Posts Tagged ‘heels’
Each pair of dance shoes I’ve owned is a chapter in my dancing autobiography.
When I started out learning East Coast Swing, right away I noticed that sticky shoes made my knees hurt. So I ran out and bought myself a pair of those hard-soled, Mary Jane character dealies. I think I got them at Goodwill. They kept my knees from hurting, but left something to be desired, style-wise. Plus since I never wore heels in real life, the little 2″ heels made me feel unstable and weird.
Then one day I saw a girl dancing Lindy Hop in sneakers. I was just starting to realize that something existed out there beyond six-count swing, and I was fascinated by these Lindy Hoppers. I bought some cute sneakers too, and put suede on the bottoms with superglue. I felt lighter and freer, and my dancing took a giant leap forward.
At that time in history, all the top-notch dancers were wearing two-tone black and white Aris Allens. I had reached that first snobby stage where I didn’t want to mess up my wonderful skills by dancing with inferior dancers, so I would actually watch out for those black and white shoes, and only ask people to dance who were wearing them. But the eighty-dollar price tag kept me from buying any for myself.
Until one day a pair of Aris Allens went on sale for thirty-five bucks. They were basically sueded sneaker soles with black and white canvas Mary Janes on top. Same as dancing in my sneakers, but a little bit more vintage-ish. I loved those shoes.
I wore my black and white shoes until they literally fell apart. They lasted me through the era when swing dancers were experimenting with those bizarre split-soled dance sneakers that ballet dancers wear. The ugliness of those things kept me from even being tempted.
Then I happened to take a workshop from an amazing dance instructor, and she taught the entire workshop in bare feet! Wow. This sent me into an actual footwear crisis. Maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t even about the shoes at all – maybe it was about skill.
So then I entered this phase where I was dancing in everything BUT dance shoes. I wore my Chuck Taylors and my Doc Martens, even tried dancing in flip-flops. I actually got a little snobby about it: I considered myself a real dancer because it didn’t matter what I had on my feet.
That didn’t last long. Dancing in Doc Martens can be just a little bit like trying to dance in swim fins. Anyway, this was around the time when I fell in love with Balboa. All the best Balboa follows, I noticed, wore skirts and heels. Real heels too, not special dance shoes, but real, actual shoes. I wanted to be like them.
So I tried every kind of high-heeled shoe I could find. Nothing worked. Even the most comfortable heels made my feet scream after about five minutes of dancing in them. Plus I always felt like I was falling over. Balboa was mostly okay, but I lived in terror that someone would yank me into a too-fast swingout and I’d fall flat on my whatchamacallit.
But I learned a lot. My teacher told me that when you dance in heels you should use the shoe exactly as you would if you were wearing flats. So I practiced walking in heels. I’d take long walks outside in high-heeled shoes, and I experimented with using the whole shoe, not just mincing along on my tippytoes. I learned that a lot of high-heeled shoes feel too flimsy, like the heel is going to break off, and those made me grip with my feet in weird ways. On some other heels, the sole is too thick, and if I couldn’t feel the floor I tended to walk flatfooted, like Godzilla. I learned to bend my knees more and interact with the ground, not just with the shoes.
Through trial and error, I learned what I needed in a dancing shoe. The height of the heel didn’t seem to matter as much as the width of the heel; blocky heels worked better for me than spiky ones. I needed a shoe that came up high enough on my instep that a kick wouldn’t send it flying off into space. The shoe itself needed to be wide enough that my foot could spread out and not be squeezed, yet it needed to be snug enough that when I moved my foot, the shoe stayed with it and didn’t slip around.
When I came up with my list of requirements for the perfect dancing shoe, I went looking for them. And I found them! And I bought two pairs, one black, one white. And I wear them all the time, with dresses and with jeans, and I can dance all night in them and still be raring to go. I love my shoes so much, I’ll probably wear them out completely.
And you know what? By that time they’ll probably have been discontinued and then I’ll have to start all over again. And a new chapter will begin!
So tell me… What kind of shoes are your favorites for dancing?