Paragon2Pieces, This One’s For You

Belated.  Yes.  But here goes…

About a week ago one of my readers, Paragon2Pieces, posted a comment on the blog:

Hi Stephanie, this is unrelated to DWTS, but I was wondering if you could do a post about dance shoes.  How long does a pair last?  What style works best for you?  Have you ever tried one of the more expensive brands and, if yes, was it worth it?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Hope all is going well inside and outside of the dance studio!

Bad blogger that I am, I have allowed life to get in the way of a prompt response.  But I can’t express enough how much I appreciate interacting with my readers.  I originally intended to just reply to her comment but, as you know, I am a prolific writer, I love to opine, I have lots to say.  There could be no short, concise response from me.  As I began to see how long my reply was becoming, I decided it should be a blog post in its own right.

Perhaps I missed the boat, Paragon, and you’ve already purchased a new pair of shoes.  Even so, I guess late is better than never.  Here is my experience:  I have tried Dance Naturals.  They are expensive and actually made in Italy, I think.  It took about a month to get them – I bought them online.  They were, to date, my favorite shoes.  In that case, for me, they were worth the money.  I don’t remember how much they cost (probably upwards of $300 with all the shipping and everything – plus they were leather, not satin), but I do remember how amazing they felt on my feet once they were broken in, and that, if you’ve ever danced in heels (much less walked in them) is priceless.

However, I don’t know if it is absolutely necessary to purchase a top end pair of dance shoes to find a pair that you love.  I think that the shoe style that will work best for a person depends upon their feet.  It is probably best to be fitted in person.  I took a chance buying the Dance Naturals online, especially since they are in European sizes.  I was worried for a long time that they wouldn’t fit once I got them and I had to stretch them out a lot.  The top of my foot always bulged a little below the strap over the toes.  They honestly weren’t a perfect fit.  But over time they softened and it worked well enough.  So, next time around, even though I loved that pair of Dance Naturals, I’d prefer to get a pair fit in person before purchasing them again.

I recently purchased some new shoes that were not Dance Naturals.  I tried on a bunch of pairs in the store.  Some I thought were cute but when I put them on I could barely stand in them.  I don’t know if one brand is “better” than another but I do think that quality of materials and construction methods used can extend or shorten the life of a shoe.  I am really bad about wearing my shoes (and clothes too) way past when a normal person would still wear them – they just get so broken in and comfortable.  The guy at the shoe store told me I had to throw out the two pairs of shoes I’d been holding on to, they were that bad.  lol.  The other pair of shoes that worked for me are not as cute but they support my foot well and they just came from a catalog at one of the dance studios I used to go to – a no-name brand.

I will also share that my friend, Ivonne, had an experience buying shoes.  She opted for a less expensive pair before the competition she did and realized very quickly that in general you get what you pay for in terms of ballroom shoes.

I think it’s probably wise to have a few pairs of dancing shoes.  Practice shoes, for instance, are awesome.  I can dance for a long time in those suckers, they are so cushy.  However, they have a lower heel, so if I only dance in those I have to retrain my calves, ankles, and all the little accessory balance muscles in my lower leg to handle higher heels like I’d wear in a competition.  It took me a long time the first time around to acclimate my feet and legs to dancing in heels – it is not something I’d like to repeat!  It was painful, required that I ice my feet nightly, and took a long time.  So, I’m looking to have a balance between keeping my lower legs and feet trained to handle higher heels, and also giving them a break so I don’t overstress my feet by wearing the practice shoes.  It stinks to not be able to get in the cardiovascular conditioning I need to accrue because my feet hurt too much to walk.

The pair I currently have are a middle-of-the-road brand.  They are sturdy and they work well enough for everyday practice.  They aren’t particularly cute and I’ve been thinking that I want another pair of those Dance Naturals again.  Once I get my new job lined up and financially things aren’t so tight, I probably will do that for myself.  At the end of my Dance Natural shoe life-span they felt as good on my feet (with 2.5 inch heels) as my practice shoes feel now (with a 1 inch or 1.5 inch heel).

I don’t know how long ballroom shoes are “supposed” to last.  It probably depends on how often you dance.  For someone like me who tries to dance multiple times a week and doing double lessons sometimes, they won’t last as long as for someone who dances once weekly.

Also, I think because of the differences we all have in foot shape, size, and anatomy, we will all have different preferences for brands that work well for us.  I know Marietta has a particular brand she likes (I can’t remember it right now), and a lot of people like Ray Rose.  Again, it depends on what fits your foot best and what you are willing to pay.  I’ve personally used both less expensive and more expensive shoes and both have served their purpose.  Ultimately I liked the more expensive pair better.

I hope this perspective helps and good luck finding the perfect pair for you!  Maybe when you find them you can send me a picture of them and I’ll share it on the blog, or you could post them on the Dancing With Stefanie Facebook page.  You could even write a follow-up guest post to this sharing your shoe-related experience, if you like.  Consider it an open invitation.  Also, I invite you, and any other reader, to ask questions, suggest topics for future blog posts, and to generally interact on the blog.

I appreciate you!

Sincerely, Stefanie

22 thoughts on “Paragon2Pieces, This One’s For You

  1. Hey Stef – was just wondering where you were! Glad you are just busy! As for shoes ….well um… I have size 6.5ww feet (with a baby toe that lays on it’s side!) not so easy to fit for any shoes, let alone dance shoes! But I have found I love Supadance 1008 – they have a wider toe box than most court shoes (I am talking smooth shoes here) and I buy the lowest heel they make 2inches – and have them cut down a 1/4 inch by my cobbler. It’s enough to help my balance, not too much to hurt the mechanics of the shoe. Ask around though – most people have extra pairs of shoes because so many of us buy tons of pairs, wear them only a couple of times and decide they aren’t the right ones for us… I actually have about 8-10 pairs barely worn ( both smooth and latin) – so if any one is a size 6.5 – 7 let me know 🙂

  2. Aurora says:

    Stefanie is right on the money with everything she wrote…especially the bit about shopping around for a pair, and trying them on. If you are fortunate enough to live in a city, then you should have a fairly wide choice of stores to choose from–just regular dance supply stores will usually have anything from a small selection of ballroom shoes, to a very large selection…and you can and should try on one in just about every style, because it’s been my experience that you can’t depend on a single brand to to work for you, every time…and sometimes a shoe that looks ugly or uncomfortable can be absolutely adorable and deliciously comfy, once you try it on. (If you don’t live near a city–try to make a trip to one–after first calling every dance store in that city, and asking what brands they carry, and what models–and then making a list of stores to hit, so you have a wide selection, once you get there.)

    My first pair of ballroom shoes was a darling little pair of Latin shoes by Werner Kern…and although they were cute as can be, they looked like they’d be torture to dance in. To my surprise–hidden inside the wafer thin “ball” of the shoe, was some sort of magic pad that made four hours of hopping away doing triple time East Coast swing effortless. They were the most comfortable pair of SHOES, period, that I’ve ever owned–AND they were wicked sexy, with their mesh and leather open toe, clever little “faux” buckle (it “buckled” at the ankle with a snap, under the buckle!), and their 3″ heels.

    They lasted just about three years of dancing approximately 20 hours a week (I did get them rechromed a couple of times, and replaced the heel tips at the same time)–smooth, Latin and lots of swing–and then one night, without warning, the magic bit in the ball of the sole completely flattened–and I was in pain after a dance or two…and nothing I did, including buying little foam pads to under the ball of my foot every made them bearable again.

    In other words–you’ll KNOW when you need to buy a new pair–because your shoes (and your feet!) will tell you!

    Attempts to replace those shoes with other Werner Kern numbers failed, miserably–none of the their other styles worked on my feet–and that style had been clearanced when I got it.

    I’ve had excellent luck with the surprisingly affordable Supadance practice shoes; found their court shoes perfect for practicing smooth dances (and comfortable, although ugly), but when I purchsed a pair of Latin heels that looked similar to my Werner Kerns, they were a bomb–they never did “break in” to my foot properly.

    A good pair of ballroom shoes–either Latin, court or practice–should feel like heaven, and should support you through 4 or more hours of dancing at a time…but finding the perfect pair is a challenge! 🙂

    Oh…and if you find a pair of shoes that was MADE for you–do yourself a favor, and scrimp and save up to pick up a second pair, and carefully store them until your first pair wears out…because the odds are good that by the time you’re in the market for a new pair, that style won’t be available anymore–and another pair just won’t be the same. 😉

    • loveablestef says:

      Aurora! Thanks so much for the amazing comment! I second your motion, especially about getting a second pair of shoes to store away until needed. I wish I could buy a pair like the one you mentioned with the magic pad in the ball of the shoe! That sounds amazing and comfortable. If you could go 4 hours at a stretch in those heels, I’d pay a premium for shoes like that! Thanks so much for sharing your experience and wisdom and for participating! I appreciate you!

      • Aurora says:

        If I could find another pair like that, I’d actually buy a couple of extra pairs of them–because I’ve never found another pair with that same “magic” feel to them. (I still have that pair, btw–and every few years I drag them out, and try them on…just in case the “magic” grows back. ;)) I simply can’t imagine what they could possibly have put in the sole that felt cushier than the best pair of tennies I’d ever owned…but they were worth every penny I paid for them, that’s for sure! (I think they were around $110 or so…at the time, that was pretty average for a dance shoe–between $100-150–quality not really being part of the equation–the cheap shoes cost as much as the quality ones did.)

        As an older, and (sort of! ;)) wiser dancer, I know that that’s part of the point of using a practice shoe in lessons–you make your more expensive dance shoes last longer…but who knows anything, when they buy their first pair of ballroom shoes? Up til then, I’d only purchased jazz and character shoes–which are a whole ‘nother animal! :/

        Am loving your blog, btw! 🙂

      • loveablestef says:

        Yay! Glad you are enjoying the blog! And I agree, ballroom shoes (and ballroom dancing in general) is/are a completely different animal! Let us know if you contact the shoe manufacturer and the outcome. Thanks again for all you’ve contributed already!

    • You might want to reach out to the company directly and see if they can tell you what they were doing to the balls of the shoe when those were made and if any other styles have that in them. I’ve found that the shoe companies are really great to work with in terms of wanting to help their customers. I contacted Supadance and they actually will custom make a double wide shoe for me in a style they don’t normally carry it – and will swap out the heel for a lower than normal heel. I’m paying for it- but they are being fantastic about doing it.

  3. Thank you, ladies, for your thoughts! You’ve given me a lot to consider.

    When I signed up for my first class in January, my studio gave me a pair of “Very Fine” dance shoes. The cap/tip popped off during class recently so I’ve been considering new shoes. To tide me over, I drove out to Very Fine’s warehouse–I don’t think the quality is that great (not that I have anything to compare it to just yet) but the variety is pretty great and they offer a 2 for 1 deal that makes the shoes about $40 per pair. I picked out a pair of black satin t-straps with 3″ heels (since that’s the heel height I’ve been learning on I didn’t want to mess with it–Stefanie, I thought you had a great point about the difficulty of switching between heel heights). I don’t love the t-strap. I have to wear the ankle strap pretty loose or else the t-strap doesn’t have enough give to let me fully point my foot. In the meanwhile, I repaired my original shoes.

    My question was prompted by a comment from teacher that the Very Fine shoes are “beginner” and that I should move on to another shoe. I wasn’t sure what made my shoe a beginner shoe and what would be better about other shoes. But I see from Stefanie’s comments about the Dance Naturals that there is something to be said for quality of materials.

    I’m hoping there will be some vendors set up at Emerald Ball and I’ll have a chance to compare a few different brands in person. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll take Aurora’s suggestion and call around to some of the local stores. Stefanie–maybe I can work with you on a guest post after I get a chance to do that 🙂

  4. Another line of questions that I’d love to get your take on have to do with first competitions. My teacher and I had a chat about this tonight and it was a little overwhelming. I already know the choreography, but it’s all the other details that I’m clueless about–from the issue of number of entries (for me, this will come down to budget), dress rental, getting a tan, to having hair and makeup done. My teacher is recommending that I do it all. But, if it were you doing your first competition all over again, what would you do given what you know now? For the first two levels of bronze (latin) is it really necessary to have your hair and makeup professionally done? Do I need a blinged-out dress (I love them, I’m just worried about budget) or could I get away with this for now: ? My main concerns are not looking overdone for my level (I’ve never watched pro am in person) and not letting concern about expense eclipse the fun of the competition.

    • Aurora says:

      Just as an FYI…remember that there are two types of competitions–there are “real world” competitions–and then there are “studio” competitions (my own designations ;)) –and there are BIG differences between the two!!!

      Studio competitions are great if a) you have a TON of extra cash to spend for entry fees, travel, hotels, food, extra lessons, and your instructor’s time (assuming you’re dancing pro-am) and b) want to live a sort of “fantasy” scenario–where you look and feel glamourous, and will probably bring home a prize of some sort.

      They aren’t actually very indicative of the real world of ballroom dance competitions…but they are definitely a way to “live the fantasy” of being a star, the center of attention. (And there’s not a darn thing wrong with that, either, if that’s what you’re looking for! Why not?! :)) They are, however, something that’s been created by studios, as a way for them to make money–it’s really not the same as competiting in the real world.

      A “real world” comp, is very different in many ways–mostly, the lacking glamour part–as well as not costing so much to enter! 😉 (Please bear in mind I’m referring to dancing at beginning levels–not championship! :))

      With a “real world” comp, in the beginning levels, you’d be dancing with your own partner–and you wouldn’t need to be wearing a fancy costume, wouldn’t need the fake tan, the hair, etc, and the entry fees wouldn’t necessarily be so prohibitive. (Although I’m sure the fees vary, according to venue!)

      As an example…when my partner and I wanted to start competiting, entry fees at studio comps were around $70 per dance. We thought that absurd–and wound up signing up for the Harvard Invitational…and with entry fees of $15 a couple, per dance/level! (No, in spite of it’s name, it wasn’t for students only–my partner and I were around 30.) (Take a look at the pix, and notice that plenty of people are in simple, inexpensive clothing. :))

      We were in the “first comp” categories and decided on silver level swing and bronze foxtrot and tango. I wore a simple, $20, short, twirly black dress, and, since I only owned one pair of ballroom shoes, wore my Latin shoes for all dances.

      It was a GREAT experience–but the competition was FIERCE–and it was a real eye opener in dance styles, as well–as we’d learned American style tango and foxtrot–and had a very bouncy, “social” style foxtrot, while everyone else on the floor was dancing a very smooth International style. We were hopelessly outclassed, in tango and foxtrot–and we’d really gotten to thinking we were pretty darn good, too! 😉

      For swing, we were one of 50 couples competing, in two heats, I think–so the floor was VERY crowded, and the judges got right out on the floor and walked around the couples, and studied them. We hung with a Lindy hop crowd, normally, so our “style” was sort of lower to the ground, earthy and smooth–and it was novel enough to get us to the quarter finals, but no further.

      At any rate, it was a great experience–and very budget-friendly–and very eye-opening. So…do studio comps if you like (and can afford it!)–but do it knowing that there are lots of other, less expensive opportunities out there! 🙂

      • I agree with everything Aurora says – one caveat – if you dance pro-am at open comps, you might still pay higher entry fees. If you notice, many comps don’t post the fee per heat anywhere on their sites – that is so the studio owners/pros can decide if they want to do it as a pass-through or a mark up. I know one comp where the fee is $35 a heat and one local studio charges students an instructor fee for the instructor’s time if they want to compete, plus the actual heat fees. Another local studio charges $55 a heat, and an instructor fee, and a third studio charge $65 a heat and no instructor fee.

      • Paragon2Pieces says:

        Further to Ellen’s comment (because I think it’s interesting to compare the numbers) the competition’s fee is $35/heat and my studio marks it up with a $35/heat instructor fee for a total $70/heat. I think I would feel better about this price if the heats weren’t so short 🙂 My studio is also charging a $250 “administrative fee” if you enter the competition. This is where it feels like they are reaching too far.

        And thank you Aurora for your perspective. The competition in question is Emerald Ball (, which I think would fall under your “studio” designation. It is nice to know that there are some more practically priced options. Years ago, I was a very proficient dancer in another genre and often paid to perform and judge… so it’s a big, big adjustment to consider paying so much to compete at a beginner level here. I value the time of everyone involved, but am definitely suffering from sticker shock 🙂

        Thank you, ladies, for being such a great resource. Isn’t it great that Stefanie has provided us with this little gathering spot on the web?

      • I would consider Emerald Ball an open comp (a huge one) – studio comps ( to me) would be a FADS or AM comp. But that’s how I interpret this. One other thing to consider – this is the only sport I’ve ever done where even when you are competing you still have to purchase a ticket to get in the door as well. Amazes me – but it’s true… Even if I am on the floor dancing – in addition to my heat fees, I have to pay $25 for a ticket into the ballroom – I have found this to be true in open comps as well as studio comps.

  5. Alaina says:

    Ah, the busy blogger returns, hello Stef! 😉 Unfortunately, this tom-boy doesn’t know too much about shoes, so I have nothing to contribute.


    Congratulations on what seems to be your first competition. Before I give you my $0.02, I’d like to say that I am NOT a professional dancer, and my advice is naught but mere opinion.

    It sounds as if your pro is already encouraging you to do “the works” for the competition. If he is, please correct me if I’m wrong, it sounds as if this is a larger competition. I’ve only competed in local competitions, so I’ve never had to do anything too big. For my first competition, I had Mom do my make-up because she’s much better than I am at it. In terms of a dress, I got lucky. My former teacher’s wife had a Latin dress that fit me, and she let me borrow it. Other students, for the local competitions, sometimes buy a regular dress for Latin, and consult with their teacher. When I compete in Latin, in terms of bling, I don’t have much. I wear earrings, some sort of headband to keep back my hair (it’s too thin to put into a bun without plastering it in hair-spray), and a choker/short necklace. In Latin, you’re showing off those sexy legs and arms, so lots of jewelry shouldn’t be too necessary. If the competition, is bigger, I would definitely consider getting make-up professionally done. The make-up artist will know how to use the right colors and tones for your face, and you might want to tell him/her that you’ll be competing as well. For tanning, I’ve never needed it because my skin is naturally tan, but you might want to ask your pro. Personally, I’ve seen tanning go wrong where the dancers look like they just rolled in Cheetos, so I wouldn’t do it, even if my skin were lighter.

  6. Aurora says:

    @Speaker in Heels–thanks for filling in more info on comps! (Yes, “open comps”–that’s the term I was looking for, and not finding! :))
    I should have put in my blurb that I’ve ONLY done open comps–so my knowledge of studio comps is garnered from stuff my teacher told me (as well as hearing the gossip from other studio students!).

    Although I started studying at Fred Astaire, I was fortunate, in that my own teacher was very much against encouraging students to take part in pro-am comps, both as an instructor at FA, and later, when he and his wife opened their own studio. Sure, they’d do them, if the students wanted, but it was never something they focused on.

    @Paragon–one other thing to bear in mind about the studio comps is–if you DO do them, then you tend to become part of the “in” crowd, at a studio, along with the other students who participate in that sort of thing…and if you don’t, then you tend to be a little more on the fringe of things. My partner and I, who, between social dancing and lessons, danced about 20 hours a week, between two ballrooms, one local bar that had swing dancing once a week, and group lessons and social dances affiated with the teams from three different universities (MIT, Harvard and BU), were about the only people from our studio who regularly WENT dancing–and we took part in all sorts of demos and MassABDA events that no one from the studio took part in, and ran with an amazing crowd of dancers–but we were always sort of overlooked at Fred Astaire, because we weren’t the profitable students.

    So…we danced more, for less–but we also missed out on the very satisfying sense of belonging to the Cool Kids in the studio–so keep that in mind, too, when making decisions about where to compete! 🙂 (And since I see the Emerald Ball is in LA…well, if you’re in that area, I bet there are alot of non-studio options for dancing and competing!)

    Love, love, LOVE hearing everyone’s perspective on shoes, comps and dance in general! 🙂

  7. I agree – love all the perspectives – and it really made me think about myself. I still dance at FADS after 7 years and I suppose I could be in the “cool kids” crowd if you call it that as I am a competitor who goes to every comp – although I also compete at open comps in the area as well. It is a challenge for those of us without another partner other than our instructor – we have to dance pro-am – so closed comps are a at least an option if you love to compete.
    I thought a lot about the “cool kids” comment and I totally get where it is coming from – those of us who compete often get close – but I don’t think we are exclusive. I will say that in our studio we only have 2 male instructors and tons of ladies and so Friday night practice parties are always frustrating cuz everyone wants to dance – and people often feel like the “cool kids” or people who compete get to dance more in the weeks before a comp- and in reality, we do. Those who compete are spending thousands more on extra lessons, coachings, entry fees, etc. and our parties are not “socials” they are “practice parties” so are paying to practice – we should be getting more practice time as we are preparing for competition. Then again, someone like me only dances International Standard, so the only time I never take instructor time for latin or rhythm at a party. Funny how each studio has its own “stuff”. I admit I got obsessed with competing for years – but had to miss one comp in Nov and realized that my world didn’t fall apart. I found out it’s OK to step back and lighten up – and it helped my purse a lot! Again – thanks Stef for the forum – and to everyone for the dialogue.

    • Editing my own post: should say… Then again, someone like me only dances International Standard, so I never take instructor time for latin or rhythm at a party

    • Aurora says:

      I honestly don’t think it’s a bad thing to be part of the “cool kids” at a studio–I hope it didn’t sound like I thought it was! 🙂

      It is, after all, human nature, to hang out with people you share experiences with–and those who are doing a lot of studio comps together, all share similar experiences, and thus, are quite naturally going to hang together, when at the studio. By the same token, the group of dancers I ran with was a really tight, cohesive group (as in, many of us wound up dating, and there were even a few marriages that came out of it! ;)), and when we went to Johnny D’s on Mondays, for swing dancing, we were the first to get there and the last to leave–and yeah, we were buddies with the instructors, and were pretty much the “cool kids” there…unless the Lindy Hoppers from a prominent local studio showed up–and then there were two groups of “cool kids”. 😉

      There are many reasons that people take up dance lessons–and when a big part of that is social, and you’re not the type of person who is good at forming new groups, then fully embracing the studio system–including the comps–may provide more of what someone is looking for. 🙂 (Which is kind of what I was meaning to point out in my last post–that stepping in to a ready-made group, rather than doing the more scary, stepping outside the system and cobbling together your own group–can be a very big plus, depending on what you’re looking for–and might very well be worth the financial sacrifice!!! :))

      Incidentally–you mention pro-am being one of the only options available for competing, when you don’t have a partner…and THERE’S a topic I’d love to see handled–the whole “partner” vs “no partner” thing! I found it very easy to find partners as a beginner and intermediate dancer…but after several years of private lessons, if you lose a partner, it’s hard to find someone new if you’re a) very serious about your dancing, but b) not trying to become a professional dancer. I wonder what other people have experienced?!

  8. Oh I didn’t mean to be defensive – sorry if I sounded that way – dang – no tone of voice when typing – just that I am part of “that crowd” that competes at my studio and I’d guess there are people who think of us as the “cool kids” and I hadn’t thought about it before. I know a few people do get upset that before comps we do dance more at practice parties – but I explained that. I can’t say the studio itself loves us – our group drives them crazy ( me especially) cuz of course when we all hang out we end up chatting about – what else – dance and the studio and what we like or don’t like and it upsets the owners – so I don’t think they consider us “cool” at all!ILOL But I agree with you – some of my closest friends are from the dance group – they are special people.

    All this perspective is all so neat! I love hearing it. Also – so amazing to me that you had no problem finding a partner – and from what I can tell you are not too far from me ( I’m in Western MA) but at my studio we have all ages (kids up to 90’s) all orientations ( several gay couples as well as many straight married couples) but a ton more single women than men. Just for perspective… we have 5 single men in our studio a 20 something, a 30 something, a 40 something, 70 something and an 85 year old who is actually the best dancer of them all and the nicest gentleman!! And the studio is good sized – our Friday night parties get 50-75 people each week, group classes have 15-20 people in them and they have groups 5 nights a week. So if you have any guys you want to send my way – please do (for dancing or dating! LOL)

    Stef – again – thanks for allowing all this hijacking of your blog! And to everyone else – if you are ever in Western MA or if anyone dances at Dancing A la Carte let me know!! It’s minutes from my house.

    • Aurora says:

      With apologies to Stefanie, for hijacking :)–

      You didn’t sound at all defensive, Speaker–but it occurred to me (after the fact, of course! ;)), that my “funny” terms might’ve sounded judgmental to other folks–and I wanted to make it clear that no judgment was intended. 🙂 As you mentioned–that IS the problem with writing online–people can’t always easily tell the difference between irreverent/offbeat humor, and mean-spirited snarkiness. :/

      And too funny that you’re in western MA! Yes, I was in Boston, at the time I was dancing, but injured my knees (tendonitis) and had to give it up…then recently moved to Pittsburgh, and am now working with a personal trainer to build up my quads, hamstrings, etc, so that I can protect my knees–and maybe be able to dance again. (Fingers crossed!)

      FADS in Boston was quite a mix, as well–and later, I moved (with my teacher) to DanceSport Academy of New England, when he and his wife opened it. Apparently they’ve recently sold it, because I see it’s now under new ownership (they’d always planned to move back to Finland, when their kids were old enough for school, so I assume that’s why.)

      At both locations, there were more women than men, though, no doubt!!! I started my lessons by talking my best friend into taking with me…but all my other partners were found through outside sources–most of them, actually, wound up coming from the MIT Ballroom Dance Club’s open lessons each week. I dragged a girlfriend with me–and started “working” the room, right from the first lesson. With approximately 100 people per lesson, there were plenty of people to work with–and lots of unattached men, believe it or not–again, of all ages. I just made sure that at each “change partners” command, that I was near guys who were a) good dancers, and b) between 5’5″ and 5’10” (my optimal partner heights), and asked them to dance, at each change…and if they were personable, I’d ask if they’d started social dancing–and then invited them to meet my friend and I at Johnny D’s (swing) on any Monday. (To my great surprise, five of the guys I invited showed up, the very next Monday–an embarrassment of riches!!)

      That sort of wound up being the core of our dance group–and as I danced more with them all, I invited them to Moseley’s (for ballroom)…and over the course of a month or so, narrowed it down to one guy who I hoped would agree to partner me…and when I asked, he agreed. When he moved, I invited someone else from our group to partner me…and so on…but since I never really stopped “networking” with additional men and women, our group grew, over time, so that the “pool” of resources was always pretty good. 😉

      I really can’t recommend attending parties at other studios (Amy and I used to pick a dfferent studio a week!), and trying out all sorts of places that advertise dancing, to meet men and women who share that level of dance enthusiasm–and inviting them to join you in social dancing elsewhere, as part of a partner search. It takes the “boy/girl” thing out of the equation (well, as much as is possible! ;)), and eases the pressure of possible rejection, if you get to know folks, first.

      Later, when I was dancing at a higher level, and partnerless, I tried using ballroom partner searches and even, in desperation, (specifying “dance partner ONLY”!) and met even more great guys–all of whom were willing to take a six week group dance session with me–but a) none were really able to pick things up quickly enough to get up to my level and b) most of them spent too much time trying to convince me that I wanted to go out with them, as well as dancing–which was not where my interest was! 😉

      So–I found it easy, in the beginning, to find partners–but harder, later. Still, if I were going at it again, I’d say my formula (for anyone who might want it!) is: find a girlfriend who will join you–and then hit every conceivable social venue in the area, and don’t be shy about asking dancers at your level to dance–and then, when the dance is over, introduce them to your girlfriend, and swap partners. Dance with EVERYONE. Ask anyone who seems even remotely nice, to join you and your girlfriend at other social venues–making it clear you’re asking lots of people, so no one feels like they’re being singled out (and hit on!). The worst thing that will happen is you dance all night–darn! 😛

      (I kid you not–at one studio’s practice party, I met an extremely rotund Asian guy who wore thick coke-bottle glasses, sweated like mad, and whose arms ended in stumps, with some little nubs for fingers. He asked me to dance–and I had a hard time keeping up with his energy–and we danced repeatedly, all evening–him never really saying a word, and me sliding off his sweater pseudo-hands, when he’d fling me out–until I realized the best way to cope was to firmly grab his wrist! What a guy!!! He had heart–and staying power–and I had a blast, at what was otherwise, a very dull party!)

      (And oh, don’t you LOVE the old men, though???!!! When we’d go dancing at Moseley’s, all the old people would smile happily at us “youngsters” in our late 20’s, early 30’s–happy we were doing what they’d been doing a lifetime…and the older gentlemen would come over, and ask my partner if they could have the pleasure of a dance with me…and then sweep me around the floor in an effortless and courtly waltz… Dreamy! :))

  9. This is probably after the fact, but I thought I’d add my $0.02 about shoes. I dance latin/rhythm in Ray Rose Blizzards, and they are the greatest shoes in the world. This is largely because of the heel placement – the heels in RR shoes are set further forward and more deeply undercut, so one’s balance is measurably improved. I usually go through a pair every four to six months – but I’m a pro ballroom dancer and teacher, so I practice in them daily, and I often forget to take them off and put on my less fabulous shoes for teaching. (RR also makes a smooth shoe and I hear that it is equally awesome, but I haven’t tried it.)

  10. Veta Ostorga says:

    When it comes to dance shoes, i always buy those dance shoes that are made from natural rubber because it has greater traction on the floor. .:;”* Regards“>

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