Dancing in Heels; An Essential Art Form.
Hollywood Connection knows the importance of dancing in heels as it pertains to a career and that’s why we introduced this class as part of our regular convention curriculum many years ago. And no one teaches it better than Lindsley Allen, original Pussycat Doll, former dancer for Prince and creator director/choreographer of Cherry Boom Boom. Here, Lindsley explains the importance of dancing in heels, when to begin the training and how to teach it!
Why is dancing in heels so important in the dance industry?
Most of the jobs in Los Angeles and New York will require heels at some point. Except for the occasional industrial where you might wear sneakers, girls will always wear some form of heels whether it be a ballroom shoe, a character heel or a boot. It’s inevitable. You might not have to wear heels in a dance company, but most tv, film, Broadway jobs will require a girl to wear heels.
Is dancing in heels really a technique?
Yes, dancing in heels is a technique and an art. And dancing in heels should be earned, just like earning the privilege of wearing pointe shoes. A dancer MUST have good technique, and this means advanced ballet training. Strength, alignment and length are needed to support the heel, and this comes from ballet. And just like pointe work, a dancer needs to give the same respect to dancing in heels as they would their pointe shoes. The heels must be professional either a character shoe or a ballroom shoe, but not a street shoe (pump, stiletto, etc). Never wear street shoes for a heels class. If dancers wear street heels to my class, I tell them to take them off. Safety first. In addition, a dancer should have a good jazz background before they put on a pair of heels. I find around 13-14 years of age is a good time to start introducing heels, but a dancer must have solid ballet and jazz training. HEELS MUST BE EARNED!!!
Why must a dancer have good technique to wear heels?
First and foremost, a dancer must be strong in their center and be pulled up through their core. Legs must be straight. It seems so simple, but it is a challenge. When we wear heels, our weight must shift to the balls of the feet. We have to learn to balance with our weight constantly forward. It’s a slight adjustment but takes a lot of lifting of the body and core strength, or a dancer will fall over. Also, knowing how to control the energy you put behind the movement is really important.
Hailee Payne is a great example of this. Hailee is such a strong, talented jazz/contemporary dancer. However, after her second audition for SYTYCD in 2014, she was cut after the ballroom section. She came to me and asked “Can I assist your heels class in every city on Hollywood Connection because I need to work on that aspect of my dancing!” And of course I said “YES!”. So we worked on lengthening her lines, and being on the balls of her feet, being a little more feminine, instead of always pushing and attacking everything; still being strong but knowing when to pull back and find the finesse in the choreography! And when she auditioned again this year, she said she was much more confident in her ballroom audition because she really focused on the technique of dancing in heels. And we all know how well she did on the show!!! Hailee is now a professional working dancer. Dancing in heels is the next step and the transition from being the studio dancer to being the professional dancer.
Some people think dancing in heels can be too sexy. However, you teach it in such a positive way. What are your thoughts on this and how do you walk this fine line?
I think it’s very important to teach age appropriate choreography and to be mindful of music and lyrics. I always remind the girls to be “Sassy Classy” and that great technique is really what dancing in heels is all about. There is nothing wrong with being feminine, using your hips, having a rounded line, when you have the technique to back it up. It’s all about technique. It’s never about being sexy. It’s about the art form. We should not teach the mentality of “good girl/bad girl” in the classroom. Dancing in heels does not mean you are a “bad girl”. I teach girls to have respect for themselves and respect for their art. Dancing in heels is story telling, just like all the other styles of dance. The intention behind my class comes from a place of loving yourself, loving your body, being confident in who YOU are. Somewhere along the way, girls have been told not to move a certain way because it’s “bad” and they have been shamed about it. That can be very damaging. There is nothing wrong with owning your feminine self when the intention behind the movement is one of self-confidence. I think that’s BEAUTIFUL!
Please discuss sizing with the retailer as each brand may differ. A two inch heel is a good place to start for your first pair of heels. Make sure to add “cats paw rubber” to the sole of the shoe and a heel brace for added support.
If you’re a student of Lindsley Allen, mention her class and get a 10% discount at Elegance Shoes.
Broadway Dancers love LaDuca Shoes.
Lindsley will be in every city next year! Visit our events page for more information!