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Dance Shoes and Clothes - Comfort is Key!

Новое сообщение pavel » 02 июн 2006 (Пт), 14:42

I got the impression that it could be interesting for anybody :arrow:

Dance Shoes and Clothes for Swing Dancing

By Mike & Mary Richardson

Comfort is Key!

When it comes to swing dancing, comfort is key!

Unlike ballroom dances that are rather sedate and calm, swing dances have more up beat and up-tempo music and will get you “warmed up” in a hurry. After a night of swing dancing, we sometimes hear people remark that they feel exhausted and drained. We suspect that feeling may come from wearing clothing that just makes you too darned hot and dance shoes (or street shoes) that don’t provide cushion or support.

If one wears good dance shoes and comfortable clothing, a good night of swing dancing will leave you with a feeling of gentle fatigue.

A Word About These Recommendations For the Beginner
We don't necessarily recommend that people new to swing dancing buy shoes or clothing until they've gotten some experience with swing dancing and have an idea of what they want. If you are in a beginning level class, you don’t need any special shoes or clothing, but we do recommend the following:

Wear clothes that are comfortable and are not restrictive to your movement (for example, long tight skirts on ladies). A good guideline is that anything is fine, as long as it’s comfortable and tasteful.
Wear shoes with flat soles (high heels are not recommended) that grip your ankle. Comfortable dress shoes, like loafers or wing tips with a leather sole, are also fine to start.
Wear light shoes without a lot of traction so you can spin with less strain on your knees and ankles. (Note that hiking boots and similar type shoes that are “heavy” with lots of traction are not good.)

For Those That Want More Information
For those that want more information and recommendations, what follows is for you. Of course, what appeals to and is comfortable for one person may not be to another. The information presented here is based on our experiences and what is comfortable for us.

Part I - “It’s the Shoes!”

Dance Shoes in General
There are lots of different manufacturers and styles of dance shoes on the market. First, let’s briefly look at some types of shoes generally available for dancing, but not particularly suitable for swing dancing.

Ballroom Dance Shoes. Ballroom dance shoes are dance shoes built for flexibility, but with very little lateral and arch support and no cushion insole. The soles normally have a very thin layer of chrome leather (suede) on the sole. Ballroom Dance Shoes are easily ruined if used on something other than a nice, smooth, clean wooden or tiled dance floor. These type shoes usually cost $100-120.
Character Shoes (named for their use in musical theatre by actresses/actors performing “in character”). These shoes have a very generic look and almost always come with very hard, leather soles. Character Shoes do not have built in cushion insole. Although not as “stylish” looking as ballroom shoes (they tend to make one’s feet look “clunky”), Character Shoes are sturdier and hold up better. They are okay for dancing in night clubs where you can put them on in the car, walk in wearing them (no need for shoe bags), dance, and leave without having to worry about sidewalks, spilled drinks and dirty dance floors that would ruin Ballroom Dance Shoes. Character Shoes cost about $40-60.

Jazz Shoes. Made for jazz and modern dance, these type shoes can be purchased with split sloes for lots of flexibility. The soles will normally be rubber, chrome leather (suede) soles, or a chrome leather sole with a rubber heel. Like ballroom dance shoes, these type shoes are light but lack much lateral and/or arch support. These type shoes cost about $50-80.

Dance Shoes For Swing Dancing
(See the Links Page of the Club’s web site for shoes and merchandise related links.)

If you do a lot of swing dancing, it’s certainly wise to invest in some dance shoes (and perhaps insoles) that provide comfort, support and the proper sole for slides, hops, jumps, swivels and spinning (especially the ladies, who often do a lot of spinning!). Dancing can take a toll on your knees, ankles and legs if you don’t have good shoes. Overall, you want shoes that let you pivot freely (to avoid knee and ankle damage), but not let you slip and fall. Let’s look at some shoes made specifically for swing dancers.

Bleyers. Bleyers are made in Germany, specifically for swing dancers. These shoes are lightweight, provide good shock absorption, but are a little deficient in lateral support. There are several different styles of Bleyers, i.e. two-tone spectator, saddle shoe, etc. for both men and women. Bleyers come with a synthetic type sole that is more durable than suede leather but still provides good “slideability”. Bleyers cost anywhere from $50-120 and are available at several on line retailers.

Aris Allen. These shoes come in lots of different models and colors. For the men, Aris Allen has several models with an all-leather sole & heel, which allows them to slide easily on the dance floor. For the ladies, they make several models of the early 1940's wedge shoe. Aris Allen's cost anywhere from $50-100 and are available at several on line retailers.

Athletic Shoes with Chrome Leather Soles. Athletic Shoes? Yes, athletic shoes have lots of layers of rubber and foam that really cushion and support your feet. However, as we all know, athletic shoes are built to “grip” the floor, and if you try to dance (or do any turns or spinning) in rubber soled shoes you can easily hurt or injure your knees or ankles. So what’s the solution? Chrome leather! Take a pair of your stylish athletic shoes (preferably with a flat sole, i.e. not running athletic shoes) to a shoe repair store or shoe cobbler and have chrome leather (suede) soles bonded or glued on. This typically costs about $30. Ask for the really thick chrome leather, and not the very thin suede that is on ballroom dance shoes.

Note you can also use the “Chrome Leather” solution on lots of other different shoes that give you good support, such as two-tone spectators, bowling shoes, vintage shoes, etc. In Lexington, Casey’s Heel Quick in the Woodhill Shopping Center (859/268-0195) does a nice job of applying thick chrome leather to various styles of shoes.

Masking Tape-The Low Tech Solution. Some swing dancers like to put masking tape (applied horizontally) on the soles of their shoes (normally sneakers) to allow them to spin easier. Make sure that the tape will not damage, mark-up or harm the dance floor or leave bits of tape or adhesive that could cause problems for other dancers.

Cushioned Insoles. A good pair cushioned insoles are worth their weight in gold. There are lots of name brand and off-brand insoles on the market. Some people will buy their shoes slightly bigger (perhaps an half size bigger) to give them more room. Insoles come in relatively flat versions and those with combinations of molded heel cup and arch support. You can even add a “flat” type cushioned insole under the combination type to really increase the cushion and support.

Part II – Clothes

General Info. At most swing dance events, people dress anywhere from very casual to somewhat dressy. For social dancing in general, the “rules” about attire for swing dancing are the most relaxed and varied, so one has a lot of leeway for choosing clothes that are comfortable. At a swing dance, you may see some people dressed super casual, some on the nicer end of casual, some with perhaps a coat and tie and some dressed in very nice looking vintage type clothing. In bigger cities, different swing dance venues may even have a different “norm” for what is considered proper attire. Sometimes you may only get a feel for these types of local “norms” after you’ve danced at a particular place. (If it’s a big concern, one can always ask a fellow swing dancer what was the clothing “norm” like at a particular dance venue.)

The bottom line is that for the vast majority of swing dances, anything is fine as long as it is tasteful.

Vintage Clothes
Some advice on vintage clothes that applies to both men and women.

Authentic Vintage Clothing. Authentic vintage clothing (i.e. from the 1950’s and earlier) in good condition is hard to find. A lot of authentic vintage clothing is made of wool or some other heavier type material and doesn’t breathe. Vintage clothing can be very fragile and not hold up well to the rigors of swing dancing. Vintage clothing normally requires dry cleaning. Also note that sizes for authentic vintage clothes run smaller, so keep that in mind if ordering on line.

Reproduction Vintage Clothing. There are several on-line retailers that sell reproduction patterns and clothing. This especially applies for shoes. Thrift stores are a good source for clothing that is older, although not exactly vintage. For the ladies, note that wide shoulder pads were popular in a lot of dresses and shirts from the 1980’s, giving that clothing a vintage or 1940’s look.

Info For Ladies,
(based on Mary’s experiences)

As stated earlier, comfort is key. Let’s cover the key points for ladies.

Skirts vs. Pants. Generally speaking, I prefer dresses or skirts, as pants can get hot. Although some women wear long pants, I do not recommend heavy jeans. Light weight Capri pants, or drawstring pants are not only comfortable, but also quite acceptable at swing dances. Also, swing dancing does wonderful things for ones calf muscles. Why not show them off?

Shirts. I prefer short sleeves. Sometimes leaders grab hold of the forearm instead of the hand and having hanging, long sleeves can get in the way. I don’t recommend going sleeveless, or wearing spaghetti straps; armpits are not a women’s most attractive feature. I also do not recommend anything backless. Most leaders do not enjoy putting their hand on a sweaty back.

Fabrics. I find that the newer rayon and nylon blends work very well. Even when they get damp from perspiration, they tend to dry quickly. Lightweight cotton weaves are okay, but cotton knits tend to hold moisture and can feel heavy when wet. Some washable silks are ok, but do a small spot test to see if it changes colors when wet. Anything “Dry Clean Only” is not recommended.

Whatever you decide to wear or buy, before you leave home or leave the store dressing room, move around in the outfit, raise your arms over your head, sit down in it, etc. Does it ride up? Does it show too much of the wrong thing? You do not want to spend half the evening adjusting your clothing.
Hair. Anything over shoulder length should be pulled back, or up or brought under control in some way. Swing dancing is an athletic activity, and you’re going to perspire. Leaders don’t enjoy begin smacked in the face by a wet mop!

Info For Men,
(based on Mike’s experiences)

Some of the information about fabrics that applies for women is applicable here, although for whatever reason, men seem to perspire more than ladies. So staying cool and dry is a key consideration!

First, let’s cover what I don’t find comfortable.

Silk. Silk may be okay if you’re not moving around much, but silk (1) doesn’t “breathe” and soaks up perspiration, thus retaining a lot of body heat; (2) changes color as it absorbs perspiration, giving a very unpleasant appearance, and (3) loses its shape as it gets wet from perspiration.

Cotton. Cotton, especially the 100% heavy-weight variety, is not very comfortable for swing dancing, for most of the same reasons that silk is not. Cotton really soaks up the sweat and after a couple of dances of even moderate exertion it makes you feel like you’re wearing a towel.

T-Shirts or Polo Shirts. I don’t recommend T-shirts or Polo Shirts for dancing, even in an extremely casual setting. I really haven’t found a T-Shirt or Polo Shirt fabric that is suitable for dancing. If you decide to wear T-shirts or Polo Shirts, take extras so you can change when those get wet.

What’s comfortable.

“Aloha” Shirts. An exception to the “cotton” rule is the super-lightweight cotton “Aloha” shirts, worn in Hawaii and the Philippines. But beware, these shirts are made from a tightly woven cotton weave and are not the imitations found in many retail and on-line stores. These genuine “Aloha” shirts are not cheap. They cost in the $30-90 range and can only be found in specialty stores.

Rayon and Nylon Blends. Rayon and Nylon shirts for swing dancing? Surely you jest! I’ve found that the newer rayon and nylon/polyster blends are very comfortable for dancing. They dry quickly, keep their shape and hold up well after repeated washings. Look for shirts that are comfortable to move around in (especially as you move your arms upwards for underarm turns) and are “smooth” to the touch.

Plain T-Shirts Underneath. I like to wear a plain v-neck t-shirt under my outer shirt. Surprisingly, this helps soak up the some of sweat, doesn’t retain too much body heat (if the outer shirt is untucked) and provides a “barrier” for helping keep the outer shirt dry. I like to take extra T-shirts and outer shirts to dances to change as needed. Taking extras T-shirts and outer shirts is especially important for outdoor dances.

The “Untucked” Look. I like to wear my outer shirt “untucked”; this allows a nice flow of air and helps keep the outer shirt (and me) dry.

First, let’s cover what I don’t find comfortable.

100% Wool. I find that 100% wool pants retain a lot of heat and sweat when dancing, although they do hold their shape. If these type pants get really wet, they get very heavy. Some people also find the smell that emits from wet wool to be unpleasant. If you do wear 100% wool, wear darker colors that won’t show the sweat.

Khaki, Casual. Khaki or other casual type pants would seem to be a good choice for swing dancing but are really not. I find these type pants soak up the sweat and rapidly lose their shape.

What’s comfortable.

Microfiber. I’ve found that pants made from Microfiber offer the best combination of comfort, durability and “breathability” for swing dancing. Microfiber pants are made with very thin threads, normally in some type of synthetic, polyester blend. This fabric is very soft to the touch, is resistant to wrinkle and dries fast. Microfiber pants are available at several local retailers and cost around $20-40.

Cotton/Polyester Blends. Some pants made from cotton/polyester blends are suitable for swing dancing. Ensure the fabric has a “light” feel to it and appears that it will hold its shape.

Athletic Pants. In an extremely casual setting, high quality athletic pants may be appropriate, although one would probably want to only wear some type of tennis shoe for footwear.

Wide Legged and Regular Width. Some swing dancers like pants in wide legged versions. These type pants give one a slightly casual, 1940’s vintage look. These pants are a tad heavier than regular width pants, but I find they keep your legs cooler due to the increased flow of air. Wide legged pants are available on line and cost about $45-70. See the Club’s Links Page for more info.

Never stop doing what you love ..
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