Sisters Tina and Estelle Nicholaides, who own Toronto's City Dance Corps, developed stiletto salsa two years ago. After hearing their students' complaints about how much harder it was to salsa at a club than in a studio, they decided to come up with a more intense workout at their facility. "When our students went out dancing at night, they wore heels, whereas in class, they just wore flats and sweats," says Tina. "Your entire posture changes when you're in heels." "We found that a lot of women don't know what to do with their feet when they step into heels," adds Estelle.
Using fundamental ballet techniques like the articulation of the feet, the class focuses on balance, control in the heels and utilizing muscles properly. The benefits are numerous: Not only does stiletto salsa strengthen your calves, hips, quads and hamstrings, but it improves overall balance and helps prevent back injuries by forcing you to focus on your alignment. The majority of the first class is done barefoot in order to retrain women how to use their feet, since feet are the grounding for everything else in the body. Once students have developed stability and balance walking barefoot on their toes, it's time to strap on the Manolos.
A lot of success wearing stilettos comes down to wearing the proper shoes. City Dance Corps offers an array of specially designed stilettos with flexible thin leather soles and no tread. "Ankle support is essential so your muscles aren't working to keep your shoe on your foot when you dance," says Tina. If you're always wearing flats, the legs are working but not the feet, so the foot muscles lose function and atrophy. You actually develop calf muscles by wearing heels.
After going through the basics with Tina, I try the rises on my own at home for the next few days. On day three, I am aware of a new sensation in my feet. They feel more grounded, engaged. I eagerly pull out my three-and-a-half-inch Yves Saint Laurents that have been sitting in their box since the day I bought them two years ago. It's time to strut my stuff.
Anyone can take the class. City Dance Corps offers registered workshops and once-a-month open classes. Check out www.citydancecorps.com for more information.
Eager to try this sexy new workout at home? Follow this easy beginners' program and you'll be stepping your way to a hot bod in no time!
1. Find your centre of gravity
Stand barefoot in front of a mirror on a hard surface, hands at your sides and feet about two inches apart, facing forward, with your shoulders stacked over your hips. Concentrate on where your weight lies on your feet. It should feel evenly dispersed with no pressure on any particular area.
Stand sideways in front of a mirror with hands on hips, knees together, heels together and toes half an inch apart. Make sure your feet don't roll over your toes. Slowly lift your heels off the ground until you are standing on your toes. Keep your knees relaxed (not locked). Slowly lower your heels back down. Continue rising and lowering your heels until you no longer wobble. Be aware of what muscles you are using in your feet and legs.
3. Walking on toes
Stand with feet two inches apart. Raise arms out to the sides until they are at shoulder height. Raise both heels and take a step forward with your right toe, placing it directly in front of your left foot. Then step forward with your left toe, placing it directly in front of your right foot. Pretend that you are walking on a tightrope in order to maintain a straight line. After taking six steps forward, take six steps backward on your toes.