I’m not ashamed to admit that I myself have been counting down to launch as a child on Christmas Eve. Now more than ever, I’m drunk on all things Barbie. My wardrobe is a sea of pink, and Aqua’s barbie girl It has become my summer anthem. The only thing I still have to do with Barbie is my exercise routine.
So what better time to delve into the archives and try out the early ’90s Barbie dance exercise? Mattel released the Dance! training with barbie in 1992, and although I never did it as a kid, my newfound enthusiasm for all things Barbie convinced me to give it a try.
The video begins with a grainy pink disclaimer: I’m about to participate in “a safe and enjoyable 25-minute routine of light dance aerobics intended for children ages 5 and up.” This should be a walk in the park, right?
The camera cuts to Barbie’s dressing room, where we find the doll sitting in front of her mirror. From the start, I am extremely jealous of her outfit – hot pink leggings paired with a black and white polka dot two-piece set and matching leg warmers! By comparison, I feel a little underdressed in my oversized nightshirt covered in coffee stains.
However, when Barbie turns to face me, I can tell that something about her feels a little…off. Her head jerks from side to side like a disjointed ventriloquist’s dummy, and her frozen, expressionless features look like they’ve been molded out of Play-Doh compound. This scrappy version of Barbie is a world away from the modern images we see today; the Barbie of yesteryear is, well, a little creepy.
Fortunately, this malfunctioning Barbie puppet hands over the reins to Kim, a real-life instructor. Kim is standing center stage in a studio that looks exactly how I envisioned the gym in Barbie’s Dreamhouse would look, surrounded by some much younger backup dancers. I suddenly feel like Jennifer Garner in 13 going to 30; I have a good 20 years over all the other participants on the screen.
Kim wastes no time launching straight into the warmup with some high leg marches on the spot. The movements at this stage are pretty basic: mostly I step from side to side, with some cheerleading-inspired arm movements. I look embarrassingly similar to how I dance at the club when the daisies haven’t kicked in yet. : Play it safe with an uncomfortable and predictable two-step. As far as warm-ups go, though, it’s pretty entertaining. My heart rate is rising and I’m winding down with some full-body stretches, all while getting pumped up by classic ’90s electro-pop.
This feels like a doddle… but I suddenly get out of my comfort zone when the actual training begins. Kim begins by showing us the first official move of this dance routine: The Barbie Basic. The camera cuts to Barbie, who explains that we’ll be leaning heavily on this move because she “allows you to catch your breath.” Now, maybe it’s just me and my lack of dancing skills, but I’ve found The Barbie Basic to be anything but. I became a blur of flailing limbs in the process of trying to figure it out.
This rocky start sets the tone for the next 10 minutes or so, which, to be honest, I spend in a state of utter chaos and confusion. Kim is a fiery ball of energy that puts even the most motivated SoulCycle instructors to shame. She whizzes through every move at the speed of light with limited explanation.
As each new sequence is introduced, I become disoriented, start sweating bullets, and repeatedly hit every piece of furniture within a fifteen-foot radius. There’s no two ways about it: This routine is much more technically complex than you might have imagined.
This routine is much more technically complex than you might have imagined.
I’m beginning to suspect that the girls behind Kim are professional dancers who have been practicing this standard Broadway choreography for months. (I find out later that one of them is none other than he Jennifer Love Hewitt!) Everyone is doing a fantastic job showing me off, that’s for sure.
I can clearly imagine my 10 year old self sobbing in frustration as I tried to master the intricate footwork behind The Attitude or The Bunny Flop. It’s easy to see how this training could quickly turn into tears and tantrums for the average tween—even I’m struggling to keep my cool.
However, after some hesitant babbling as each new sequence is introduced, I gradually get the hang of it. Once I’ve accepted that I need to rewind the tape a few times to learn a new move, I’m Hot Stepping and Street Tapping along with the rest of them in no time.
At the halfway point, I finally found my rhythm. I’ve thrown any trace of perfectionism out the window, and now I’m dancing with reckless abandon. I’m giving it my all, performing my favorite sequence so far: The running man (or rather, “The Jammin’ Jogger”). A wave of pure serotonin washes over me, as I begin to sing “Fashion Statement!” along with the music.
As someone who is normally afraid of cardio, I found this exercise to be a refreshing change from the usual. You break into a decent sweat without even realizing it because you’re too busy perfecting your moves and keeping up with Kim. The high-energy, nostalgic vibes are so palpable they practically emanate from the screen.
You break into a decent sweat without even realizing it because you’re too busy perfecting your moves and keeping up.
The workout closes with a freestyle section, at which point the girls on the screen break away from the formation with a series of flips, jumps and kicks. If the training had started with this, I would have turned off my TV right then and there. But now, with all inhibitions behind me, I have no problem matching Kim’s wild energy. I’m dancing like no one is watching, and it’s gloriously liberating.
I have to admit, the Dance! Train with Barbie It turned out to be quite an emotional roller coaster. It was much more physically (and mentally) exhausting than he expected, especially for a routine intended for “ages five and up.” But I guess it teaches kids, and adults like me, an important lesson: It’s okay to stumble and make mistakes, as long as you can give it your all and laugh at yourself along the way.