I always recommend to my students NOT to wear high-heeled shoes, because they greatly alter our experience of balance, and that can impact our performance – whether we are conscious of it or not.
We humans are not designed to have our heels perched up high on a platform while most of our weight falls into the balls of the feet and toes. It’s just common sense that this has the potential to “throw us off”.
Even though I feel strongly against their use (in fact, I like to go BAREFOOT onstage whenever I feel like it and it seems appropriate – and it doesn’t go against a group’s dress code), I occasionally still choose to wear heels – just for fun.
Considering that as an Alexander Teacher I have a pretty good understanding of what I’m doing with myself when I’m wearing heels, I figure that it’s worth playing around with them sometimes (besides, women do look good wearing them in our culture), and it can’t affect me TOO much, if I pay attention and apply my Alexander thinking.
In fact, I wore heels in the concert last night, and I had no problem with them.
HOWEVER….. I’m writing this now because tonight’s experience was radically different from last night!
What made it so different was that I’ve spent literally hours today paying a lot of attention to how I’m using my mind-body-self by applying Alexander Technique constructive thinking to my activities. All of that paying attention has increased my sensitivity throughout the day, and I’ve become more and more aware of subtle changes within my body-mind and how my thinking improves the flow of my movements.
To my great surprise, I had an extremely unpleasant time playing the first piece of the program tonight in those heels!
Tonight, I was acutely aware of how those heels were throwing me off-balance, causing me to work too hard by creating excess tension in order to compensate to prevent myself from toppling forward!
Keep in mind that these were the SAME shoes and the SAME music I played just last night without any problem.
But the reality is that last night, my system was surely creating all the same tension, but I wasn’t aware of it. Tonight, my body was screaming at me with its excess tension, and that made it harder for me to think, added a twinge of performance anxiety to a program I had NO nervous reaction to last night, and generally interfered with my playing.
Well, what did I learn from this?
- Wearing heels is NOT helpful! I knew it before, but this was a very strong reminder that it’s true!
- Paying attention and applying the Alexander Technique throughout the day is the BEST way I know to learn about what is actually happening in the moment, what helps me improve or not, and my increased sensitivity and awareness make me a better musician.
So what did I do about those shoes?
After that unpleasant first piece, I went offstage (I wasn’t playing the second piece) and told one of my colleague violinists in the group what I was experiencing, and she let me borrow her flat shoes for the rest of the concert.
PHEW! WHAT A RELIEF!! (Thanks, Emi! 🙂 )
You can bet that I will NOT be wearing those heels again tomorrow or the next day… and maybe not any other day EVER AGAIN. Performing with heels is an experiment I have no interest in making again any time soon!
I’d love to hear about your experiences performing in heels. Comments welcome!