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Stiletto dance class offers body-toning benefit

| Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012

Their gym bags were filled with high-heeled boots, strappy sandals and pumps.

They might not be the footwear of choice for an ordinary workout, but this is no ordinary workout class.

With tunes by Beyonce and LaToya Luckett belting out in the background, women of all ages and sizes spent Monday evening strutting their stuff in heels and bringing out their inner celebrity dance moves as part of the Stiletto Fit Pump Pulse Class.

"Live in the music," shouted dance instructor Jame Elis, 31, a professional dancer-choreographer from New Kensington and founder of Jam Dance Productions. "You can switch up the moves if you like. You know I am all about freestyle. Be confident, ladies, and if you mess up, so what• Let's just really have fun with this. Go low with it. Work those glutes."

The one-hour weekly session is offered by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust at the Trust Arts Education Center, Downtown. The beginner class runs from 6 to 7 p.m., with the advanced class following at 7:15 p.m.

While women dance to the hottest music, they don't realize they are sculpting and toning their entire body, Elis says. It's an excellent lower-body workout as a nonstop, calorie-burning strength class. Elis begins with stretching and works the dance moves into the words of a hip song. Heels are preferred, but not mandatory. The class is for ages 18 and older.

Friends Suzy Golitko, 51, of Thornburg and Robin Jonas, 44, of Allison Park have attended regularly since the classes began in fall 2010. The accountants who work for West Penn Allegheny Health System say dancing helps relieve stress and is a fun way to spend a workout. They don't go to dance clubs much, saying they showcase what they've been taught at weddings or other parties where there is a dance floor.

Some steps are difficult to do whether you are in heels or not, Jonas says, but they both have a good time and were laughing and smiling most of the evening during the workout, even if they hadn't mastered Elis' moves.

"We both love to dance, and we both watch MTV, so we know the moves," Golitko said. "So while I am at this workout, in my mind, I am Beyonce. I have dance moves like a celebrity, at least, I think I do."

Elis travels to Los Angeles and Atlanta to keep up with the latest moves.

In her high-heeled, sleek black boots, she makes it look easy. She attributes her mastery to her to formal training, lots of practice, and her background as a gymnast. She has a way of making her students feel comfortable and invites them to be themselves, Golitko says.

"This type of workout really helps give legs form, and you always look sexier in heels," Elis said. "It is just a wonderful all-over body workout. And the music helps you get into the feel of the workout."

Elis cautions to wear boots or shoes that have straps so they don't fly off your feet. It also is best if you learn to walk well in heels before trying to dance in them.

"I love it, and I love to come here and see women of all ages, and even some men, trying this," said Janis Burley Wilson, vice president of education and community engagement and director of jazz programs for the Trust -- and class participant. "When you are in this room, you forget about everything else going on in your life, and it takes the stress away. I feel so much more relaxed right now."

So did Holly Christie, 32, an attorney from the North Side.

"I love that it is a sensual, fabulous workout," Christie said. "It makes me feel good about myself and, of course, I bust out the dance moves I have learned here when I am out at clubs or weddings or any place there is to dance. Learning to dance in heels is fun. And I wear heels all the time, so I am comfortable in heels.

"And, you can definitely tell if a woman's got her groove on while in heels."

Elis was pleased with her students' performances in their stilettos.

"These women are all beautiful doing their dance moves," Elis said. "They dance with attitude, and Pittsburgh needs more of that. They need to be comfortable with dancing in high heels, and they don't have to be Beyonce. They just have to have fun dancing in heels and showing off their moves like she does."

Stiletto Fit Pump Pulse classes are held at 805-807 Liberty Ave., Downtown, on Mondays through May. Cost is $10 per class, six classes for $50. Details: 412-471-6079 or .

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