To say I’m a little accident-prone is an understatement. There was the day I fell off the back of a treadmill at the gym. The night I collapsed down a flight of stairs after delivering pizzas to a
second-grader’s birthday party. And who could forget the recent sunny afternoon when I crashed my bike in the Anacortes ferry waiting lot?
The memory of these clearly avoidable disasters is forefront in my mind as I contemplate wearing my favorite three-inch red suede stilettos to a friend’s wedding this fall. It’s not just the walking I’m afraid of, but getting there and back via public transit with a few drinks in me. Not to mention being able to stoop gracefully in a skirt to pick up my purse, jacket, and hors d’oeuvres from the floor, since I’ll inevitably drop them.
Enter Stacy Lowenberg. She knows a thing or two about getting around in impractical footwear, having been a member of PNB’s elite corps de ballet since 1999. Later this month she’ll be leaping across the stage in neon-pink heels for an evening of choreography by Twyla Tharp. “Actually, we’re pretty klutzy,” Lowenberg confesses as we wait for the studio to open up. I don’t believe her.
The key, says Lowenberg—a pilates instructor on the side—is your core. Don’t focus so much on your legs, she explains; keep your posture good and that area behind your stomach strong. “And bend your knees, bend your knees,” she calls out as I strut my stuff in my wobbly, stilt-like heels.
Kiyon Gaines, Lowenberg’s partner for the Tharp show and a choreographer for November’s New Works program, tells me to keep my eyes up. “Don’t look at your feet,” he admonishes, doing a wild caricature of falling into the ground. Damn these ballet dancers: Even their absurd falls are awe-inspiring displays of strength and elegance.
Then there’s the dropping-things tendency. I often lose my grip on plates, drinks, and other party items. So for the sake of decency I need to be able to pick them up in a reasonably short skirt without falling. For that, Lowenberg tells me, posture is important: But don’t drop with your back rigid and arms out like a transvestite doing a deep curtsey. Lowenberg shows me how to bend my knees while leaning forward at the waist, grab whatever landed on the floor, then push up with my legs, like doing a squat.
As for the Metro bus ride home from the wedding, getting up and down those dreaded stairs—while everyone’s watching—is pretty much the same deal as walking, says Lowenberg. Look where you’re going, not at your feet, bend your knees and keep your hips loose.
Miraculously, as we practice these maneuvers-in-heels, my feet seem to be falling one in front of the other, and I need fewer steps out to steady myself—Lowenberg and Gaines offer a round of applause. I nod appreciatively; we haven’t gotten to bowing yet.
Feeling ever more confident, even a little cocky, I volunteer to learn a few fancier moves. Lowenberg and Gaines choreograph a little pas de deux on the spot. The next thing I know I’m in Gaines’ incredibly strong arms, feeling all Grace Kelly in my red stilettos, waltzing across the room. We step and twirl and kick and dip. “You’ll be the star of this wedding!” Lowenberg declares.
As I catch my breath, the duo offers a sample of the piece they’ll perform later this month. It makes my little step-two-three look oafish. But now I can get through the wedding party without falling down. At least during the sober part of the event.
And if later, after too much champagne, I do bite the dust? “Smile, look confident,” says Lowenberg. Then get back on my feet.