For many of us, dancing is a fun, but less than comfortable activity. It can be difficult to let loose and feel free of judgement. Brett McNeil, a local tech-worker with an effortless passion for dance, created an opportunity to help people get out of their comfort zone. “Strut It! With Brett” is an open, inclusive dance class which will teach you to embrace your own unique rhythm — while wearing heels, no less!
“The whole mission around Strut It! is to boost your confidence and have a good time. I could care less if someone gets the steps right or turns the opposite way. The point is to make people feel happy and genuinely confident in their bodies,” said McNeil.
Last fall, McNeil attended a heel-dance class based in Guelph which he gave him a new kind of confidence. Realizing that Kitchener-Waterloo does not have many similar opportunities available, he felt compelled to offer that to this community.
“I don’t necessarily think there are gender stereotypes surrounding dance. I think what I’m doing with Strut It! is trying to infuse more queer culture here in Kitchener-Waterloo, which is something this community lacks a bit. Being a gay male in heels, I think I can be the one to do that,” McNeil explained.
“If I can create a safe space for an hour and a half a week, my hope is that more people in my LGBTQ+ community will come out and join me.”
The first six classes were hosted this past January and February and were so well received that McNeil has once again rented out Hepcat Swing Dance Studio in uptown Waterloo to run a spring session.
“The classes are an hour and a half long and it is as much a workout as it is dance,” McNeil explained.
Each class routinely begins with a cardio warm up as your body gets used to the movement. It then works through a slow song where the choreography integrates more seductive moves, before ultimately engaging in down-the-floor, walking choreography which really gets people strutting.
“I always tell my dancers that when the music is on, you’re moving. Even if it’s just the lead up in a song before the choreography starts, I want to see people feeling the vibrations of the music and moving with it,” McNeil added.
This choreography is created entirely by McNeil himself as he draws on his own free-style performances. Recognizing that free-style dance is his method for getting comfortable with his body, he intentionally concludes each class with a sexy free-style element which allows dancers to make the choreography their own.
Reflecting on his own creative process, McNeil explained that “choreography is just like painting, designing, branding – it is your own form of expression and it will look different for everybody.”
Each session’s choreography follows a category; in the past this has included Drag it Up, Arianna Realness, It’s Britney Bitch and Lady GaGa. McNeil claims this trend is inspired by 80’s ball culture, a term which describes an underground LGBTQ+ subculture in the United States. These individuals would compete at private balls, dancing and participating in drag categories that aligned with a specific theme for the evening.
“There is no element of competition to Strut It! — it is a very safe space. I want to make people feel more confident with who they are and that is my priority. There is no judgement — the class welcomes people from different races, identities and body-types and that is exactly how I want it to be.”
McNeil commented on the feeling of power that wearing and dancing in heels can inspire.
“When you put heels on, you can become a different person. Your body moves in a different way, which can make you feel like the boundaries are limitless … sexuality is a huge component of Strut It! because once you’re comfortable with yourself you can really embrace your body,” he said.
Strut It! With Brett operates through McNeil’s social brand, BHAUS. The future of Strut It! could mean expanding into bachelorette parties, team building or private classes.
If you’re looking to push the boundaries of your active life, drop in to a remaining class from Strut It’s spring session on May 5 or May 14 from 3:00-4:30 p.m.
McNeil stands behind the personal gain his classes offer.
“I just want people to come out and try it — you’re going to want to come back.”
Jenna is an artist, freelance writer and programming coordinator working in KW’s tech industry. When she’s not working, you can find Jenna singing around town, picking through the poetry section of used book stores or soaking up the sun whenever she has the chance.