To live the high life, just walk this way

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

The first time I meet Chyna Whyne she is dressed in Min­nie Mouse heels, skintight red leg­gings and a red T-shirt em­bel­lished with black stilet­tos. In a sul­try voice she is telling a group of women, all over 40, to be the “but­ter­flies” that they are. “Shine and be you,” she says, strut­ting up and down in sky­high plat­forms in a room above a Caribbean restau­rant in Cam­den, north London. “Present that in­ner thigh! Flex those legs!”

I am here for a class on how to walk in high heels. In my bag is a pair of 5in plat­forms bought in Paris in a mo­ment of mad­ness. I have never been brave or fool­ish enough to wear them. De­spite all the things heels stand for – sex, power, glam­our, longer legs – I find wear­ing them such agony that I have never learnt to walk in them.

Doc­tors have been warn­ing of the dan­gers heels pose for years but Chyna Whyne (pro­nounced “China Wine”) says it’s all about tech­nique. “Most women are out of bal­ance,” she says. “Some lead with their hips, some lead with their chests, oth­ers stick their bot­toms out.”

A Bri­tish-Jamaican singer who hap­pily wears stilet­tos all day, Chyna has per­fected a way of wear­ing heels based on the Alexan­der Tech­nique. It all started dur­ing a tour with Eric Clap­ton. “I was fly­ing around the world in killer heels and just loving it,” says Chyna. “But I was bat­tling with ex­cru­ci­at­ing back pain.” Des­per­ate for a rem­edy, she tried pills, phys­io­ther­apy, os­teopa­thy, chi­ro­prac­tic work – but the pain kept re­turn­ing.

Even­tu­ally a friend sug­gested the Alexan­der Tech­nique. The re­sults were so pos­i­tive that Chyna de­cided to train as an Alexan­der Tech­nique teacher. Re­fus­ing to ditch the heels – flat shoes, she says, make her “low and de­pressed” – she turned up for class in “tight leather pants” and 6in stilet­tos. “Wear­ing heels seemed per­fectly nat­u­ral, given I wanted to learn how to master the art of wear­ing them,” she says.

There are seven of us in tonight’s class. Chyna in­structs us to line up our shoes on the ta­ble. “Al­ways do the rock­ing test in shops,” she says, tap­ping the back and sides of each shoe. “If they rock, walk away.” My Paris plat­forms pass – just – but a French girl’s de­signer stilet­tos are writ­ten off on the spot. When Chyna taps them, they swing like pen­du­lums. “Oh my God, can you see them rock­ing, honey?” says Chyna. “They’re an ab­so­lute haz­ard. Just look at the way that heel leans.”

Min­utes later we are bare­foot and sit­ting by the wall in a mass of bags, shoes and um­brel­las. “Now I want you all to say, ‘I love my feet’ at the top of your voices,” says Chyna, beam­ing at us en­cour­ag­ingly. We re­lease a se­ries of groans. “Come on,” says Chyna, burst­ing into gospel-like song. “I love my feet! Send them love and they’ll do what you want.”

It’s all a bit New Age but our spir­its lift when Chyna switches to 10 min­utes of aero­plane-type “Now let’s up that swag­ger,” says Chyna. “Does that feel hot?”

Un­der Chyna’s tute­lage hips start to roll – and ev­ery­one looks taller and slim­mer as they strut past a startling nude called The Bride Who Ate Her Hus­band. A Dutch woman strides up and down as if she could con­quer the world’s board­rooms and the French woman, who’s been told to save her stilet­tos “for the bed­room” (she has switched back to her es­padrille wedges) is now pout­ing al­lur­ingly. “You go, girl,” says Chyna, clap­ping de­light­edly. “Just tap into that sen­su­al­ity. Be the flower that you are, honey.”

My sec­ond (pri­vate) ses­sion with Chyna kicks off with 20 min­utes of Alexan­der Tech­nique. All I do is sit in a chair while she places her hands on my up­per body. There is no pulling or tug­ging, no ob­vi­ous ma­nip­u­la­tion, but I have an im­me­di­ate sense of well­be­ing, fol­lowed by a feel­ing of light­ness. With­out me even notic­ing she has some­how re­aligned my spine.

This time I’m de­ter­mined not to be brain­washed, even though I’m itch­ing to put on my pink plat­forms. Aren’t heels all about slav­ery, fe­male sub­or­di­na­tion etc etc? Chyna hands me my shoes. “Honey, they’re em­pow­er­ing. You’re at an ad­van­tage im­me­di­ately – job in­ter­views, on stage, ev­ery­thing.”

Heels are, she says, dy­na­mite to ex­er­cises. Th­ese, we’re told, are the es­sen­tial pre­lude to any lengthy wear­ing of heels. “Stretch your toes and span them like a fan,” says Chyna. “Ro­tate the an­kles to the left and right.” Fi­nally we point and flex our feet sev­eral times. It’s hard work but feels good.

Mus­cles warmed up, we are now ready to put on our shoes. Chyna lines us up at one end of the room, then sends us up and down in pairs. Back and forth we stag­ger, stiff­legged as new­born gi­raffes. Chyna holds my hand. “Can you feel that nat­u­ral swag­ger, dar­ling? Yes? Oh honey, I’m so proud.”

Soon we start to get the idea. We’re strut­ting, legs ex­tended, balls of the feet touch­ing the floor first, inside thighs “pre­sent­ing”, just as we’re told. I’m walk­ing un­aided.

I stand cor­rected: Casilda gets the hang of her 5in pink plat­forms at last – thanks to more than a lit­tle help from Chyna Whyne

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