When I saw an Instagram account promoting a Heels Dance class in Rigby, Idaho, that said “knee pads recommended,” I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

Growing up, I always loved dancing in theory, but I never had taken a class and figured that at 25, it was too late to start. To me, dance classes were for spunky toddlers with tiaras or rail-thin prima ballerinas aspiring to make it big. But after seeing a video of women around my age in the beginner’s class performing a burlesque-style dance, I was decided.

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

Burt was easily identifiable as the leader of the group, not only because of her position in the room, but because of the confidence she had in her skills and herself.

Heels Kennadee uses in her dance classes.

Heels Kennadee uses in her dance classes. Photo credit: Gabriela Fletcher

We began to stretch, sandwiched between two mirrors so no matter where you looked, you could see yourself entirely. The whole class followed as she taught us different moves for a routine. She encouraged us to do what we felt comfortable with and just enjoy ourselves.

Bend. Twist. 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 realized why knee pads are encouraged. The light bruising on my inner knees faded after a few days but the feeling of empowerment and support I felt left a lasting impression.

Burt’s entire approach to teaching Heels Class comes from a desire to help women feel confident and sexy without being crude or disrespectful.

Kennadee uses mirrors in the studio to help dancers perfect their techniques.

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

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

Heels can mean a variety of things, but Burt describes her class as being a burlesque or “sexy jazz” style of dance. While burlesque typically emphasizes sensuality and feminine movement, there is no stripping or nudity involved in the classes.

Burt took her first Heels Class as an adult while she was on a hip-hop dance crew in Rexburg where she attends college at BYU-Idaho, but her journey as a dancer began at just three years old.

She has always been a ball of energy, ready to attack any challenge that comes her way. While her mom, initially put her in dance classes as a way to get out her wiggly toddler energy, it quickly became a constant in her life.

Kennadee dancing in the studio.

Kennadee Burt dancing in the studio. Photo credit: Gabriela Fletcher

She lived in 14 different homes before turning 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 was taking so many classes and styles of dance that she would be in the studio for 14 hours a week. Despite her experience in various dance styles, her favorite has always been hip-hop.

At 16, Burt dropped all her other dance classes and joined a hip-hop dance crew. Since then, she’s been on two other adult hip-hop dance crews in Rexburg and is currently on an adult dance team through Dance Fusion in Rigby. It was through Dance Fusion that she first took a Heels Class and inspired her to start her own.

“In hip hop, there’s so many different types of people, different body sizes, and they all can dance, they all can do hip hop… and they’re all amazing at it. If you look at hip hop dancers across the world, there’s no one mold. I’ve seen plus size dancers do the exact same thing as skinny ballerinas that decide to do hip hop. So really that’s what made me realize that what’s beautiful about it is them expressing themselves.”

Dance Fusion dance studio Kennadee Burt uses for her classes.

Dance Fusion dance studio Kennadee Burt uses for her classes. Photo credit: Gabriela Fletcher

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

While the two may not seem to mix, Burt’s faith plays an important role in dance and the purpose of her Heels Class.

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

While her class isn’t just for Christian women, Burt wants to create a safe space for those who may still be learning to own their sensuality and become comfortable in their bodies. Part of creating that safe space includes being mindful in the way she dresses and what music she chooses for the class, which has proved more difficult than she thought.

“Choosing the music is so hard for me… because I don’t want to pick music that pushes a crude message,” Burt said. “The ​message ​that ​I’m ​trying ​to ​portray ​is ​that… you’re ​special. ​You ​can ​feel ​sexy ​in ​yourself. ​It’s ​a ​private ​thing, and ​if ​you ​choose ​to ​share ​it ​with ​someone, ​with ​them. ​So ​I ​try ​to ​pick ​music ​that’s ​more ​about ​a ​connection ​and ​​sensuality ​than ​sexuality.”

There is no shortage of songs about love and sensuality, but she came to realize that most “love” songs that would be used for Heels dance are actually more about sexual gratification than genuine connection. Burt noticed that even songs meant to empower women seemed to be more about encouraging putting yourself first, even at the expense of others, or to use sexuality as a tool for power.

“(Sexual relationships) ​have ​been ​twisted ​in ​such ​a ​bad ​way,” Burt said. “To ​the ​point ​where ​now ​people ​either ​go to​ one ​extreme or the other. They say ​either ​everything ​about ​it ​is ​completely ​bad ​or ​everything ​about ​it ​is ​fine ​and ​okay… The ​whole ​idea is ​that ​it’s ​sacred, ​your ​self-confidence ​and ​believing ​that ​you ​are ​a ​daughter ​of ​God ​is ​sacred.”

Kennadee Burt dancing in the studio.

Kennadee Burt dancing in the studio. Photo credit: Gabriela Fletcher

For those who want to discover themselves and find a sacred confidence in their body, Burt emphasizes the importance of doing so in a safe space and in a way that respects your identity as a daughter of God.

​“The ​reality ​is ​people ​nowadays ​have ​been ​losing ​their ​confidence ​in ​who ​they ​are, and ​with ​the ​messages ​that ​are ​all ​around ​them, ​they ​don’t ​know ​what ​is ​appropriate ​and ​what’s ​too ​far,” Burt said. “So ​I’m ​trying ​to ​teach it’s ​okay ​to ​feel ​confident ​yourself. ​It’s ​okay ​to ​dance. ​It’s ​okay ​to know ​your ​body, ​but ​it ​if ​you ​don’t ​want ​to ​share ​it, ​that ​also ​is ​okay.”

Burt is in her junior year at BYU-I majoring in history education with a minor in government education, with hopes to become a history teacher when she completes her bachelor’s degree. While she may not always teach dance, she hopes it will always be a part of her life.

If she had to give one piece of advice to new dancers it’s this:

“Nobody’s ​looking ​at ​you. Nobody. ​The reality ​is, ​people ​who ​have ​done ​it ​forever ​never ​judge ​new ​people… ​they’ll (likely) ​think, ​‘Wow, ​that’s ​awesome ​that ​they’re ​starting ​at ​that ​age, ​because ​I ​know ​how ​hard ​that ​is ​because ​I ​was ​there.’”

More information about Burt’s Heels Classes, visit her Instagram here.