So you want to dance? That doesn’t mean you have to go out and immediately purchase a leopard skin Lycra and matching leg warmers. Dance is accessible to most people and basic preparation (including getting the correct dance shoes and learning to warm-up properly) can help improve your confidence, progress and enjoyment.
Even though there are hundreds of different types of dance, there are a few basics concerning warm-up and basic dance equipment that you should bear in mind before starting out in dance.
The dance warm-up
Whether it’s pole dance or polka, street dance or salsa or belly dance or ballroom you’re considering — you need to warm your muscles up. Your body will perform at its best when it is warm and by including an element of stretching in your preparations will improve your flexibility and the ease at which you can move.
Flexible muscles are less prone to injury, so consider stretching as an important element to your dance warm-up. However, it’s worth remembering that you should never stretch a cold muscle. A cold muscle is not as elastic as a warm one, so stretching without a warm-up means you could possibly injure yourself. Warm your muscle prior to stretching by going for a brisk walk, doing a little light jogging, or even a little dance (but nothing too strenuous).
Dance, just like sport, requires the correct equipment to do it well. Once you’ve fallen for a particular style of dance, it might be that you want to start thinking about your footwear so that you can really let your feet do the talking.
Choosing the right dance shoes can make a huge difference in your learning experience and overall in your social dancing or performing experience. Your instructor will be able to advise on the type of shoe best suited to your style of dance but here are a few basic points to bear in mind.
Buying dance shoes - tips for men
Choose dance shoes that are lightweight and put comfort over style.
Shoes should be a secure fit so that your foot does not move in the shoe, but it should not be too tight.
Wear the same socks you intend to dance in when buying your dance shoes.
A good all-round shoe which can be used for the majority of styles would have a heel of around 2.5cm (under one inch). Lower heels of around 2cm are recommended for Latin dances such as ballroom or Latin, while higher heels of around 3.5cm (1.3 inches) are generally used for dances such as tango and flamenco.
Buying dance shoes – tips for women
Avoid shoes with thin straps as they are less supportive than wider ones and are likely to stretch too much.
Choose high-quality leathers where the straps are close together.
If you have narrow feet, don’t choose a wide open-toe dance shoe.
Never buy dance shoes for style only. They must fit and be comfortable.
Wear closed toe shoes when you are expecting your partner to step on your toes, such as when learning the tango.
Heels should be no bigger than three inches (7.5cm). The best heel range is considered to be between two to two and a half inches.
As with anything, buying your shoes made-to-measure rather than off-the-shelf is preferable but more costly. Good quality leather dance shoes are preferable over synthetic materials because they have the ability to stretch and mold to the shape of the foot.
The choice of sole is also important with options including chrome soles, suede leather soles and smooth leather soles. Chrome sole can be used to for almost any surface whereas suede leather sole are only suitable for wooden flooring. Smooth leather soles are generally too slippery to dance in, other than for experts. Rubber soled shoes should be avoided as they cause too much friction and hinder your ability to move freely on the dance floor.
So with all that in mind what’s stopping you? Get warmed up, stretch, and dance away in your well-fitting comfortable dance shoes.