Technique Tenacity: First Stiletto Heels Class

Published on
May 18, 2015

The guts it takes to dance in high heels must weigh more than that of an elephant's and yet you can still look so light and poised as a flamingo. How is that possible one might ask? Practicing a technique that takes a ton of tenacity. And yes, there is an actual technique to dancing in heels. I think we've all been there at some point where you've seen a girl at a club who doesn't know how to actually dance in heels, looking like she is going to fall at any point and hurt herself. That's not tenaciousness that's just dangerous and unwise. How to distribute your weight properly, balance, core strength and support, proper body alignment, are all fundamental physical practices and aspects you study in a technique class. Things that the girl in the club could seriously benefit from. The power that comes from wearing heels is the power that comes from a strong physicality. Dancing in heels weak and vulnerable is not powerful nor cute and is actually unattractive. You'll look awkward and like a hot mess; it's a turn off. However, dancing in heels with a strong body and understanding of physical expression is so much more attractive and alluring; a sensuality occurs that has powerful presence and pulls the viewer in that comes from being in control of your body.

This is what I, as a professional dancer, have learned and practiced tirelessly for many years how to do; being in control of my body. I thought in the beginning of my high heeled journey that because of my experience as a dancer, walking in heels was so easy for me, so I assumed dancing in heels would be the same. I was definitely wrong. Yes dancing in high heels for fun like at a club or a house party was no struggle for me, like when I was cat woman for Halloween that you read about earlier, but actual training in high heels is a whole other level of control and technical understanding that I didn't have and needed to acquire. My ultimate goal is to perform in heels and create choreography in heels. To do this I need to learn once again how to be in control.

The first thing I realized was that the shoe makes all the difference. My black 5 inch Stilletto boots are much different than my 3.5 inch flared high heel Latin ballroom shoes. To get a better understanding of the differences I recently took a Stiletto Heels class by Mishay Petronelli at Broadway Dance Center that is geared towards learning specially how to dance in stiletto heels. The class began with a warm up consisting of core exercises, isolations and stretches that was done barefoot, preparing the body for choreography done in heels. After the warmup, we then put on our stilettos.

(Pic of class in stillettos. Me in the front center)

A couple of technical aspects Mishay stressed were the lines of the body, foot placement and fluidity through transitions. When making a pose or extending legs and arms, the line of the body should stretch completely through the the limbs to create dynamic energy in the shapes and also the movement. She mentioned that even in a closed toed shoe, your foot should still be actively pointing through the shoe as if you were barefoot so that the line is complete. As with foot placement, it was stressed over and over again the importance of keeping the weight over the big toe or inside edge of the shoe so that your feet are not sickled. "If you are standing in place your feet better be beveled!" Yes Miss Petronelli made sure each time our legs were together, even in a deep squat all the way down to the floor, that our ankles were squeezed together. It forced you to work on controlling your balance through your feet and ankles.

Here is the chorography she came up with that we did:

Beyond the technical pointers there was also attention brought to the importance of confidence and fluidity throughout the combination. She wanted each moment to be engaged, from hitting the dynamic lines with power to the fluid and nuanced transitions that required sensuality and ease. This encouraged the dancers to have what I felt as a more mature sense of their physical expression because rather than focusing on just being sensual or just emphasizing strong shapes, there was a connection of the use of both throughout the choreography that allowed each dancer to find multi-layers of body awareness and articulation in the movement.

I really liked the fact that most of the class (about 65-70%) was spent in stilettos working on the dance combination. This pushed the dancer to work hard and develop strength and endurance. Oh yes my legs and feet were sore after class but I wouldn't want it any other way! I left feeling not only like I completed a marathon because my legs were so tired but also that I was so in touch with my sensuality, I could go on stage and perform a burlesque number without a flinch...but with maybe a wink.

(Final moment in combination)

I must point out that the part of class I appreciated most was when Mishay made everyone, no exceptions, do the combination barefoot on maximum relevé (up on your toes) the whole time without lowering to your heels to flat foot. This was the true test of strength and balance that unapologetically exposed your capability and weakness. Out of the many times we ran through the combination and did it in smaller groups, no part of class was harder than this! I was guilty of slowly loosing my height as the combination went on. My calf muscles were burning! I didn't have enough endurance in my calf muscles to stay up so high the whole combination. It gave me the determination to continue working harder and take more classes. It was also a good reminder than the shoe is not an apparatus needed to perform a dance piece but is rather just an accessory. It's the strength from the person wearing them that is ultimately the prerequisite to being a fierce and sensual stilletto dancing diva. Don't get it twisted. All you men and women out there who think you're pretty strong and balanced, go take a Stilletto heels class and get a reality check. We are living amongst warriors. Take the opportunity to learn from their boldness. Can't wait to take another class and delve into its deliciousness. Mishay mentioned that dancing in boots are easier than pumps because the straps give more support so she urged us to take class in strapless stilleto pumps. I accept her challenge and searching for pumps immediately. I remain tenacious.

(Picture of Red Patent Leather Pump)