We have been seeing some interesting shoes at our Milongas lately, so I have decided to talk about shoes today.
When people first start with dance lessons, they often ask why it is necessary to go out and buy dance shoes when they seem to be doing fine with the shoes they have. My reply is that for every sport you have specific shoes… rugby boots for rugby; tennis shoes for tennis… even cyclists have special shoes these days. You wouldn’t wear high-heels on to a squash court… right? Why would dancing be any different? Why would one want to wear squash shoes or soccer boots to go dancing?
The mistake people often make is this. They think that if the shoes are comfortable to walk in then they will be perfect for dancing. Well, “flip-flops” are great to walk in… but try dancing in them...!
As a man, trying to lead a woman through a wonderful journey on the dance floor, I find it very annoying when my lady is distracted by the fact that she has to grip her shoes with her toes in order to keep them from coming off. How can she have fun when her feet are balled up in a spasm trying to keep her shoes on?
And then there are the ladies that come dancing in flat shoes…
Now I know it’s “more comfortable”… and I know you’re “not used to walking in high heels”… I have heard it all before. For me, a lady dancing in flat shoes is like watching a man walking around all night with his fly down. It’s just not sexy!
(...bet I've stepped on a couple of toes here now.)
Dancing must, firstly, feel good… and then it must look good too. Why? Well, when one can dance… no matter where you are, people are going to watch you. So, yes, dancing must feel good, but it’s gotta look good too! Wear shoes that make your dancing look good.
… and what about the gent who comes dancing with what I call “Judge Dredd” shoes?
You know the ones… they have under soles as thick as two standard bricks and look just as heavy. These shoes have very little flexibility… and I shudder to think of the damage they can do to a lady’s poor feet when he starts stepping all over her instead of the dance floor.
...proper dance shoes?
Here in SA we can get proper dance shoes at any of the dance shops around… but in truth… I find that the variety of dance shoes is very limited. Let’s face it, they’re down right boring. In Buenos Aires most of the dance shoes are hand made and you have a selection of styles and colours and shapes that go on forever. I never saw two ladies wearing the same pair of shoes - ever. Every pair of shoes was as individual as the owner.
And then there is the problem that the dance shoes we get at the dance shops here are not normally made that well… they don’t last.
What makes a dance shoe a dance shoe…?
Well, it’s the studs underneath the boot that make it a rugby boot, and it’s the non-slip sole underneath a shoe that makes it a squash shoe.
Underneath a dance shoe you will find a leather or suede sole. The leather seems to work brilliantly on a dance floor to give the dancer enough traction to step without sliding away, but also enough slip to be able to pivot on the balls of her feet. This is very important… try doing “Ocho’s” with rubber soles that stick to the floor and you’ll know what I mean.
A dance shoe must sit securely on your feet. A lady shouldn’t be trying to hold her shoes on with her toes while she is dancing… so make sure they strap, comfortably and firmly, to your feet.
A dance shoe should also be comfortable. If your shoes make your feet sore because they’re too tight or cutting into you… you’re not going to enjoy your dancing and you won’t be dancing very much that night.
So what is the solution…? we don’t have a great variety of good-looking dance shoes to choose from in this country…? but we want to be able to cater to our own sense of style and individuality, and dance with proper shoes so we don’t impede our dancing?
This is what I do.
I go shopping for a good pair of leather uppers... something I like... something that expresses my style… I take it to the shoe repair guy up the road from my house... and I get him to rip off the original soles (normally plastic or rubber) and stitch on a good leather sole. TA-DA!!!! Instant dance shoe!
Some of the ladies' shoes only need to have a leather strip glued onto the bottom of the existing soles. But if the sole is made of a hard plastic or wood and doesn’t bend or flex… it won’t be a good pair of shoes to dance in.
For the ladies… if you and your partner are just starting out, I suggest buying a "closed-toed" shoe to start off with. It won’t stop your man from standing on your toes… but it will prevent him from kicking your toe nails off - a very painful experience… and the nail takes about 3 months to grow back. Eina!!!
Another thing for the ladies to consider is the heel (...and there should be a heel... even if it's a low heel... there must be a heel!). Big block heels on shoes, while dancing, look very silly - as bad as the “Judge Dredd” shoes. (...oops! I think I stepped on some toes again...) Go for a sexy, slim heel.
As Dancers, we need to look after our feet… cause without them we don’t have much fun. So make sure you find yourself a good pair of shoes, that are comfortable to dance in, will protect your feet, and bring out your own special brand of “Bling”.