hot bod

This App Taught Me to Dance in Heels

Photo: Getty Images

“Hot Bod” is a weekly exploration of fitness culture and its adjacent oddities.

Learning something new is amazing when it happens, like I’ve opened a little plastic packet of light and spice and dumped it into the soup of my brain — but when someone teaches me something new, it’s like they did all the work to find and open the packet. The very best! All the mind-expansion and only some of the work. The last incredible teacher I encountered was Kiira Harper, who teaches a class on how to dance in heels for Steezy, a nifty online dance studio with an “anyone can learn this complicated technique!” enthusiasm that usually puts me off. Because it’s often a lie.

Steezy offers foundation classes in all sorts of genres: dancehall, K-pop, lite feet, waving, popping, and locking. To teach their classes and choreography, they’ve recruited dancers with very impressive resumes, which made an ingénue with good instincts like me skeptical. People who are very good at things often don’t know how to explain them! Kiira Harper is very good at things, like the very best; she has performed vixen undulations alongside Beyoncé, Lizzo, and Janelle Monae. So her skill at explaining the baby basics and running drills was almost hard to wrap my mind around. It was like learning Elena Ferrante was actually a fantastic conversational Italian teacher and she’s teaching me how to say: Where is the library?

Harper’s “Intro to Heels” class is two hours and 40 minutes, broken down into 16 moves that take you through techniques like bevels, back arches, upper-body layouts, and body rolls, which are introduced to the class thusly: “She’s silky, she’s oozy-goozy, she hurts.” Like the best professors, Harper expanded my whole word, entirely shifting my perspective on how I hold myself in heels in general, dancing or not. She has me supporting my heeled stance with my ab muscles in a way that I’ve never known how to (or understood how to) before. I now hold my weight in the “back pocket” of my butt, rather than in my thighs or hips. I could spend the whole day drinking from this fount of knowledge, casually stomping in crinkle patent boots with a 2.75 inch heel, in the perfect shade of bone.

And why heels? It was a bit of a random choice. Maybe because it seemed ambitious. Maybe because I haven’t worn heels in eight months and it was a Saturday night before my birthday. I also really trusted Kiira Harper to guide me through something precarious. She evidently cares very much about all our knees and general physical structure and wants to keep us very balanced and safe. And, of all of the random yoga or pilates classes I’ve taken with an explicit aim to focus on my physical stability, it’s this “Intro to Heels” class that’s been the more transformative and effective to my sense of balance generally. Just standing around, I’m more aware of the shifts of my weight.

Steezy also has the most impressive technology of any online movement class I’ve ever done. You can seamlessly toggle from front view to back view of the dancers — which is useful to see a reverse heel flick or arm-behind-a-waist flourish. You can loop various segments to practice (I just spent about 11 minutes drilling 16 seconds of choreography over and over and over until I was almost passable). You can also futz with the speed of the video, so really fast footwork can flow slow enough to follow along with. The best function is as helpful as it is embarrassing: you use your device camera to show you dancing alongside the instructors. Before this innovation, I was dragging around standing mirrors — like a heathen! — to analyze the precision of some butterfly knee technique.

More so than foundation classes, Steezy’s main squeeze seems to be teaching ass-dropping, jaw-dropping choreography routines. This is not really for me, I realized after I spent exactly thirty three minutes learning sixteen seconds of super smooth slinking to T-Pain’s “RIP to the Parking Lot,” a song I have never heard in full. I did hear these seventeen seconds about 987,342 times, and even then my performance, I would say, looked low-resolution.

I’ve always overlooked that my body mortifyingly remembers the movements from fitness dance classes; so that when I try to just move naturally and casually, it makes it look like I’ve studied for a party, like I’ve been training for a dive bar dance floor. But, now that it’s been months since I’ve been to a living, breathing party, maybe I feel like training for it. I understand that we’re still deeply in pre-season — but we know there might actually be a season again soon. For now I’m doing drills until I prove myself, and the world is ready to be a safe, casual dance floor again for me to stomp my heels around on.

This post has been updated.

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