When I first told my husband that I planned to take a fitness class in stiletto heels – advertised as a sensual smorgasbord of hip swirls, hair flips, and body rolls – his eyes widened. But not for the reason I’d hoped.
“Don’t break your ankle,” he implored.
Friends expressed similar fears. And given that these stodgy warnings came during a week when I’d received a targeted mailer from More Magazine reminding me to act my age, I was a little bit annoyed.
Yeah, I’m turning forty. But I’m not ready to slip on a pair of marshmallow-shaped orthopedic shoes just yet.
So it was with something to prove that I went into Gotta Dance Atlanta for their Tuesday night Stiletto Fit class. Led by Lyrik London, a choreographer for music videos and for dance team Darlin Nikki, the class focuses on fitness through dance in high heels.
(London wore sneakers, though another male instructor at the studio has been known to don stilettos out of solidarity.)
I love to dance, as anyone who went to high school with me can tell you (at least one has threatened to upload video of a particularly nineties-tastic routine performed with my friends Allison and Whitney at a Sweet Sixteen party). I took modern, jazz, and cultural dance at summer camp as a kid and a teen, but as an adult I’ve tried only a few hip-hop classes around town, and I’ve mostly flailed. And I was wearing sneakers.
In one of Gotta Dance’s mirrored studios, we warmed up (in bare feet or flats) with some simple stretches and moving side to side, adding a wrist-roll or a hip-pop here and there. I could tell the other three girls were very comfortable in a dance class; they’d definitely done this before.
But London calmed my fears with his warm and encouraging chatter. He reminded us that it’s okay to look stupid.
Then it was time to put on our heels. Mine were black booties with about three-and-a-half inches of height. London seemed cognizant of the challenge this posed and didn’t put us through any jumps, leaps, or deep squats that would’ve put me on my ass.
His routine was very eighties, with sassy walks and head rolls and running our hands down our sides to Vanity 6’s “Nasty Girl” from the “Purple Rain” soundtrack. Maybe it was because this song was from my era, or maybe because I recognized some of the moves from music videos, but I caught on pretty fast.
Having short hair put me at a slight disadvantage on the sexy scale — the two girls with flowing locks could really work them into the routine — but as we ran each segment of the routine several times, then connected them, I felt more confident and empowered.
At first the class didn’t seem like much of a workout; the small and concentrated moves didn’t get my heart pumping. But by the last run-through I was sweating, and by the time I got home I could feel the workout in my calves, feet, arms, and abs.
And yes, I woke up the next day with a twinge in my left knee. But my ankle? It’s intact, along with my youthful exuberance. I can’t say the same for that mailer from More Magazine.