January 28th, 2014 | by AARON SPENCER Arts & Books | Posted In: Semester in Sequins

Semester in Sequins #3: My First Pair of Heels

Do shoes make the man?

sis_tuller_300x300Illustration by Paul Tuller
It’s 30 minutes before my second class at the Rose City School of Burlesque, and I’m pacing the aisles of the Lloyd Center “Cross Dress for Less” (as it’s called in drag circles), in search of some heels.

Instructors told students on the first day of class to bring a pair, and though common sense told me this isn't mandatory—especially for the three men in the group—I still want to try. Maybe my burlesque persona will look like Yanis Marshall?

I'm pretty sure the shoes I selected aren't right. They're too small—the selection of women's heels starts petering out after size 9—but they seem sensible enough: black, three inches tall and with some elastic across the top for comfort.

Aaron Spencer


I learn later in class how wrong I was. "If you brought heels, you can put them on now," burlesque performer Zora Von Pavonine instructs us, "and anything else you brought." Around the room, yoga pants disappear to reveal hot pink and black fishnets. Von Pavonine tells the class that if dancing in certain attire makes you feel better, then do it. "You have to believe the image that you're putting into the mirror," she says.

One of the other guys in the class is wearing wedge sneakers, green and studded—a style of shoe that still looks worlds butcher than mine. "It's about to get real," he says, pulling off a tank top to reveal suspenders. He then removes the already tiny yellow shorts he’s wearing to expose an even smaller pair, these ones bright-blue spandex.

"Aw, how you doin'?" says a woman with magenta hair, as she high-fives him.

After a young belly dancer tells me how "brave" I am, I teeter onto the dance floor in jazz pants and my $12.99 heels, which feel like ice skates. I look like a toddler learning to walk, and I wobble for only 15 seconds before giving up and tossing the shoes under a bench by the wall.

I learn later in class that if I seriously want to take on this heel endeavor, I need to start in a dance shoe with a heel that’s thick and sturdy. I haven’t decided if I’ll do that yet. In burlesque, Von Pavonine says, “You have to find what looks ugly on you, so you can find what looks good on you.” I definitely am not doing it right yet, but so far the heel looks pretty ugly.
 
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