From the moment I fell down the rabbit hole of Yanis Marshall’s Instagram feed, I’ve been obsessed. Who’s Yanis, you ask? Watch this. (We’ll get to why you’ve been living under a rock after.)
I know, right? The high heels, the booty pops. He has more estrogen in his body than most women I know.
When I saw he teaches a weekly class in Paris, I impulsively decided to go. Small problem: I’m not a dancer. I mean, I think I’m a fantastic dancer, just not on a Yanis Marshall master class level.
When I told my friends about it, they weren’t exactly supportive.
“Sounds hard and painful.”
And from my husband, “Are you sure you won’t hurt yourself?”
One can never be sure about these things. But with the full confidence of my friends and family behind me, I called the studio to secure my spot in class—and to confirm I wouldn’t die.
“Are you sure this class is ALL levels?”
Like a true Parisian, the receptionist said, “Oui, oui.”
Her answer made me feel like I could have asked any question and the response would have been the same.
“So after the class I’ll be able to fulfill a lifelong dream and become a Janet Jackson back-up dancer?”
Now I felt like death could actually become a problem. The epitaph on my tombstone: She died doing what she loved, making poor life choices in unreasonable footwear.
Tuesday night, I got to class feeling like the new girl on the first day of school. All the real dancers were cool and chic in their black leggings and slouchy tees. Me? Sports bra and bright pink, patterned workout pants. I was the dance equivalent of an American tourist in Paris. My outfit screamed, “I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m SO EXCITED TO BE HERE!”
“Take off your shoes, we’re doing the warmup! Hello, I said no shoes!!” he screeched.
I exchanged a terrified look with the girl next to me. I think she was more afraid of not understanding the French. I was glad I had one advantage over someone in the class: When he was telling me I was dancing like shit, I’d completely understand. As I struggled to point and flex during warmup, I became very scared of what was next…
“Voilà, we’re finished, put on les talons.”
And there it was.
All twenty-five of us, including about eight men, ran to put on our high heels. I sheepishly took out my sensible black pumps and prepared to kiss my dignity goodbye.
Yanis demonstrated the first steps: A modernized Bob Fosse jazz hand; a sassy hip pop; and a slow turn with our legs open, our hands sliding up our inner thighs like we were tugging on our miniskirts saying, “You want to see what’s under here.”
Yanis was detailed with each move, describing head placement and noting where we needed to hold tension in our bodies. Learning the choreography was important but he wanted more from us.
“Sex!” he shouted. “Give me SEX!”
With each step, we sank a little deeper into our hips. Everyone looked magnificent and gorgeous and sexy and, in my mind, I was right there with them.
“Non, non, non! The feet, look at your feet!”
“Lead with your head when you roll up!”
“LES PUTES! COMME LES PUTES!”
He wanted us to be whores so we were. The whole class was on the ground, face down, booty up. They looked like they were in a Beyoncé video. I looked like someone scrabbling for a lost contact lens.
Yanis also got deep with the pros in the class. “What are you going to do when you book a job and you’re dancing in a thong?”
I really gave his question good thought, but could only imagine myself booking a job in a thong if it involved a completely blind clientele. (For you thong-ready dancers, the answer was about body alignment.)
I think my love of dancing and muscle memory from when I was in junior high ballet class kept me afloat during the complicated choreography, making the class enjoyable. Also, watching the other dancers slay, Yanis included, made the class 100% worth it for this fangirl.
After class, I was drenched in sweat and a little stiff but I felt fabulous! I had conquered the dance version of Mount Everest—in heels, no less. But the next day, all his demands that we move like whores left me feeling like an old Pigalle hooker. Every part of my body hurt and I had terrible bruises on my knees, like I’d been on them all night long. Maybe I wasn’t ready to become a whore or a professional dancer. Two days later, the real muscle soreness kicked in and I shuffled around Paris with the mobility of a 90-year-old. When my knees recovered and I tried to recreate the dance steps for my husband, I pulled a hamstring.
Would I recommend this class to Yanis fans, dance enthusiasts, or women looking for a fun new workout? Absolutely not!
Unless you can confidently answer the question, “What do you do for work?” with “I’m a dancer.” Enter the studio at your own risk. The class is beyond difficult. I actually forgot I was wearing heels because I was so focused on the choreography.
Who knew the key to dancing in heels would be forgetting you have them on?
Photos by Maggie Kim
Read our up-close and personal interview with Yanis here.