High heels often get a bad rap for their health effects, but choreographer and international dance competition judge, Brandee Evans is showing women that a mean shoe game can be used for a great workout.The creator of Hip Hop in Heels is using her passion for dance—and fancy footwear—to help women build confidence while providing scholarships for young dancers.
“I started it as a fun way to raise money for the little girls who couldn’t afford to take dance class or maybe their moms were struggling with their fees,” Evans says, “or even with some girls, it wasn’t necessarily a struggle, but they had worked hard,” the former high school English teacher says.
And she’s well-qualified. Evans is assistant choreographer to LaurieAnn Gibson, and has performed with Kelly Rowland, Mary J. Blige and Katy Perry.
She guarantees that attendees will break a sweat by learning high-impact routines to tracks by Miguel, Beyonce’ and Meek Mills. The first class was held in 2010 in a small dance studio in her hometown, Memphis, with only seven women. As her classes continued, she noticed that they were more than an avenue to train younger dancers, but it was a confidence booster for all women, regardless of dance training or body size.
“This is confidence-building,” Evans says. “Women wear heels. Women want to feel sexy and confident, so I started basing it around that, and not dancers.
If you’re not a dancer, just come out and have fun, and think of it as a good way to get exercise because that’s a leg workout."
Hip Hop in Heels has since expanded to Los Angeles, Japan and the UK with up to 200 women in attendance.
The class is what got soul singer Ledisi a slimmer and well-toned body. “Led and I have known each other for years, but she wouldn’t come to the class because she was nervous,” Evans says.
After attending, Ledisi trained with Evans privately. “Those heels are a workout, people don’t realize it,” she says. “When I have her warm up, it’s not just walking in the heels, but I have her doing squats in the heels, bending and moving.”
The singer dropped pounds and wowed her fans in her latest video for “I Blame You,” which was choreographed by Evans, as well during her live performance at last year's Black Girls Rock.
The motto for the class is “No kitten heels,” (sorry Mrs. Obama!), and Evans teaches in five-inch heels or better. She expects attendees to do the same, but she welcomes all women who want the Hip Hop in Heels experience.
“The purpose is to teach them how to move in their heels, but it’s not to deter any women who can’t wear a heel, but if you’re just trying to be a chicken because you don’t know how to walk in them…come to class, and learn how to walk in them.”
Evans posts video of classes and choreography work to Instagram for fitness inspiration where she receives frequent requests to bring Hip Hop in Heels to other major cities.Interested ladies are in luck: She’s taking the class on the road during a summer tour, and hopes to eventually build a franchise, teaching dancers in workshops to instruct classes across the country. A Hip Hop in Heels DVD will also drop as early as May 2014 so women can get right in their stilettos in the comfort of their living rooms.
For more information on Brandee Evans and Hip Hop in Heels, visit her website.