Lots of people are getting off their couches are enrolling in Ballroom and Latin American dance classes. Dance is a wonderful way to get active, meet new people and discover a wonderful new hobby. However every week though I see beginners not getting the maximum benefit from their class because they don’t have the right clothes and shoes.
Shoes are the single most important item for a dancer. Even keen social dancers make sure they have good comfortable shoes. Ballroom and Latin technique involves you sliding your foot over the floor: you cannot do this with athletic shoes, worse you may wreck you knee forcing your foot. Ideally you should have shoes with suede or leather soles. These shoes can’t be worn outside though, you’ll destroy the soles. If you don’t have leather soled shoes get a smooth sole shoe.
Ladies, most ballroom dance steps have you moving backwards, you can’t step backwards with a slip on shoe. You can’t dance comfortably in a shoe that does not stay on your foot. That means a sandal with a strap or a court shoe that fits properly.
The other important point with shoes is that Ladies they must have a heel: normally 2 1/2″ but 2″ if you are more comfortable in it. Flat jazz sneakers or ballet slippers will not help you with ballroom and Latin American: your weight has to be towards the front of your foot and the easiest way to achieve that is with a proper shoe.
Men’s shoes are easier – just make sure you wear a dress shoe with a relatively smooth sole and not athletic shoes.
Clothing: again its surprising the number of people who wear tight fitting clothing and think they are going to be comfortable dancing. Wear something comfortable but, particularly if you are paying for private coaching, wear clothing that shows your body’s line. The reason that ballet dancers typically wear leotards is because that’s what shows their body alignment the best. Ballroom is not quite as dramatic but its still essential to wear something that won’t ride up at the shoulder and make you look like you’ve raised your shoulders even if you haven’t. For men this eliminates any regular business or sports jacket: only jackets specifically designed for dancing will sit correctly across your shoulder with your arms up in ballroom hold. Most men avoid the problem by wearing a business shirt for ballroom or T-shirt for Latin American. Men’s trousers should again not be too full so that his leg line can be seen.
Ladies clothing has an additional issue: American style ballroom particularly you need to wear a mid-calf length skirt so that you have something to play with! A skirt both enhances the dancers movement and hides the rather ugly bent knees which is the technical secrete behind that movement! Obviously a suitable skirt must allow you to stride out and for the man to get his leg between your’ so a tight, straight skirt won’t work.
A suitable skirt is traditionally made of Lycra and is either 4-gored cut on cross or designed with additional inserts from below the knee. The skirt is not as full as that used for square dancing or rock and roll. For Latin American the skirt is be shorter (optionally a LOT shorter) and trousers are slightly more common, but basically a nice knee-length or shorter, flippy skirt will show movement and your leg line!