'Not as risqué as it once was': Okanagan dance companies see increase in adult heels class attendees

'Not as risqué' as past

Casey Richardson

Working to empower women and build confidence, two Okanagan dance companies are hoping to expand their adult classes in the South Okanagan.

Open to all abilities, levels, genders and body types, "heels" dance classes — undertaken, as the name suggests, while wearing high heels — have been increasing in popularity throughout the valley.

Rachel Nunez, owner of Noir Dance, hosted her first drop-in all-levels class last week in Penticton. Dancing since age seven, Nunez started her company with online classes right before the pandemic hit in 2020, and has continued growing since.

“Heels dances are an empowerment tool for a woman. Once you wear those heels, it just makes you be that boss that you wanted to be,” she said.

“It's literally to better yourself and to feel good about yourself because women tend to more [often] talk badly about themselves. I don't want to hear that. And I just want to lift them up.”

“I hear it all the time from my friends and I just say, ‘Girl, why are you doing, come to my class.'"

Femme Fatale Owner Tine Bo’Bina started her company a decade ago in Kelowna, then growing throughout Kamloops, Penticton and recently Vernon.

“It went from a performing opportunity for our old retired dancers into giving opportunity and space for anyone to hit the stage and dance with us,” she said.

“It's meant to just be fun, we call it 'beer league dance'. Anyone can join and just have a good time and kind of leave your worries at the door. Lots of our dancers are women or moms and want to leave their kids at home and come out and do something with their bodies that isn't for their kids. So kind of taking their body back after birth, or breastfeeding.”

Bo’Bina added that this season has been their company's biggest one yet.

“Every time we get a little bit bigger and last season we had 80 dancers on stage," she said.

“When we started in Kelowna, I knew enough people in Kelowna that were dancers and that wanted to become dancers or join just for fun. But it was tough in Penticton because I don't have that community there already. So we have I believe about 18 or so dancers out there right now that are performing with us this season. We would love to see it grow. The more growth we have there, the more we can figure out a space to do our own Penticton show.”

What Nunez and Bo’Bina said brings them joy is to see people’s attitudes and confidence change after a class.

“When I see them leave happy, that's the best thing and I feel like I did my job,” Nunez said.

“It's the coolest transformation to see people [go from] walking into the studio super scared, and then walking off the stage and just crushed the whole performance and are so happy and beaming,” Bo’Bina added.

Feeling good in your own skin is the goal.

“I think that feeling sexy was kind of taboo for a bit and still is for a lot of people, but it's becoming more normal and becoming a cooler thing to do. And it's not as risqué as it once was,” Bo’Bina said.

“Not caring what other people think, I think is what has really propelled myself and most of our other dancers forward in how they're just kind of like walking into a room and not caring and showing up however they want to show up, regardless of how that might make somebody else feel.

“There are people who are still not on board with sexy dances, heels, burlesque in general, but the people who want it, can get it and the people who don't, don't have to do it.”

Dance classes are open to everyone, whether past dance experience is there or not.

“I've got people who are going through their divorce, and they tell me that's why I come to class. It's just for fun for me. And I've got women too who just went through a breakup or [they say] 'I'm in a happy spot in my life and I've got my boyfriend and I want to do something for him,'” Nunez said.

The dance teachers encourage everyone to give the class a try, whether they want to join a performance group or just come out for a drop-in for fun.

Noir Dance has its next drop-in class on Oct. 13 in Penticton with an open-level class and on Oct. 27 for a Halloween edition heels class. More information can be found on their social media here.

Femme Fatale will be hosting a drop-in all-level class on Oct. 21 with a new performance series starting in January. More information can be found online here or on their social media.

Catch some of their performance dancers on Oct. 27 performing with Frieda Wales at Penticton's Slackwater Brewing for a Halloween show. Tickets can be found online here.

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