Student teaches mental and physical confidence through Heels Dance
Student teaches mental and physical confidence through Heels Dance

When I saw an Instagram account advertising a heels dance class in Rigby, Idaho that said “knee pads recommended,” I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

As a child, I always loved dancing in theory, but I’d never taken lessons and thought that at 25 it was too late to start. To me, dance classes were for plucky toddlers in tiaras or skinny prima ballerinas looking to make it big. But after watching a video of women my age in the beginners class performing a burlesque dance, my mind was made up.

I arrived at a small complex off a gravel road and entered the dimly lit studio. I was greeted by Kennadee Burt, the instructor, and was joined by three other women from the class. We all came from different backgrounds and were different ages.

Burt was easily identified as the leader of the group, not only because of her position in the room, but also because of her confidence in her abilities and in herself.

Kennadee wears high heels in her dance classes. Photo credit: Gabriela Fletcher

We started stretching, sandwiched between two mirrors so that no matter where you looked you could see yourself completely. The whole class followed as she taught us different moves for a routine. She encouraged us to do what we felt comfortable with and just have fun doing it.

Bend. Twist. Sexy walk. Hit the floor and slide. Feel the music. Freestyle. Follow your body. Do what feels right.

By the end of the course, I realized why knee pads are recommended. The slight bruising on my inner knees disappeared after a few days, but the feeling of empowerment and support I felt left a lasting impression.

Burt’s entire approach to teaching heels classes is based on a desire to help women feel confident and sexy without being rude or disrespectful.

Kennadee uses mirrors in the studio to help dancers perfect their techniques.

Kennadee uses mirrors in the studio to help dancers perfect their techniques. Photo credit: Gabriela Fletcher

“I just found it really hard to find the balance between ‘I want to feel confident and sexy… but I don’t want to go out and party,'” Burt said. “I don’t want to be in those environments that normally build that confidence. So the heels classes I took really helped me build my confidence in a safe environment.”

Heels can mean different things, but Burt describes her classes as a burlesque or “sexy jazz” style of dance. While burlesque typically emphasizes sensuality and feminine movement, there is no stripping or nudity in the classes.

Burt took her first heels class as an adult while in a hip-hop dance group in Rexburg, where she attends college at BYU-Idaho, but her journey as a dancer began at the age of three.

She has always been a bundle of energy and ready to take on any challenge that came her way. Her mother initially sent her to dance classes to get rid of her fidgety toddler energy, but soon it became a constant in her life.

Kennadee dances in the studio.

Kennadee Burt dances in the studio. Photo credit: Gabriela Fletcher

By the time she was 18, she had lived in 14 different houses. But no matter where she lived, she was dancing, whether in a studio or in her childhood bedroom. Eventually, she took so many dance classes and learned so many different dance styles that she was spending 14 hours a week in the studio. Despite her experience with various dance styles, hip hop was always her favorite.

At age 16, Burt dropped out of all other dance classes and joined a hip hop dance group. Since then, she has been in two more adult hip hop dance groups in Rexburg and is currently on a Dance Fusion adult dance team in Rigby. It was at Dance Fusion that she first took a heels class and was inspired to start her own.

“In hip hop, there are so many different types of people, different body sizes, and they all can dance, they all can do hip hop… and they’re all great at it. If you look at hip hop dancers all over the world, there’s no one size fits all. I’ve seen plus-size dancers doing the exact same thing as skinny ballerinas who choose to do hip hop. And that really made me realize that the beauty of it is that they can express themselves.”

Kennadee Burt uses the dance studio Dance Fusion for her classes.

The dance studio Dance Fusion, which Kennadee Burt uses for her classes. Photo credit: Gabriela Fletcher

Burt is a dancer, but also a student, wife, and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She served as a full-time missionary ambassador in West Texas from 2020 to 2021 and married her husband, Adam, last year.

Even though the two things don’t seem to fit together, Burt’s faith plays an important role in her dancing and the purpose of her heels class.

“I’m a firm believer that we are judged not only by our actions, but by our intentions and thoughts,” Burt said. “And I think the intention of taking this course is a big deal. My intention with this course is to help build confidence in yourself and to realize that deep down we are beautiful… We were given our bodies, they are a gift, and it’s OK to be comfortable with yourself and with your spouse.”

Although her class is not just for Christian women, Burt wants to create a safe space for those who are still learning to embrace their sensuality and feel comfortable in their bodies. Creating this safe space requires her to be conscious of how she dresses and what music she chooses for the class, which has proven to be more difficult than she thought.

“Music selection is so hard for me… because I don’t want to choose music that gives a heavy-handed message,” Burt said. “The message I want to give is that… you are special. You can feel sexy in yourself. It’s a private thing, and if you choose to share it with someone, it’s with them. So I try to choose music that’s more about connection and sensuality than sexuality.”

There’s no shortage of songs about love and sensuality, but she realized that most “love songs” used for heels dances are actually more about sexual gratification than genuine connection. Burt noticed that even songs meant to empower women seemed more likely to encourage putting yourself first, even at the expense of others, or using sexuality as a tool of power.

“(Sexual relationships) have been twisted in such a bad way,” Burt said. “To the point where people now go to either one extreme or the other. They say either everything about it is completely bad or everything about it is fine and OK… The whole idea is that it’s sacred, your confidence and belief that you’re a daughter of God is sacred.”

Kennadee Burt dances in the studio.

Kennadee Burt dances in the studio. Photo credit: Gabriela Fletcher

For those seeking to discover themselves and find sacred confidence in their bodies, Burt emphasizes the importance of doing so in a safe space and in a way that respects your identity as a daughter of God.

“The reality is that people are losing confidence in themselves these days, and with the messages that are all around them, they don’t know what is appropriate and what is going too far,” Burt said. “So I try to teach them that it’s OK to be confident. It’s OK to dance. It’s OK to know your body, but if you don’t want to share it, that’s OK too.”

Burt is a third-year student at BYU-I majoring in history education and minoring in government education. She hopes to become a history teacher after graduating. While she won’t always be teaching dance, she hopes it will always be a part of her life.

If she had to give advice to new dancers, it would be this:

“Nobody’s looking at you. Nobody. The reality is that people who have been doing it forever never judge new people… they’ll (probably) think, ‘Wow, that’s great that they’re starting at that age, because I know how hard that is because I’ve been there.'”

For more information about Burt’s Heels classes, check out their Instagram here.

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