SF Salon Music puts on dancing shoes at Verdi Club

As a rule shoes come in identical pairs, but for Michelle Chang creating an ideal fit for the SF Salon Music program requires mixing and matching two surprisingly disparate threads. 

The creator and curator of the singular Verdi Club series that combines performance, lecture, discussion and noshing, Chang hit upon her latest theme, “Heels: Walk and Dance in Your Own Shoes,” after months of research and mulling over possibilities. 

Sunday’s event focuses on shoes, specifically the titular soleful appendages, with a talk by Sara E. Melzer, UCLA professor emerita in French and Francophone studies, about the symbolic power and ankle-busting reality of high heels. She’s followed by nine dancers from the Northern California Dance Conservatory in Roseville and actor and choreographer Kayla Johnston. 

“They’ll present five dance styles­–ballroom, ballet, modern, tap, and contemporary–and before every dance I’ve asked the dancers to talk about their relationship to shoes. I adore ballerinas when they dance and when you get to their feet, they’re holding their entire body weight on this little box. Those pointe shoes hurt so much.”

Melzer also brings a very personal connection to the topic. While she once saw heels through a feminist lens as a tool for disabling women while seeking favor from men, her love of tango dancing gave her a different perspective. 

“She realized that when you wear the heels your upper body leans forward to your partner,” Chang said. “It changes the dynamic of the dancers, so we developed a little theme about feminism and symbolism, explaining shoes, high heels and the feel of contact with the floor.” 

A conservatory-trained opera singer and educator, Chang launched SF Salon Music early last year as a response to her musical friends and colleagues losing all their work with the advent of COVID-19. Since moving from Zurich to San Francisco with her tech-employed husband in 2016 she’d worked largely as a voice teacher in Palo Alto until the pandemic abruptly changed her course “from singer and educator to curator and impresario,” she said.

“Heels” is her sixth program and the last event of the spring before she takes a summer break. With three programs in the pipeline, Chang sounds confident that she’s found a winning formula. Each event starts with 20 minutes or so to socialize and imbibe. After the presentations and performances there are further opportunities to talk with the artists and other audience members. 

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