How tall are those size 14 leather pumps? “Five inches, but with the platform, it’s really 6,” says JuWan Bizzell, who manages to move gracefully even after strapping on his towering footwear.
The hip-hop performer wanted to create a “different” class for Capitol Hill’s Momentum Dance & Fitness studio, so he decided to leverage the skills he’d learned while backing up drag queens in nightclub shows. Although Bizzell looks like a natural, he promises that he wasn’t at first: “I felt like the weirdest thing in heels. I was a mess.” So if he can manage to stay upright during complicated routines, Bizzell says, his students can too.
The class, held every Friday, is more than just a chance to boogie down to kick off the weekend, adds Momentum owner Roberta Rothstein, who notes that it’s also an education in how to wear high heels without injuring yourself.
“I’ve been watching how women’s ankles roll in, and how they don’t lift their feet. This class can help you learn to walk correctly, holding yourself from your core,” Rothstein says.
It starts with a warm-up strut, so students get accustomed to standing tall and taking powerful strides across the studio. Then Bizzell drills a series of exercises. There’s the “flamingo stance,” which requires balancing on one leg. To make it harder, he has students perform standing side crunches (bring that upraised knee to your elbow).
Squats and calf raises come next, thankfully with some stretches in between to keep the leg muscles happy.
Then there’s really good news: It’s time to kick off your shoes. Bizzell prefers that everyone learn the choreography for his dance routines in flats or bare feet as a safety measure.
While marking the steps — which included shaking, thrusting and spinning — at a class last month, student Rose Feroah, 30, asked what everyone else was likely thinking: “How is this supposed to happen in heels?”
Miraculously, when both the music and the shoes came on, no one fell over. There was some flailing at first as the group attempted to keep up with the quick-paced combos. After several run-throughs, however, the view in the mirror became downright impressive.
“Somehow, by the end, I’ve always got it and I’m asking for more,” marveled Dinah Reese, 43, who comes to class “to channel my inner Beyonce.”
But she bets even Bey could learn a few things from Bizzell.
Details: JuWan Bizzell’s high heels class is offered at Momentum Dance & Fitness studio (534 Eighth St. SE) Fridays at 6:30 p.m. It’s $17 for one class, or $155 for a 10-class pass.
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