Student learns spiritual and physical self-confidence by dancing in heels

When I saw an Instagram account advertising Heels Dance classes in Rigby, Idaho, with a sign that said “knee pads recommended,” I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Growing up, I always loved dance in theory, but I never took a class and figured that at 25 it was too late to start. To me, dance classes were for daring little tiara-wearing toddlers or stick-thin prima ballerinas who aspired to greatness. But after watching a video of women my age in a beginner’s class doing burlesque, I was determined.

I arrived at a small complex of buildings off a gravel road and entered a dimly lit studio. I was greeted by Kennadee Burt, the instructor, and was joined by three other women from the class, all from different backgrounds and ages.

Burt was easily recognized as the leader of the group, not only because of her position in the room, but also because of her confidence in herself and her abilities.

The heels Kennadee wears for dance class. Photo credit: Gabriela Fletcher

We began stretching, sandwiched between two mirrors so that no matter where you looked, you could see your entire self. The entire class followed her as she taught us the different moves for the routine. She encouraged us to do what we felt comfortable with and just enjoy ourselves.

Lean in. Turn. Sexy walk. Hit the floor and slide. Feel the music. Freestyle. Follow your body. Do what feels right.

By the end of the class I understood why knee pads were recommended. The slight bruising on my inner knees disappeared after a few days, but the sense of strength and support I felt left a lasting impression.

Burt’s entire approach to teaching Heels Class stems from a desire to help women feel confident and sexy without being vulgar or rude.

Kennadee uses mirrors in the studio to help dancers improve their techniques. Photo credit: Gabriela Fletcher

“I just found it really hard to find that balance between, ‘I want to feel confident, I want to feel sexy… but I don’t want to go out and party,’” Burt said. “I don’t want to be in environments that typically build that kind of confidence. So the Heels classes I took really helped me build that confidence in a safe environment.”

Heels can mean many things, but Burt describes her classes as burlesque or “sexy jazz” dancing. While burlesque typically emphasizes sensuality and feminine movement, there is no undressing or nudity in the classes.

Burt took her first high-heeled dancing class as an adult when she was in a hip-hop dance group in Rexburg, where she was a college student at BYU-Idaho, but her dancing journey began at age three.

She was always full of energy, ready to tackle any challenge that came her way. While her mother initially enrolled her in dance classes to get rid of her jittery little-kid energy, it quickly became a permanent part of her life.

Kennadee Burt dances in the studio. Photo: Gabriela Fletcher

She lived in 14 different houses before she turned 18. But no matter where she lived, she was dancing, whether it was in a studio or in her childhood bedroom. At one point, she took so many classes and styles of dance that she spent 14 hours a week in the studio. Despite her experience in a variety of dance styles, her favorite was always hip-hop.

At the age of 16, Burt dropped out of her other dance classes and joined a hip-hop dance group. Since then, she has been in two other adult hip-hop dance groups in Rexburg and is currently in the adult dance group at Dance Fusion in Rigby. It was through Dance Fusion that she first took a Heels Class and was inspired to start her own.

“There are so many different types of people in hip-hop, different body sizes, and they can all dance, they can all do hip-hop… and they’re all amazing at it. If you look at hip-hop dancers all over the world, there’s no one template. I’ve seen plus-size dancers doing the exact same thing that skinny ballerinas do when they decide to do hip-hop. So it really made me realize that what’s beautiful about it is self-expression.”

Dance Fusion Kennadee Burt Dance Studio takes advantage of the classes. Photo credit: Gabriela Fletcher

Although Burt is a dancer, she is also a student, wife, and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She served a full-time proselytizing mission in West Texas from 2020 to 2021 and married her husband, Adam, last year.

While at first glance the two things may not go hand in hand, Burt’s faith plays an important role in dance and the purpose of her Heels Class.

“One thing I believe strongly in is that we are judged not only by our actions, but also by our intentions and thoughts,” Burt said. “And I think the intention in taking this class is very important. My intention in teaching this class is to help build confidence in who we are and that deep down we are beautiful… We were given our bodies, they are a gift, and it’s okay to feel good about yourself and your spouse.”

While her classes aren’t just for Christian women, Burt wants to create a safe space for those who are still learning to embrace their sensuality and feel comfortable in their bodies. Part of creating that safe space involves being mindful of how she dresses and chooses music for her classes, which turned out to be harder than she thought.

“Choosing music is very difficult for me… because I don’t want to choose music that has a vulgar message,” Burt said. “The message I’m trying to get across is… that you’re unique. You can feel sexy within yourself. It’s a private thing and if you choose to share it with someone, it’s with them. So I try to choose music that’s more about connection and sensuality than it is about sexuality.”

There’s no shortage of songs about love and sensuality, but she realized that most of the “love” songs that would be used in Heels’ dances were actually more about sexual gratification than authentic connection. Burt noticed that even songs intended to empower women seemed more about putting themselves first, even at the expense of others, or using sexuality as a tool to gain power.

“(Sexual relationships) have been perverted in such a bad way,” Burt said. “To the point where now people either go to one extreme or the other. They either say everything about it is totally wrong or everything about it is fine and well. … The whole idea is that it is sacred, your confidence and belief that you are a daughter of God is sacred.”

Kennadee Burt dances in the studio. Photo: Gabriela Fletcher

For those who want to discover themselves and find holy confidence in their bodies, Burt emphasizes how important it is to do so in a safe space and in a way that honors your identity as a daughter of God.

“The truth is that people these days are losing confidence in who they are, and with the messages that are out there, they don’t know what’s appropriate and what’s over the top,” Burt said. “So I try to teach that it’s okay to be confident. It’s okay to dance. It’s okay to know your body, but if you don’t want to share it, that’s okay too.”

Burt is in her third year at BYU-I, where she is majoring in history education with a minor in government education, with hopes of becoming a history teacher after completing her bachelor’s degree. While she won’t always teach dance, she hopes it will always be a part of her life.

If she could give one piece of advice to aspiring dancers, it would be:

“Nobody’s looking at you. Nobody. The truth is, people who’ve been doing this their whole lives never judge new people… they’ll probably think, ‘Wow, it’s amazing that they’re starting at this age, because I know how hard it is, because I’ve been there.'”

For more information about Burt’s Heels classes, follow her on Instagram here.

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