One of the hardest things for a lady when learning to dance Salsa is learning to cope with dancing in heels.
I believe that ladies should dance in heels…it gives a much more elegant line to the leg and completes the Cross Body Salsa dancer’s look. Somehow dancing in flats just doesn’t look as feminine or stylish.
But many ladies find they are much more unstable and can’t move as fluidly or freely. Some even struggle with back pain or calf cramp as a result.
The reason for this is rooted in your posture.
Most ladies have a pelvis which is significantly tilted forwards. This happens because some of the key postural stabilising muscles are neurologically “switched off”. Often this is a result of a sedentary day job or pregnancy. Usually the main players are the glutes (bum muscles), hamstrings, deep abdominals and lower abdominals.
To counteract this and provide “emergency” secondary support, other muscles become more active and posturally dominant. These include the low back, the calves, the hip flexors and front thighs.
The net result is that your centre of gravity is further forward than is ideal for equal balance between the muscles on the front and back of the body, which work in opposing pairs to maintain a postural equilibrium.
Now as soon as you put on a pair of heels, your centre of gravity is thrown even more forward. When you start Salsa dancing, your centre of gravity is trained to be forward anyway – in the balls of your feet. This means that your bodyweight is loaded through your front thigh muscles.
At this point, your body simply has no more tolerance for postural deviation in that direction, therefore your brain will send messages via your nervous system to reduce speed and range of movement to prevent damage. Pain is one of the mechanisms it uses to achieve this.
So how can we get around this and learn to dance freely and stylishly in heels?
Those who have started their Salsa journey with me will know that I don’t allow beginners to wear shoes at all as I believe it compromises the natural movement of the foot and prevents development of the Cuban hip swing that the Basic Step is built on.
There is another reason, and it’s this:
The soles of the feet are covered in nerve receptors which pick up information about the terrain underfoot. Your brain uses this information to create a “map” to enable it to keep your body safe as it travels through the environment. In flat shoes the efficiency of these receptors is compromised…in heels even more so.
So when building your Salsa dance foundations – core moves and footwork – it’s important to give your brain the best map possible in order to allow fast and free movement, and quick reactions.
It’s also important to spend time working on your postural stability, which starts with re-alignment of your pelvis. This is achieved by releasing the soft tissues and selectively stretching areas of the quads, lumbar muscles and calves.
You will then need to get help to neurologically re-activate the lower abdominals, deep core and glutes – one of my areas of expertise inherited from my 16 years as a fitness professional.
Then you can start performing isolated, highly targeted endurance based strength work for these key postural stabilisers.
The whole process should take up to six weeks and will make you much more stable in heels on the dancefloor, and also has the added bonus of reining in weak and protruding abdominals 🙂