Lately I’ve noticed an influx of wedding couples in the ballroom where we practice, and I can’t help but notice the array of improper dance shoes worn by the brides-to-be. It looks like something out of a runway fashion show—platforms, open-toe, wedges, and three to four inch stilettos! Take my advice brides-to-be, as a ballroom dancer I’ve competed numerous times dancing the waltz and foxtrot. If you don’t want to be arguing about who is pulling on whom, and why you can’t move gracefully around the floor together, you must choose the right shoes.
Social Dancing—Like a Marriage— Is a Partnership
Marriage is a partnership. So, while it is your special day, it’s also your partner’s big day and the start of your days together henceforth, hereon, and happily ever after. Partnership means you think about the other person as much, if not more than, yourself.
Partnership dancing, such as ballroom, is an amazing activity that can strengthen any relationship. On the other hand, if you and your partner are not on the same page, dancing in close proximity is also a speedy way to end a relationship. For many wedding couples, their first dance as husband and wife is their first foray into the world of partnership dancing. Some couples manage to survive by hanging onto each other and swaying back and forth, some like to have their steps choreographed (to avoid the former), and others invest in ballroom dance lessons a few months prior to their big day. But ladies! Pay attention! Wear shoes to your lessons that you can actually dance in, because those sky-high pumps are not helping you to dance your best!
The most popular song or temp for a first dance is typically a slow waltz or easy foxtrot. As a competitive ballroom dancer who competes in International Standard (dancing the Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot and Quickstep) I can attest that platforms, open toed shoes and anything above 3” in height does not allow for the proper foot movement and body mechanics needed to achieve the gracefulness for either of these two popular wedding dances. I see far too many brides-to-be clinging to their man while they teeter around on the “perfect” shoes.
You’re Paying For Dance Lessons – Learn to Dance
You wouldn’t wear wedge sneakers to a tennis lesson. So why would you wear anything but ballroom shoes if you were doing a ballroom-style dance? It’s hard enough to learn the basics to any social dance if you’ve never danced before. There’s even added pressure of performing in front of a cadre of family and friends. But brides, if you want your marriage to get off to a strong start, wear shoes you can actually dance in. Your practices will be so much smoother with the proper shoes.
At competitions, all of the ladies competing in Standard wear tan satin, close toed, 2-2 ½ inch heels. The tan color blends in with the color of flesh thereby elongating the look of the legs, a suede bottom on the shoe helps ladies glide across the ballroom floor and, perhaps most importantly, close-toed shoes allow competitors to make appropriate contact with the floor using the inside edge of the toe to continuously “feel” for the floor as opposed to, Latin dancers who can move more quickly by maintaining their weight on the balls of their feet. They wear open-toe, 3” heels. You can see that a bride-to-be in very tall Latin heels doing a waltz is not a good combination, since a closed toe ballroom shoe is the most appropriate shoe for dances like the waltz and foxtrot which have the couple gliding across the floor.
Here are a few tips for ladies shoe styles based on the song selection you and your beau may be considering:
|Ballroom Dance Name||
|Recommended Ladies Shoe|
|Waltz||“A Thousand Years,” Christina Perri (from Twilight: Breaking Dawn)||Closed-toe, heel height should be about 2-2.5”|
|Foxtrot||“Amazed” Lonestar”The Best Is Yet to Come,” Frank Sinatra||Closed-toe, heel height should be about 2-2.5”|
|Swing||“How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You)”||Closed toe, with a low or wide heel|
|Cha Cha||“You Are the Best Thing,” Ray LaMontagne||Open toe, 3” heel is ok. But if you’re dancing this slower foxtrot beat, opt for a closed-toe, lower heel.|
|Night Club/ Country Western Two Step||“God Gave Me You” Blake Shelton“Bless the Broken Road” Rascal Flatts||Anything flat. Cowboy boots or a low, wide heel|
Side note: Regarding the song “A Thousand Years,” from Twilight: Breaking Dawn. Don’t be fooled here; the underlying melody is actually a fast, Viennese Waltz but you could get away with doing a waltz to the slower, melodic tempo of the lyrics.
A quick tip: there’s a slight difference between Smooth and Standard style shoes; Smooth heels typically have a strap to secure the shoe to the ladies foot since that style of ballroom dance involves a lot of kicks and leg extensions. Whereas Standard heels are like most heels you would slide on; they’re snug but don’t have a strap because, most of the time, the footwork keeps the ladies feet on the ground. Both are closed toe. I, however, prefer to wear smooth style shoes even though I compete in the International Standard style of ballroom dance.
If, for your first dance, you’re choosing a traditional ballroom dance like a waltz or foxtrot, and you have a number of lessons and hopefully practices leading up to your wedding, I recommend investing in the type of heels competitive dancers wear for competitions. Simply because, these shoes will last and they’re more comfortable than stilettos and, more importantly—if you like—you can “stone” them before the wedding by covering them in sparkling rhinestone crystals.
I wear a closed-toe, 2” heel in tan satin made by Stephanie Dance Shoes. This is one of a wide variety available by a reputable ballroom vendor in California called, Notably Unique. They ship around the country. A typical pair will run you $139.00 USD. Again, they’re great to buy at the beginning of your lessons so that you can gradually break them in leading up to the big day.
Balance is Key
Everyone agrees it’s cute to watch the couples giggle and bump into each other as they navigate a box step for the first time. But with the wrong shoes, it’s only a matter of time before you hear “she’s pulling me” or “I can’t spin around him.” These lessons are a microcosm of how their marriage will play out over the years. Do your marriage a favor; wear the right shoes to your lessons and during your first dance together as a married couple. You’ll be in a far better position (quite literally) to allow your body to move with his to execute your choreography. You can always get ballroom heels to dance in that are the same height as the heels you’d like to wear during the rest of your ceremony, for pictures, etc. Ultimately, with the proper shoes, both individuals are able to maintain their own balance and two strong individuals can come together as one. Now that’s a great way to start a marriage!!
Holly Miller has been competing in ballroom dance competitions since 2004. She trains weekly with her coach and dance partner in Los Angeles. Follow Holly on Twitter @millertime_baby