Posts Tagged ‘ballroom dance shoes’

For The Love of Ballroom Dancing

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

When Jack was a teenager he loved to dance, but he didn’t really know it. When he looked old enough he would go to nightclubs, get drunk and then dance all night. He was self-conscious and didn’t want to look foolish in front of people. This was was why he thought he needed the alcohol. Standing around the dance floor with the other guys who were afraid to dance was not much fun. But the beer helped him to get out of his head and into his body and to feel the music. It helped him to overcome his inhibitions and not care about what others thought.  At the time, he did not realize that it was for the dancing that he went nightclubbing in the first place.

Now that Jack is in his 40’s. Well things are different. He realizes that he has, in many ways, wasted his life due to fear and laziness. He doesn’t even like drinking anymore; he hasn’t enjoyed it for years and years. The best time was when he was 15 – that was when it was new, fun and exciting. After that time, it just became old.

At last, now that he is middle-aged, divorced and podgy, he has decided to be bold and let loose his love for dancing. He has started to take dancing seriously. The first bold step he took was to enrol in ballroom dancing classes so that he could learn the art of dancing with a partner. Jack loves the intimacy of dancing with a partner. He loves the connection between the two of them and how they can move as one being – even with the most basic dance steps. He enjoys the structure of the dance patterns and the freedom to express himself within this structure, especially with the rumba and cha cha cha dance steps. The second bold step was to buy some real ballroom dance shoes after the first ballroom dance class.

It is ironic that when Jack was a teenager that he thought that the guys who did ballroom dancing were gay. Yet they were dancing with girls all of the time. They weren’t as cool as him and his friends, but they did not spend a lot of time on their own and with other single guys. If only he had learned to dance properly when he was young… he would be so good at it today.

Now Jack tries not to believe his thoughts and feelings. He knows he isn’t what he thinks or feels or experiences. He listens to a deeper knowing about what is good and right for him to be and do, and believes this knowing instead. It tells him what to do. (A bit like how the music tells a dancer how to move.) So when he feels like giving up  and thinks that he is a hopeless dancer because he cannot seem to do the dance steps and lead his partner around the floor, he doesn’t give these  feelings and thoughts any energy. He just keeps practicing. He knows that for him this is a common occurrence when he has to do something difficult. It will feel too hard at first and he will think that he will never do it. But over time he will find that it does become easier and he is able to do it. He actually will enjoy the whole learning process and will wonder what all the fuss was about when he first tried it.

This new way of being in life has made all of the difference to Jack. He is looking at what is next for his love of dancing. Maybe hip hop or jazz dancing… now that could be fun.

Ballroom Dancing Overview

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Ballroom dancing involves dancing a variety of social dances with a partner. This type of dancing is when a couple follow a pattern of dance steps. For a couple to dance well requires that they are connected and that the man is firm in the lead, and the woman is flexible in following the lead. The purpose is for the two dancers to become one being dancing to the music.

All that is required to learn the dance steps is patience, practice and a desire to learn.

Different Dances

Ballroom dancing combines different dances. Modern ballroom includes Latin dances and American-style dancing that feature a lot of  turns and quick movements. The dances can be slow or fast depending on the type of dance you are doing. Although the dances are different, they do have similarities.

Forward and On the Spot Dances

Dances that involve a continuous forward movement are danced in a line counter clockwise around the dance floor e.g. Waltz, Foxtrot, and Tango.

Rumba ballroom dancing photo

Rumba

Dances  that involve dancing on the spot are danced in the centre of the dance floor e.g the Jive, Mambo, Rumba and Cha cha cha.

Dance Lessons

Group lessons from a dance studio or club is enough to learn the basic steps and get to know the dances.  In a group, I get to dance with different partners and progress faster than if I were to dance only with one partner.

I also  find that I learn faster when I repeat the dance level (e.g. bronze 1) I have just completed at the same time as taking the next level (e.g. bronze 2). I get to see what I missed the first time around which helps me to begin to really master the fundamentals.

Dance Shoes

Ballroom dance shoes help the beginner learn as they make the dancing easier.

Dance Music

Some music seems easier to dance to than others. I learn more quickly when the  music I am dancing to has a clear beat and I know what the timing of the music is. I have started a list of dance music that I like and has an obvious rhythm.

Dance Competition

Dancing ballroom has also evolved into a competition sport. Even though beginners can compete with each other, this is not for me right now! I am not fit enough and I think it might take the fun out of learning to dance.

World Dance Culture

Dancing has always been part of human cultures. There are ancient cave paintings illustrate that the first humans danced in some form. Today, people still like to rhythmically move their bodies in time with music. There are many, many dance styles throughout the world that are used as a form of expression, socializing or performance. Every dance style has something in common. They tend to involve flexible body movement and are based on physics and geometry.

Within this world dance culture, ballroom dance is a classical style of dance along with ballet and tango. Classical dancing teaches the qualities of grace, balance and poise, and fulfills the human need for physical intimacy and contact.

At the same time there are other dances where dancers are not in physical contact with each other. Line dancing is a dance with a repeated sequence of steps, in which a group of people dance in one or more lines, all facing the same direction and doing the dance steps at the same time. Belly Dancing is a traditional folk dance from the Middle East and is a dance style that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Hip hop dancing to hip hop music is freestyle in nature and includes breakdancing and krumping.

Ballroom Dance Shoes

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

I knew when I tried the first pair of ballroom dancing shoes on that they were the ones for me. The saleswoman had correctly identified the shoes that would best fit the size and shape of my feet. I tried other pairs on, but none felt as comfortable or as right as that first pair.

I bought a standard pair within two weeks of starting the introductory ballroom dancing class. I knew I would continue with the dancing lessons and I wanted the proper footwear. I decided they were worth buying as they would help me to feel more like a dancer. I have found that to be the case with other sports and physical activities, such as rock climbing and golf. I learn more quickly with the right equipment.

Dance shoes make it easier to dance due to their weight and flexibility. Ballroom shoes are generally lighter than street shoes because they are made of lighter weight leather. I noticed this when I tried a pair for the first time. I  don’t expect them to last as long as street shoes even though I intend to only ever use them for dancing.

Ballroom dance shoes are flexible, have more padding in the insole and have more room to move and don’t squash your toes. This latter feature I like especially for the tango where I have the tendency of tensing my toes.

Shoe Styles

For men there are two main types of shoes: Latin (rhythm) and standard (smooth). Apparently, latin shoes are more fexible than the standard shoes. I chose a pair of standard black shoes because I want to dance both styles. Men’s standard shoes have the same heel as dress shoes, while latin shoes have a one or two inch heel.

I have heard that ladies shoe styles are as varied as dance styles. The basic designs are open toe or closed toe with either slim or flared heels which range in height from one to three inches. Slim heels make turns easier. Flared heels provide more stability, especially for the Latin dances. Basically, a standard ladies dance shoe – closed toe with a two to two-and-a-half inch flared heel and an ankle strap – will work for a number of dances.

copyright: fernashes' (flickr)

copyright: fernashes' (flickr)

Both ladies and men’s ballroom dance shoes have non-slip soles. The sole is made of thin suede which means we keep in better contact with the floor and have a greater range of motion. This split leather sole works better because of the napped (fuzzy) surface.

Men's dance shoes

Men's dance shoes

Work Less, Dance More

Is it worth buying dance shoes when you are a ballroom dancing beginner?

I believe so. I think it is true that my feet are more comfortable with dance shoes which means I can dance longer in dance classes and practice sessions. There is less strain on my feet, legs and knees and there is more ease of motion with improved control. This makes it easier for me to learn to ballroom dance and make the most of the ballroom dancing lessons.

I am glad that I bought better quality shoes as better suede means less risk of slipping. What we want are shoes that let us pivot or spin halfway around on one foot, but do not let us slip and fall.

Where to Buy?

Ask your dance studio where to buy locally. I bought mine in person from a local store recommended by the dance studio. The experienced salesperson helped me to find the proper fit and style.

I would expect to spend a minimum of $100 for a good pair of ballroom shoes. I paid $140 CAD for mine. I love the craftmanship of these shoes.

Buying Tips

  • Try on many different shoes. Give yourself plenty of time to find comfortable shoes as you can’t take them back if they are worn.
  • Do some dance steps to simulate what you expect your feet to go through. It’s ok to look and feel silly. If possible, play some ballroom music.
  • Choose a good fit, avoid toe-crushing. Find shoes that are both comfortable and functional.
  • Make sure the salesperson identifies whether you require a narrow or wide fit, and whether you need shoes for Swing or Latin or standard Ballroom.

Shoe Care Tips

  • Don’t get them wet
  • Don’t wear them outside
  • Carry them in a bag and put them on when you get to class or to the ballroom
  • Use a metal brush frequently on the suede sole

If you have any helpful advice for beginners based on your experience of buying dance shoes, please leave a comment below.