Is it safe to perform in heels?

Last night’s Dancing with the Stars featured vocal powerhouse Kelly Clarkson, whom we haven’t seen in some time.

She sang “Mr. Know It All” from her new album Stronger, her beautiful vocals were enhanced by the dancing couple in front of her.

I will admit that I listen to a music with the ear of a laryngologist. I don’t know all the tricks and magic behind live vocal performance but Clarkson seemed to have it all figured out. With phenomenal posture and breath support, tension-free singing, and a hint of (intentional?) rasp at the top, she glided through a vocally challenging piece. And made it look easy.

But what about that posture? I couldn’t help but notice her standing on 4 inch heels. And for that matter, so were her back-up singers. In my office, I see younger singers coming in with burn-out injuries of their voices, so I worry when I see things that risk damaging the voice. The posture you take when you sing is critical to your support. But does that mean the young female singer is banished to tennis shoes?

This is where an excellent vocal coach and trainer come in to the equation. There are ways to learn to engage your support and balance yourself, no matter how high the platform you stand upon. Perhaps this was something Clarkson knew, because she was in those shoes but she took out some of the performance movement that can result in injury. She occasionally touched that center, seemingly to remind herself of the source of her sound and to focus her breath there. And the result sang for itself.

In the end, vocal strength is not easily taught. You must constantly re-learn and re-assess what you do. But with diligence and a good vocal team on your side, you can learn the tricks to a long career.

And about those shoes? Swoon… just consider practicing in the heels you’re performing in so they don’t take you by surprise. Hang in your heels only when you’re ready.