One student’s journey through heels training takes dance to new heights

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TAKING IT UP A STEP— Jose Vega, 21, a business administration major and dance minor, rocks it in heels.
photo by Alethze Maryana Mesa

 

Jose Vega was at first wary about breaking gender boundaries when he took heel-dancing classes with the famous instructor Brinn Nicole at the Millennium Dance Complex in Los Angeles. Nicole has worked with Snoop Dogg, Jay Sean, Lil Wayne, Pitbull and Mike Posner, and now Vega.

He was not caught flatfooted.

Nicole called the class a “pump-fidence” training course to help male and female dancers feel comfortable and confident in heels. Vega said he joined this class to let other men know that guys can also rock it in heels.

Mission accomplished.

“At first I was a little shy and nervous, but Brinn helped me over come my fears by owning the dance floor in heels,” said Vega.

Vega, 21, is a business administration major and dance minor, who travels California to work with choreographers that have performed with pop icons like Britney Spears and singer-songwriter Tinashe. He has been dancing for five years, he said, starting out with technical ballet then branching out to modern, lyrical and contemporary dance style.

Hip hop was a revelation, Vega said.

“It is half of my life,” he said.

Vega said his life as incomplete until he joined dance five years ago. It helped him find himself by giving him confidence to overcome obstacles.

Men were the first to wear heels in the 17th century. It was a way to show their masculinity by proclaiming a new fashion style. It was first presented by Dutchmen, then Persians, English, Italians and then Americans in the mid-20th century. These men wore their heels to dance balls where they gleefully danced with their ladies.

“Hip-hop has allowed me to speak for myself,” said Vega. “I love how I can make a statement without opening my mouth. One day I’m timid and the next day I’m unstoppable.”

Vega considered hip-hop the most expressive form of dance. Performers use the urban soul of hip-hop in order to send a message written in movements of the body. He is also open to different types of dances, he said, and enjoys learning new styles. This embrace of the new has made him more open as a person he said.

“Dance teaches you morals and responsibility,” he said. “It has permitted me to become unbiased and to not critique anyone or anybody for their flaws.”

Vega’s love for dance was cemented when he got to work under prolific choreographer Jojo Gomez, known for her work on “America’s Got Talent,” “The X Factor,” “MTV’s VMAs,” “Abby Lee Dance Company” and “The Voice.” She has also appeared in music videos as a back up dancer for artist such as Justin Bieber, Beyonce, JBalvin and Spears.

Vega attended a dance class taught by Gomez for Culture Shock San Diego, a non-profit troupe dedicated to developing artists. Gomez pushed them hard.

“Don’t you ever give up,” she said. “Always dance full-out with passion and rest will fall in place.”

Vega said he has learned to overcome his fears through dance by not letting people bring him down. Dance is an escape from judgment and a gateway to empowerment.

“No matter what, always dance unapologetically,” Nicole told Vega.

Her student has embraced the message. Vega stands just a bit taller in his heels.

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