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Tai chi with a touch of rock

FITNESS | REVIEW

February 19, 2007|Janet Cromley | Times Staff Writer

Teaming Master Ren Guang-Yi with friend and disciple Lou Reed on the exercise DVD "Chen Taijiquan" would seem like an inspired idea -- injecting a hefty dose of iconoclastic star power into the standard-formula exercise tape.

But for those expecting to see Reed do Taijiquan, forget it. And for those hoping to hear a cutting-edge Reed soundtrack, forget it. And finally, for beginners eagerly awaiting a by-the-numbers walk-through of Master Ren's style of Taijiquan in workouts of varying lengths, double forget it.

Filmed in New York's Central Park, "Chen Taijiquan" features Master Ren demonstrating the Chen style -- one of five styles of tai chi -- almost seamlessly, accompanied by Reed's minimalist score. In fact, Master Ren performs the entire 75-movement form -- Lao Jia Yi Lu -- and the 49 postures of "Straight Sword" form, one of several weapons forms -- without a break.

"Chen Taijiquan" also includes a 2,000-image black-and-white slide show by photographer Martin von Haselberg, illustrating the postures in incremental detail.

Although beautiful to look at, this teaching method isn't particularly helpful for those hoping to see the movements broken down into segmented, real-time sequences, in order to follow along.

Nevertheless, advanced practitioners wishing to build on what they know might find the prolonged demonstrations and slide show illustrative.

But anyone expecting a big dose of Reed will be in for a disappointment. The enigmatic rock icon appears only briefly, and the background music is a repetitive electronic soundtrack.

Although the viewer has the option of choosing between two modes -- "centering" or "energy" music -- the overall effect of the music is disappointing, considering the tantalizing possibilities.

For advanced tai chi practitioners and hard-core Reed fans, this might be worth taking a look. For the uninitiated, best to keep on walking.

janet.cromley@latimes.com

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