Social dance: it’s in the shoes!

By Leonardo Rosen

Some time ago, I wrote a humorous article, “Tango in Dirty Sneakers.” At the last moment and not having dance shoes, or any decent shoes, I went to a milonga (social dance of Argentine tango). Yes, I danced in dirty sneakers. However, if the truth be known, I felt a bit ashamed and it would have been much easier to tango wearing proper shoes for dance.

Club de Danzón Mercerina
Sun, Aug 3 and Sun, Aug 10, 6-9pm
El Jardín
Free admission

Of course, we love to see everybody dancing in the Jardín any way they can in whatever they happen to have on. This is a very informal setting and we are just having fun. However, you may notice that the couples presenting exhibitions of danzón, tango, salsa, etc., wear clothing that is appropriate for their dance. You could use the word “costumes.” Whatever they are wearing, there is nothing more important than their shoes. With the right shoes, they can use the floor well and be comfortable. Ask any experienced dancer what it feels like to dance in uncomfortable shoes that don’t give good support. We’ve all had to do this sometime, only because we didn’t have a choice. Believe me, we didn’t like it!

If you are not serious about social dance, please wear any shoes you want. However, if you are a committed student or practitioner of one or more social dance forms, there are things to think about when buying shoes to dance in:

1. Women: Your shoes should be light enough, flexible enough and comfortable enough. They should give your feet good support, so that they do not slide around in the shoes. It does not matter if the shoes are closed toe or open toe. The straps that hold the shoe to your foot are crucial to prevent slippage or the foot coming out of the shoe altogether. Make sure they do that. The height and thickness of the heels are a question of your comfort on the dance floor. The soles should be of leather so that they can slide on the dance floor. Color and style depend on whether you just want the shoes for social dance (including classes) or you belong to a group that performs.

2. Men: Your shoes for dance should not be heavy or bulky, as many men’s street shoes are. They should be light enough, flexible enough, comfortable enough and give good support. The laces should give secure closure. A regular heel is fine, although some men like a Cuban heel, which is higher. The sole should be of leather, to slide well on the dance floor. As with the women, color and style depend on what you want the shoes for, just social dance (including classes) or group activity.

Note to women and men: Unless you need them for professional dance, I do not advise buying shoes with suede soles. They are easily damaged and a bother to care for. Patent leather is fine for dancing, but not for the street. It is easy to care for.

In bigger cities (e.g. Mexico City or Querétaro), there are stores that specialize in dance shoes for men and women. At major danzón, tango and salsa events, there are usually vendors exhibiting dance shoes. Even if you can only get to a regular shoe store, you can use my advice in looking for shoes to dance in, even if they are not specifically dance shoes. Everything I’ve said here applies to social dance in general, not only to a specific form.

Deep thanks to our beautiful public for the tremendous success of our July 20 event. We invite you to “El Danzón y Otros Ritmos Bailables con el Club de Danzón Mercerina” on two Sundays, August 3 and August 10,  in the Jardín Principal of San Miguel, one show 6-9pm, free admission. Please call 152-6385 (Educación y Cultura) or 154-5840 (Leonardo Rosen). We believe that the Jardín should be alive with high-quality cultural entertainment for the people. “Son de Almendra Voy a Bailar.”


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