer Mills. "We had planned an epic filming with big teams and audience, but had to reduce this right down to safely and legally film. Differences in this type of socially-distanced filming include: everyone doing their own make-up; stylists can’t touch or hand out outfits/style – presenters have to ‘fix’ themselves; we have a safety team on set at all times to make sure no one gets too close; masks must be worn until Presenters are onstage – they could remove for filming, but they had to go straight back on when they left the stage.

"Rehearsal week was a mix of outdoor rehearsals, socially distanced, in-person, mask-on rehearsals, and Zoom sessions. Normally the week is a bit of a celebration: lots of people coming together, with constant camaraderie and shared meals with the whole group.

“Everyone was just coming out of our longest lockdown yet in Auckland, so it was very jarring for a lot of people to suddenly be filming and around other humans. All the Presenters handled it so well, and did such a brilliant job.”

 

THE MUSIC

“There were 170 tracks licensed or created for use on the Q1.22 Releases,” says Josh James, Head of Music Creation and Licensing. “Highlights include:

  • Gold Dust (Shy FX Re-Edit) featuring in BODYCOMBAT® 90 – it’s taken us a few rounds to locate the correct rights owner for this one.
  • Beggin’ – Måneskin of Eurovision 2021 fame. This is also on BODYCOMBAT® 90 and has had huge streaming numbers on all platforms.
  • And finally landing Mount Everest – Labrinth sequenced in both BODYBALANCE® 95 and LES MILLS TONE® 16. This track was used in HBO’s Euphoria, so we had to be patient before Sony finally gave us the green light."

 

"There was also amazing music coming from LMA's (Les Mills Artists)", adds Archer Mills. "I think there was at least one track in each program."

Finally, Erin Maw tells us she finally got one of her favourite tracks, Talamanca – BURNS, licensed for LES MILLS GRIT® Cardio!

"A music highlight was finally landing Mount Everest – Labrinth sequenced in both BODYBALANCE® 95 and LES MILLS TONE® 16. This track was used in HBO’s Euphoria, so we had to be patient before Sony finally gave us the green light." - Josh James, Head of Music Creation and Licensing

 

BODYATTACK® 115: LISA OSBORNE

Presenters: Lisa Osborne, Fran Torres

Hi BODYATTACKers!

I hope you will love this extra special Release that was created and filmed under New Zealand lockdown at the end of 2021. It was very strange to be unable to trial the choreography in my normal classes at the gym, but I found so much love and support with a special group of Instructors who joined me for virtual classes that were delivered from my basement!

From Ireland, to Australia, to the Netherlands, it was so great to still be able to feel the #bodyattacklove for the new Release, albeit through a screen. We even had some fancy dress classes to bring out the fun and the flavour (my family thought I was nuts)!

I’m not going to lie, 115 is challenging! I’ve focused on hyping up the high energy and athleticism, so bring your best motivational cues. Your legs will be on fire after the extended sets of lunges and squats in Track 4. Track 5 has heaps of push-ups to strengthen our upper body, combined with a single-leg hip extension to fire the glutes. Track 7 is inspired by boxing, and includes speed ball arms and jabs to fire the upper body. The song for Track 9, Ecuador, is an absolute classic.

My absolutely favourite moment of the Release is in the final block of Track 8 Interval, with a Jumping Jack Diamond Arm Combo. It’s totally magical, I love it!

Have an amazing time with this Release. Thank you for sharing the #bodyattacklove. You are the reason for our success. My love and energy to you all.

Lisa xx

 

BODYBALANCE® 95: JACKIE MILLS AND DIANA ARCHER MILLS

Presenters: Kylie Gates, Joash Fahitua

Hello you wonderful humans! All the way down here in somewhat sunny New Zealand, it feels like we have been separated physically for far too long now. We, like the rest of the group fitness department, cannot wait to get back out into the world and see you all once again!

When we made this Release, Auckland was back in lockdown. While feeling somewhat unnatural, we find choreographing over Zoom and through videos allows for more introspection and an even more thoughtful, balanced Release.

This Release, honestly, has some of our best music for quite some time. We both enjoy the fact we’ve brought back a bit of the Pop genre, but that it feels calm and 'chill', rather than being overpowering within the class structure – we hope you feel the same! As always, we want to hear what you think, and how we can improve this. This class is both an escape and a re-centring for us, and this is our hope for you: that the practice brings you back into yourself and out of your heads in this wild world.

Lots of love, Jackie and Diana

 

BODYCOMBAT® 90: DAN COHEN AND RACHAEL NEWSHAM

Presenters: Dan Cohen, Rachael Newsham, Vili Fifita

"BODYCOMBAT 90 is a window into what it’s like being in my world during lockdown," says Rachael Newsham. "It shows how I talked to myself, how I helped myself get through lockdown. I really brought my own personal journey out in my coaching. The internal dialogue was bursting out of me, and it couldn’t wait to get out because I’d had no means of offloading. It wasn’t intentional, it was just a really natural performance."

The team tells us that the music is ON FIRE this round! "In every Release, there’ll always be one or two moments where the movement and the music just really gel and they become the highlights," says Dan Cohen. "We really focused on leading with the music in BODYCOMBAT 90, and I think there’s a magic moment in every single track because the music is so diverse. Because we haven’t made the choreography too complex, that’s allowed the music to really jump out and “be the thing” about this Release.

"Track 7, Muay Thai, also reminds me of BODYCOMBAT 21, which was the first Release that Rach and I choreographed. It’s got a bass sound that we haven’t used in the program for a while, and so I think people are going to love it."

"The feel of the kung fu is definitely a standout," adds Vili Fifita. "There are some movement patterns that we haven’t seen for a while in BODYCOMBAT, and I know that they’ll enjoy the feel of this – because it takes a lot of concentration and focus when it comes to things like the positioning of the hands."

Learn more about BODYCOMBAT 90.

bc

 

BODYJAM® 99: GANDALF ARCHER MILLS

Presenters: Gandalf Archer Mills

An unbelievable BODYJAM® Release 99 coming in your ear holes right now like FIRE, FIRE, MORE FIRE!

Track 1 is a pure BODYJAM – hype, jumps and energy to lift the room – before Track 2 Love Line, which is just a stunning, happy, good-times vibe to strut around to with a smile in your studio.

Block 1 is HOUSE 2021, so turn up your bpm counters and the volume goes to max, with the sultry vocals of Burning Up, the global phenomenon of Pepas, more bangers and sick combos to Turn It Up, then the big-room horns of Horned Up, (I may have made this track for your enjoyment).

Then the sound of Circle Up to finish this block is something quite fresh – the energies, the drums, everything comes together for you to bounce around with full freedom. Hands in the air, I LOVE IT!

Chill your face with Whine And Go Down, hips and sass, before the second block starts off right with Trophies – the horns are huge and the beat slaps even harder.

Like, I don’t know what to tell you about Sorrow Tech, other than the good times are here, and, boy, are they fast and fierce. Then more drums for your heart with Stage Gone Bad – hypes, raps… man, I love this sound.

Ghost is bonkers, the hype and the sounds; Damn Right is stunning, the vocals and the bass, before what we are calling WAVE.

Akera is WAVE music. It’s going to lift you somewhere new; it’s going to smoosh your cardio into a delicious pancake of movement inhibition, which you get to smother in styles, and enjoy for eternity.

Of course, there is MORE FIRE because of BODYJAM 99.

G

 

BODYPUMP® 120: GLEN OSTERGAARD

Presenters: Glen Ostergaard, Kylie Gates, Ben Main

“I felt really fresh when it came to filming this Release,” says Glen Ostergaard. “Due to New Zealand’s lockdown I hadn’t been teaching any of my normal classes, and so I felt like an athlete coming fresh to an event – it was really great.”

So, what can you expect from BODYPUMP® 120? “I always like to mix up my training, and I’ve recently been focusing on some kettlebell training,” says Glen. “The kettlebell work has given me a renewed enthusiasm for lifting, and provided inspiration for different ways of training in BODYPUMP.”

The innovation in this Release is the new Wide Stance Deadrow, to generate more strength and stability for everyday activities. “This innovation provides two key benefits,” says Glen. “Changing the stance forces the body to adapt to a new stimulus – ensuring we continue to get results. It also generates deeper engagement of the hips and glutes – the powerhouse of the body.”

If you’ve noticed that the Core tracks have also been getting more comprehensive and challenging over the last couple of Releases, this is down to Glen’s recent completion of a Pilates course. “I want the core track to really supplement the rest of the BODYPUMP workout,” he says. “I see it as the auxiliary work to lifting, so I’m choosing exercises that will improve the body’s overall functionality. When we have good posture, a strong core and glutes, we can lift better in the bigger tracks earlier on: Squats, Chest and Back.”

bodypump

 

BODYSTEP® 126: MARK NU’U-STEELE

Presenters: Mark Nu’u-Steele, Lisa Osborne, Kaylah-Blayr Fitzsimons-Nu’u

"Working from home, in a small house with the family, was challenging," explains Mark Nu'u-Steele. "Creating and trialling choreography for BODYSTEP® 126 all happened outdoors at our home, as we have no indoor space here. So rainy days were a challenge! We’d often dry the outside deck area with towels, get started, then get rained on.

"My personal favourites in this Release are Track 4 Mortal Kombat and Track 7 Better In Colour. My Track 4s usually have a theme, so this new version of Mortal Kombat was a perfect fit for this Track. We chose base exercises and styled them to have a martial arts feel to match the music. We used imagery and scripted a bit of dialogue from the old school Mortal Kombat arcade game, to match the theme and have some fun with it!

"We came into this filming straight from a lengthy lockdown. It was the first-time seeing people ‘live’ and not on a Zoom call. So… it was great seeing people that I don’t live with!

"One of my ‘things’ while working from home is that my work environment needs to be in order and tidy before I can start working. That means floors vacuumed, dishes done, beds made… this also needs to be done before I film; but I didn’t clean the house this time, before filming. As a result, during the filming of the Warm-Up, I remember thinking 'the kitchen is a mess’, and made a stupid mistake in the choreography! Luckily that mistake was covered up in post-production, haha.

"We also filmed this Release with social distancing rules in place. No physical contact (apart from KB [Mark's daughter, Kaylah-Blayr Fitzsimons-Nu'u] and I, as we live in the same house). So we had to stay two metres away from Lisa [Osborne] throughout. You’ll notice that in the Athletic Circuit – we each ran on to our own step when we presented our portion of the Track."

 

LES MILLS GRIT® 39: CREATIVE TEAM

Presenters: Erin Maw, Ben Main, Bas Hollander, Tash Vincent

“GRIT 39 is the new GRIT 30,” says presenter Tash Vincent. “Remember how everyone was scared of the rep challenge in that Release? Well, GRIT 39 is gonna be the new one you want to run away from!”

So why is 39 so challenging? “It has 31 rounds of Tabata,” explains Tash. “We start with 18 rounds of Tabata, finish with 9 rounds in the last track, and then there are 4 rounds of Tabata in the Core Track. And between the Tabata you’ve got rep challenges and a Superset Kicker. It’s insane!”

For Tash, filming the Release posed an extra challenge as she had recently recovered from a knee injury: “I was feeling strong, my knee was good to go, but my cardio fitness had dropped a lot. When I was filming the last round of Tabata in Cardio I completely flatlined. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t even complete a single rep and Erin [Maw] had to take over my Track. I’ve never failed so much in GRIT before. That was a hard pill to swallow because I knew I could have done it before I was injured. It was a difficult thing to accept mentally, but I know I’m coming back stronger and more powerful – it’ll just take a little time to get my cardio fitness back up.”

In terms of the music, Tash tells us that Erin finally got her favourite house song into the release: Talamanca by Burns. “Erin’s been loving this song for a long time and the music team were finally able to license it for Cardio, so she’s super excited. It’s a really big heavy build, right when you need it.”

"When I was filming the last round of Tabata in Cardio I completely flatlined. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t even complete a single rep and Erin had to take over my track." – Tash Vincent

 

LES MILLS SPRINT® 26: GLEN OSTERGAARD

Presenters: Glen Ostergaard, Khiran Huston

The principal inspiration for SPRINT® 26 was long intervals of work, an idea inspired by fitness academic Dr Jinger Gottschall.

Gottschall explains: “SPRINT 26 is a template for how to maximise your intensity based upon sports science. The accelerated warm-up provides the optimal stimulus to prime the neuromuscular system with simple standing power efforts as we ramp up resistance and cadence. Immediately after, the ideal way to hit the high-performance zone is with longer intervals, and that is exactly the focus of power endurance.”

“Once you are in the high intensity range, the interval duration is reduced for short duration, maximal effort tabata,” continues Jinger. “Note: once this track is over, do not say ‘goodbye’, because it’s also the finisher. Between the two sets is mixed conditioning with varying positions, resistances, and cadences. There is no better way to activate each type of muscle fibre and motor unit. Do not hold back on any interval as you have the ability to switch focus and take each one to your limit!”

"The highlight of SPRINT 26 is Mixed Conditioning: 3 x 80-second blocks of Mixed Conditioning," adds Glen Ostergaard. "Consisting of Standing Power, Seated Power, Power Sprints and Strength, we have all the training variables in one intense effort. Three of these back-to-back, will improve our athletic performance."

 

RPM® 93: GLEN OSTERGAARD

Presenters: Glen Ostergaard

“Filming RPM® 93 was the highlight of the round for me,” says Glen Ostergaard. “It was the first time I’d filmed the whole Release solo, for a long time. It gave me the chance to teach the whole journey of the workout – expressing both the emotion of the workout as well as identifying where the physicality and the intensity lie.”

Glen explains that his focus over the last few Releases of RPM has been to create a journey of constant tension for the full 45-minute workout: “When you watch the Masterclass, you’ll see how I’ve focused on coaching the resistance in the workout. I’ve tried to be really clear as to what each part should feel like: Base resistance is light muscle pressure with a light connection to the bike; in Racing we should feel good muscle pressure; in Climb it’s heavy muscle pressure; and then strong pressure in Attack.”

“I’ve also used cues to explain the intensity,” continues Glen. “Base – used in the early part of the class – is light pressure with closed mouth breathing. When Climbing, it’s about open mouth breathing and it’s harder to talk. In Attack, it’s also open mouth breathing and talking stops.”

So, what does mastery in RPM look like to Glen? “When you can describe the resistance, the breathing and use the music well – tuning into the feels of the track – that’s the magic for me,” says Glen. “If you can get the flow of riding constant pressure, with the musicality and the coaching, that’s the sweet spot.”

“Filming RPM® 93 was the highlight of the round for me. It was the first time I’d filmed the whole Release solo for a long time. It gave me the chance to teach the whole journey of the workout – expressing both the emotion of the workout as well as identifying where the physicality and the intensity lie.” - Glen Ostergaard

 

THE VENUE

"Like many industries, the events and film/TV production industry in New Zealand has been massively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic," explains Peebles. "This has seen huge numbers of events cancelled over the last two years, as well as film and TV productions being postponed or cancelled entirely. The uncertainty within the industry has also created challenges for Les Mills’ ongoing production requirements – including Masterclass.

"One of our regular filming locations in Auckland – the ASB Showgrounds – went into liquidation just before we were scheduled to film Q4.21 Masterclass there, so we were faced with not having a filming location just weeks before the shoot. With a number of other trade shows, events and productions also suddenly without a location, we had to find an alternative at very short notice. In the end, we were able to secure the Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau City instead; but this is a venue we haven’t used before, and due to its completely different design and ‘look’, we also had to completely change the creative concept for this Masterclass round."

"One of our regular filming locations in Auckland – the ASB Showgrounds – went into liquidation just before we were scheduled to film Q4.21 Masterclass there and we were faced with not having a filming location just weeks before the shoot." – Ross Peebles

 

THE CREATIVE CONCEPT FOR MASTERCLASS

"The creative concept for Q1.22 was a further evolution of the design from Q4.21 filming" Peebles explains. "The Q4.21 creative was a new concept that was hastily developed after we were no longer able to film at our intended location – ASB Showgrounds.

"The Vodafone Event Centre is a multi-purpose venue that includes tiered stadium-style seating and a highly polished concrete floor. To create the space we need for filming, this tiered seating was retracted and folded up, but this in turn revealed the wooden underside of the seats and the concrete block walls around the perimeter of the venue.

"This created a situation where we needed to “accentuate the positive – eliminate the negative” and so we went about designing a set that did both! We designed an 8 x 8 metre overhead video screen – something we’ve wanted to do with Masterclass for some time; and an upside to this new venue is that the roof can support the significant weight a screen like this creates. Weighing in at over 3.5 tonnes, this screen was a significant engineering feat that could not have been done at the previous venue. This was one good thing to have come out of the otherwise bad situation of our previous location going into liquidation!

"With the overhead video screen taking shape, we then cleaned and polished the concrete floor. It was important to do this as any dirt, marks or imperfections would be very obvious – especially for floor-based programs like LES MILS CORE® and BODYBALANCE®.

"We then built and installed fake concrete wall panels to hide some of the least attractive parts of the existing walls around the perimeter of the venue. We then installed over 120 DMX-controlled LED floor lights to create a changeable background of light around the entire venue.

"As we had also made the decision not to have an audience at filming due to COVID restrictions, we also eliminated the need for a stage. As a result, we used more LED floor lights to delineate a stage or performance area on the floor instead. In many cases, we mimicked the video screen content of each program in the design of the floor lights. By quickly changing the pattern or layout of these floor lights between each program, we were also able to create a slightly different look and feel for each program.

"We also added Martin ‘Viper’ backlights behind the stage area that we could trim to various heights for different programs. These lights helped further differentiate the programs, creating different moods and atmospheres for each.

"The overall design for the Vodafone Event Centre shoot was pulled together extremely quickly due to the late-notice change of venue. It’s said that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and this was definitely the case for Q4.21 and Q1.22. The result however, is a very clean, contemporary look for the entire round. The massive overhead video screen was the dominant feature of the design, the addition of other flexible and adaptable lighting also created a lot of variety between the different classes that make up the Masterclass round."