Dancing in heels has long been an industry essential in nearly every style of dance — but a challenge for dancers who have primarily trained in sneakers, flat shoes and bare feet. And nowadays, dancing in heels is not just for the ladies — men are rocking a stiletto, too! Yanis Marshall came onto the scene as a finalist on Britain’s Got Talent, amazing the audience with his choreography to the Spice Girls…in 5-inch heels! To Marshall, the question is not, “Why do you dance in heels?” but “Why not?”
Since his television debut, Marshall has been a coach on Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance and has been touring to sold-out dance classes across the globe. Broadway Dance Center is thrilled to have Marshall back for a series of Int/Adv Heels master classes October 22-24.
Picking the right shoes
For hard-hitting hip hop classes, go for the stability of a heeled boot. But a closed-toe pump will work for more lyrical styles. Make sure the heels are sturdy and comfortable — but also remember that they’ll get pretty beat up in class (so don’t bring your very favorite pair!). If you’re more of a newbie, don’t be embarrassed to stick to a lower heel height (about 3 inches), and work your way higher once you feel more comfortable.
For men: “Find your same size in a women’s shoe and add two to get your true size,” explains choreographer and master teacher Brian Friedman. “Proper ankle support is crucial. Test out your heels at home before you wear them in class. Shopping online is great to find the best deals and return shoes that don’t work.”
Stick to your training
“The best preparation for dancers who want to start working in heels,” advises Friedman,“ is for them to train in traditional jazz and ballet. The foundations in these styles will help with core stability and enable you to dance on your center, which is necessary for work in heels.”
Understanding the technique
Wearing high heels changes your posture — your pelvis tips back (creating a sensual curve in your lower back), and your weight shifts forward. It’s critical to have a strong core to stay on top of your legs and in control of your movement in this foreign position. Keep your shoulder blades pinched together, and let your hips drive the movement. Working in heels will be painful at first, and it’s important to take care of your body as it learns this new way of dancing. Be sure to stretch your hamstrings and Achilles before class and to roll out afterward.
To sign up for Yanis Marshall’s upcoming heels master classes at Broadway Dance Center, visit www.bdcnyc.com.
By Mary Callahan of Dance Informa.