Lets talk sports equipment…
For any particular sport, having the right equipment is essential. While it’s not impossible to play tennis without a racquet, it will certainly make it more difficult. When you first begin partner dancing, we recommend you wear comfortable clothes and shoes, but what does that mean? What is comfortable for one person, might not be for another. It is very open to interpretation. Here is a good general rule…The clothing and shoes you wear should not restrict your movement in any way. Love that off-the-shoulder ruffle blouse, but can’t put your arms over your head? You might have difficulty turning with your partner. Brand new dress shoes? They might be a bit slippery on the dance floor. These are two examples of how your clothes and shoes will affect how you dance in not-so-good ways. In partner dancing it is important to wear clothes and shoes that won’t restrict your movement or cause you to lose focus on the dancing and your partner.
So let’s talk about some other examples of what you should and should not wear:
For clothing, nothing off the shoulder, too strappy, or fringe-laden. This will get in the way of turning with your partner. You don’t want anything that will fly out and hit your partner. Try wearing clothes that stay closer to the body and have sleeves or thicker shoulder straps. Nothing too billowy or it will get caught in your partner’s hand. Have an outfit that you would love to wear out but are not sure if it works for dancing? Try this. Give yourself a spin on one foot. Does anything fly out away from your body? If it does, it might hit your partner. When you raise your elbows up, is there a lot of fabric under the arms? This will make it difficult for your partner to navigate how to pick you back up. On the other end of the spectrum, nothing should be so tight that it rides up while dancing or inhibits your movement. It is super distracting when you have to constantly tug at your skirt that is riding up.
A word on dresses and skirts…I love dancing in a dress or skirt….when I remember my dance pants underneath. LOL. Don’t forget that during the course of a dance the leader may offer to dip you. While you can certainly decline, I find it’s easier to just put on a pair of bike shorts on underneath my skirt or dress. This way I don’t have to worry about twirling or dipping and accidentally showing my bits. I am covered.
Jewelry…try wearing stud earrings instead of hoops or dangling earrings. They will most definitely get pulled out of your ears accidentally. The pain of smacking your dangling earrings on your front tooth in a turn is certainly special, but not something I would recommend. Ouchy. Necklaces should be shorter as you don’t want if flying and hitting your partner or yourself. Rings are usually ok unless large. It depends on how you and your partner hold on to each others hands. Rings can sometimes be uncomfortable if say we accidentally squeeze our partner’s hand too tight because we are concentrating really hard. Generally we advise against them.
Shoes…I saved shoes for last because they are very important. When you first start dancing, we just advise wearing something comfortable. Flats, tennis shoes, or sneakers will do to trick. When you start taking more than one class a week or decide that this is something you want to dedicate some time to, we recommend getting yourself a pair of dance shoes with suede on the bottom. There are many different styles, from 3 inch heels to dance sneakers. Choose what is comfortable and supportive. If you will be taking more than once class a week, you will be working your feet more than they are used to and will need some support for the tootsies. You want the shoe to fit fairly snug and feel like an extension of your foot. Keep in mind that dance shoes will stretch out with wear especially if they are leather. Suede on the bottom is important. It will give you just the right amount of friction with the floor to turn and spin without slipping. Keep in mind shoes should be replaced about every 6 months depending on usage. Sizing a dance shoe can be tricky. Every brand is different and most do not go by street shoe sizes. It is best to find yourself a place where you can go and try shoes on, walk around in them, and evaluate how they fit. You can buy shoes online, but usually they are subject to restocking and shipping fees if you need to return them. You also want to be careful to only walk in them on carpet. If there is any dirt on them, the company will not take them back.
Dance specific…As you progress as a dancer you will find that you have to differentiate your shoes even further. One day you will wake up and have shoes you identify as your latin heels vs. your ballroom heels. You might also have your “practice” pairs of ballroom or latin shoes that you use in practice vs a performance or competition. You might also have a cool low sandal or suede boots for west coast swing. If you keep dancing you will learn what brands you like and don’t like, and what styles you like and don’t like. It just takes time. Be patient. You will find the shoe of your dreams….and then it will probably discontinued. Story of my life! LOL.
In any sport it is always important to have the right equipment and dancing is no exception. ‘Til we meet again on the dance floor!