By Laura Collins
I’ve been dancing since the age of six, and have always loved it. From ballet, to modern, to tap, I’ve tested and trained in many styles, finding happiness in all of them. Then, this past summer I was invited to my friend’s dance show at Celebrities Night Club.
Just before 8:30pm, the lights went dark and the show music began. My eyes adjusted to the light, my heart pounding as I waited to see the dancers. I was so excited that I was getting sweaty with anticipation. One by one, the dancers entered the stage, the lights started flashing and bam, the dancing began. Every women on stage had a face of pure confidence as they danced, demanding the attention of every audience member. Hollering and whistling at the audience, they interacted with those sitting nearest to the stage. This wasn’t just any dance show. This was the Army of Sass, and these women were powerful beings, captivating the audience with their sultry moves. I wanted to be one of those women.
Army of Sass (AOS) was founded by Carla Catherwood, beginning as a side project more than ten years ago. Not called AOS at the time, Catherwood began organizing heels performances in Vancouver after seeing the positive response to her first show which was put on as a fund raiser for a personal friend of hers. After moving to Toronto in 2010 and starting shows up there, she saw an opportunity to take her love of coaching and teaching to the next level, beginning AOS. After creating and releasing the program in Toronto, she brought her heels love back to Vancouver and opened the first program here. With over 300 students currently registered in Toronto, Vancouver, Abbotsford, Penticton, Kelowna and Calgary, AOS is now strutting across the country.
Promoting a slogan of where confidence, community and dance come together, AOS works to train students of all levels in heels style dance. The program is divided up into three separate 10-week sessions, with a sexy and sultry performance at the end of each session. Two hours of class a week allows the students space to learn technique and master their performance piece. I was told AOS provides a safe space for any woman to learn to be sassy. So I signed up.
I’ve been training with AOS since September, and already it’s been a journey. While I’ve danced for many years, never has it been in a bra and heels. Never have I had to be so vulnerable in order to be so powerful.
Several weeks ago, I would blush anytime I caught the teacher or another student watching me. I didn’t know how to move like this, how to let go and trust my body. I was used to calculated choreography, not freestyle. I was stiff and awkward every time I had to thrust my hips or stare someone in the eyes. It’s not that I didn’t know how to be sexy. I have moments in my life where I have definitely felt in-touch with myself. But nine times out of ten, I only feel sexy when I’m with my boyfriend, and not in front of a massive group of people watching me caress the dance floor.
And so, the trip out of my comfort zone began. I worked on the eye contact, the strutting, and the body rolls. Each week, I would enter the doors of the Scotiabank Dance Centre in Vancouver and press the elevator button, my heart a little skippy. When the doors opened, I would enter the elevator and take a breath, working up my confidence so that when those elevator doors opened to the studio, I was all smiles. I was giving myself these little moments and pep talks because I wanted to feel sexy and powerful, and I wanted everyone around me to feel that energy. Feeling beautiful in front of a group of people is intimidating, and it was seeming like the biggest struggle. Then one class, six weeks into the season, it kind of just all clicked.
That day, we all stood in a circle with two chairs in the middle. The lights were dimmed and we entered the circle two or three at a time, free styling to Janet Jackson. We were given freedom to dance with the chair, with each other, or solo. My heart was pounding as I waited my turn. I watched the other women, seeing what moves of theirs I could steal for when I had to enter that daunting circle. And then I felt it, a tap on my shoulder, and I walked into the centre, my mind blanking on all the moves I had previously memorized. I stood for a brief second, nervous energy flowing through me. And then I just let that all go. I looked around me, only to find a group of women, chanting and cheering, supporting each and every one in that dance studio.I turned that nervous energy into confidence, and I owned that moment. I spun, dipped and commanded the room. I left the circle when my turn was done, my body tingling from adrenaline, a smile creeping in the corners of my mouth. I had never felt like such a powerful woman.
Now, every time I walk into class, I try and channel that sassy moment. Do I fall? Yes. Do I look clumsy? A lot of the time. Do I care? No. Because this isn’t about looking sexy. This is about me pushing myself to try something new. Because as the AOS chant goes: “I am a confident woman. I am classy woman. We are the Army of Sass!”
If you want to watch a bunch of amazing women take the stage at Celebrities Night Club December 1-3, grab your tickets for The Grinch production here.
Laura Collins likes people watching from coffee shop windows, drinking wine when she’s forced to cook, and is sure to be caught skipping from meeting to meeting while at work.