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Slay the Shoe Game

By on May 12, 2017

Heels. Many polers love them. Even more don’t reaaaally know how to use them. [raises hand]

While heels can be a beautiful and sexy addition to your pole work, the fact is that they are more than an adornment: they are their own apparatus. Utilizing your heels properly takes skill and technique, but it’s not something that is always included in pole work instruction.

That’s where #SlayTheShoeGame comes in. Iris Sparrow, co-founder of Alloy Images, Complete Pole instructor, and teacher at The Vertitude, saw a gap in knowledge in the community and sought to fill it with a unique heel tutorial series on Instagram. Pairing with fellow heel masters Jordan Kensley, Rachele Ribera, and Aerial Amy, meant that many aspects of pole work could be covered: conditioning, pirouettes and edge work, glides and threads, and heel clacks.

#SlayTheShoeGame on Instagram

Starting in March 2017, the Slay the Shoe Game Challenge covered 4 weeks of tutorials and techniques, beginning with Ankle Conditioning. The focus of this week was to provide helpful examples and instruction for how to properly stretch your ankles during your warm ups, as well as some fantastic exercises to strengthen and condition your ankles specifically for heel work. These exercises can help you with your point and arch, reducing flat-footedness, and they can help reduce your tendency to sickle your feet, both in and out of shoes. Some of these techniques can be done with just your feet and the floor, but if you like to add tools to your warm ups, there are also some great options for you, including using stretching bands to aid in conditioning, as well as using your heels to further develop your strength! I particularly like using the bands, but my favorite tip came from Rachele, whose tips on conditioning in heels were amazing for me – her pointing and winging exercises made a huge difference in my heel confidence!

Iris Sparrow - Photo by Alloy Images

Iris Sparrow – Photo by Alloy Images

Week 2 was all about Pointe & Edge Work, which involved learning techniques to utilize the shoe as an apparatus for movement. What is Pointe & Edge Work? To quote Iris, “Any time the side of your platform is your contact point with the floor, and you need to actively hold your ankle straight (engage) to keep it from bending and letting the side of your foot flop down on the floor. Pointe work is anytime your contact point with the floor is the very tip of the shoe, the front of the platform.” Jordan described her heel pointe work as being similar to how a figure skater uses their skate for braking and directional changes, and if you watch her videos, it makes sense: she uses the shoe to stop or slow her movement, as well as to pivot and provide dynamic movement changes. These techniques work on spin or static, which is awesome. Rachele’s tips were again amazing, focusing on how to find and keep a strong point when your knees are bent, building on the Week 1 conditioning techniques. I loved them, and I now do them every time I put on heels. I also really liked what Amy had to say about how heels change your center of gravity and can allow you to create more momentum in your spins (but how you have to also learn to control it).

Jordan Kensley. Photo by Alloy Images.

Jordan Kensley – Photo by Alloy Images

For Week 3, the tutorials were all about Threads and Glides, which are some of the prettiest – and often, most difficult – movements in heels. Gliding is any time your weight is lifted, and your shoes are tracing shapes on the floor. You can do this through a static hold, a static spin, or on spinning pole. Threading involves using the gliding technique while allowing a leg to lead the movement through a space made by your limbs, the pole, and the floor. Threading and gliding requires A LOT of engagement and strength in your shoulders and arms, as it is all about lifting your weight out of your feet, to allow your shoes to glide weightlessly along the floor. The conditioning and techniques in Weeks 1 & 2 will aid tremendously when trying everything in Week 3. I got a lot out of Iris’s explanations and examples for this week.

Rachele Ribera – Photo by Brooke Foorman, owner of Polistic Fitness

Week 4 brought us the joy and power of Heel Clacks. Believe it or not, there’s legit technique involved in clacking, starting with the size of your heels: the bigger the heel, the louder the clack! I loved all of the tips Iris had for this week, from what are of the leg to use to drive the movement, to what to engage in your ankles and feet to create the right power for the sound, and more. I also think that she had a great point about using heel clacks as a sprinkle of flavor in your routines – too many clacks = the law of diminishing returns (read: boring). There are many variations on clacks: you can do them laying down or in the air, but it’s important to be mindful of the strength needed to lift weight out of your feet if you want to do them while standing. This is where Week 3’s work will come in handy!

Aerial Amy – photo by Ray Tamarra

 

Overall, I found Slay the Shoe Game to be immensely helpful in my heel work, so much so that I made the jump from 6 and 7 inch heels, to 8 inches – and I performed in heels for the very first time! All of the tips and techniques were inspiring and informative, and I look forward to continuing to use them as I move forward with my Shoe Game. If you’re interested in checking out all of the tutorials, look for the #SlayTheShoeGame hashtag on Instagram, and be sure to follow Iris, Jordan, Rachele, and Amy’s Instagram Feeds for additional inspiration.

 

 

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Danielle C.

Danielle C.

Creative entity, cat mom, dog auntie, consumer of too much sugar. Pole and lyra enthusiast, amateur foodie, local explorer. One half of Poleitical Clothing. Read my musings at www.poleitical.com.
Danielle C.

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