While holding a 3-foot-long cane behind my back, I walked the plank — wobbling along a narrow wooden platform in a pair of hot pink, 4-inch pumps that I’d dug out from the back of my closet hours earlier.
I was getting professional help — to walk in high heels.
In September, Olga Kuznetcova, a single mother in her 30s and former runway model, began offering two-hour “Elegance NY” workshops to teach the ladies of New York how to properly strut their stuff in stilettos.
“My goal is to help women embrace their femininity and power,” Kuznetcova, a Russia native who moved to NYC in 2016, told The Post.
Kuznetcova, who has a kind-but-firm drill sergeant approach, previously offered runway-walking classes to aspiring models. But, she realized that she’d lost her ability to walk in heels after only wearing sneakers and flats during the pandemic — and that she wasn’t alone.
With the help of her social media-savvy daughter, Alissa Matveea, 18, she launched the workshops. Many of her students come via viral TikTok and Instagram videos that flaunt her fancy footwork and attract as many as 6 million views.
She holds the classes twice a month at various dance studios throughout Manhattan. The sessions, which typically sell out, have up to 10 students, who pay $80 apiece to get back on their toes.
Pupils, who are advised to bring a two-to-four inch pair of heels to class, learn to break bad habits such as walking with their heads and eyes cast down, over-swinging the arms and hunching their backs and shoulders — sins Kuznetcova says she sees New Yorkers commit on a daily basis.
To right the wrongs, she leads participants through a series of exercises, such as walking that wooden plank, balancing a book on their heads while traveling across the room and strutting with a cane behind their backs.
It isn’t easy.
As a lifelong shoe lover, who’d sometimes rock stilettos around my house during the COVID-19 lockdown just for fun, I was mortified by my inability to stroll heel-to-toe in a straight line with my head up, shoulders back, stomach in and hips tucked as Kuznetcova advised
“Walking in heels is about focus and confidence,” she told me in a recent class, holding my hand for balance as I staggered down the plank, praying not to twist and ankle “You got it.”
At least I had some sole sisters with me on the arduous journey.
Karen Cuevas, 30, a FDNY paramedic who first learned of Elegance NY on social media, signed up for a workshop to prepare for her wedding in January.
“Day to day, I wear either my work boots, flats or sneakers, and I’m not as comfortable in heels as I used to be,” the bride-to-be told The Post.
The workshop gave her a boost of confidence.
“I can’t wait to hold that bouquet and know that all the attention is on me as I walk down the aisle in my wedding heels,” she said.
Eadjo Elodie, 25, a 5-foot-11 siren, moved to Manhattan from Gabon in 2019 to further her college education and pursue a modeling career. But, for the past four years, she hadn’t worn heels after being told the added height made her seem intimidating.
“People always tell me, ‘Oh, don’t wear heels, you’re too tall already.’ So I slump my shoulders down to appear smaller,” Elodie said.
“But I don’t want to do that anymore. The class helped me feel like I can wear heels and feel feminine and sexy.”
By the end of the class, I also felt more surefooted. My feet, back and butt were killing me, but I’d learned to walk the plank without wobbling.
My classmates and I closed the night with a round of applause, congratulating each other for trudging into the room like duds but walking out as divas.
“I love to see women progress and become more comfortable in their own bodies,” said Kuznetcova. “That empowers them to go new places, try new things, go after that promotion.”
“And New York City is the place to do it all.”