Heels, Lingerie & Beyoncé: How I Crushed My Stage Fright in Dance Class

My heart is racing and I feel like I’m having a heart attack. As soon as Destiny’s Child’s “No, No, No” comes on, I know it’s my turn to get on stage—but for a moment, I’m frozen. For 10 weeks, I’ve been training with Army of Sass, a fitness and dance program in Toronto where anyone can learn to move like Queen Bey, high heels and all. All my practice has led up to this nerve-racking moment: showtime at the Mod Club, clad in lingerie, facing a crowd of friends and strangers, under the nowhere-to-hide spotlight. What if I blank out in front of the camera? What if I’m too stiff? What if I make a mistake? But I tell myself to just breathe, breathe, breathe as I step onto the stage.

Why Am I Here?

I’ve taken salsa and bachata classes before, and I loved them, but I also consider myself a self-conscious person—so the idea of performing as the centre of attention is well outside my comfort zone. So how did I end up here? As my one and only New Year’s resolution last year, I vowed to do things that scare the living crap out of me: being on stage and dancing fit the bill. I’m horrible at both.

I first heard about Army of Sass, a Canadian company that runs classes across North America, through a friend who took the program, and after watching her show, I left totally inspired. All the women I saw that night rocked it, and I couldn’t help but wonder, If they can do it, why can’t I?

A Beyoncé-themed Army of Sass performance night

So I signed up for classes last spring. My Army of Sass training called for two hours of dance classes per week, and in the beginning, I knew I was supposed to just be open to having fun, but I felt too shy. My instructor, Meghan, noticed and put me beside one of the funniest ladies on the team to put me at ease (it worked!). In the studio, there was no room for judgment; everyone welcomed and supported each other.

One hour each week was dedicated to warm-ups (squats, planks, jumping jacks) and drills (different types of walks, like a slow, sexy strut or something faster, but always to the beat), followed by freestyle dancing. The second hour was all about gradually mastering the choreography for the two songs we would be performing on stage.

Fitness has been a part of my life for years—I run marathons and love yoga—so I wasn’t daunted by the physical challenge. But I quickly learned that dancing with Army of Sass is demanding in a different way. Yes, my calves got a workout because of the heels, but keeping up with the choreo was a mental game, too. I had to work with a partner, adapt to changes in formation, visualize the dance on stage—and, most crucially, muster all my confidence. As the weeks went on, I got over my initial nerves. From learning to dance in heels to learning WTF is a body roll while trying not to look like a sushi roll, it was a blast.

I loved the two Beyoncé songs chosen for our group, and the choreography for “Rocket” was exactly what I wanted. I thought I’d nailed my hair flips, but when I watched the video back, I realized I looked timid—I had to learn to exaggerate all my movements. The ending was my favourite part, when our group lined up and moved in a flow, creating a kind of human waterfall effect. It turned out beautifully.

Now, for the program’s grand finale, it’s go-time on stage.

I Got This

To my surprise, the fear falls away and I’m suddenly really excited to be here. After all the training and countless hours of self-doubt, I’m finally doing it for real. To get over my nerves, I imagine this is just the same thing I’ve done in rehearsal. I’m here to have fun and let loose.

Veronika at the Army of Sass “Queen Bey” show last summer

And that’s exactly what I do. I step on stage and dance my butt off! There are no special tricks to feeling confident in the spotlight. All I can think about is my running mantra: trust the process. Despite a few frustrating rehearsals when it felt like nothing clicked, I’m super proud that I never quit, and I put in the work to get here and do it right.

I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up with Army of Sass, but the whole experience ended up being so healing, so powerful and so fucking fun. Recently, I even enrolled for round two (find a class near you if you’re inspired, too!). For me, it’s where I not only learned some moves, but also conquered fears and rediscovered who I really am. It’s where diversity is fully embraced, where judgment has no place, and where self-love is the lesson I take away.

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