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Dance Shoes: The pleasure and the pain!

Dance shoes! Whether out for a night of social dancing or taking a class, a common topic of discussion among woman dancers is the difficulty of finding the perfect dance shoe.  Few people have feet that perfectly fit every shoe manufacturer's regular lasts, so it really is a lot of trial and error to find a shoe in which one can comfortably dance for a couple of hours.

  I have two primary objectives when shoe-hunting. First is the obvious need to find  a secure fit, so the shoe supports my foot without feeling too tight or that it is going to slip off; either problem ends up causing sore feet and nasty blisters. My feet are small but wide. However experimenting with a wider fitting didn't work too well for me so now I stick to a regular fitting and hope they stretch in the right places.

The second important thing for me is the clasp on the straps of Latin or rhythm shoes. As far as I've discovered there are three main types used.

There is the buckle style clip as shown on the left, the snap type as on the middle shoe, and the hook type on the right. I found the buckle type on shoes that I got on a visit to South Africa. The shoes were incredibly comfortable but I ended up having to get a punch to make more holes in the strap and it was a bit of a pain.

When in New York several years ago (read my saga of being a claustrophobic stuck in an elevator) I visited the World Tone dance shoe store. Most of the shoes that I saw there featured the hook style clasp which I find hard both to do up and undo.

Having far spent too many times crouched beside my bed or near the dance floor, bent and twisted while trying to do up my shoe straps so they are tight  yet comfortable, I have finally concluded that the easiest clasp for me to use is the snap kind.

Fortunately this snap type is the fastening used by Diamant, the German brand of shoes that also best fits my feet. So after all my experiments I have settled on my three favorite shoe styles shown in the picture - all Diamant.

The search for the perfect shoe is not easy and mistakes can prove very expensive. Luckily for me, I had access to some sage advice and experienced fitting help from Renate of Avalon Dance Shop, Vancouver's best go-to place for dance shoes of all kinds, apparel and other dance related items.

From the first pair of dance shoes I bought when I started group lessons way back after retiring from work, when I heeded her advice I did well. The one time I disregarded her cautions - trying the wider fitting - I ended up with with a couple of shoes that did not work  for me.

On my last visit to Avalon, to enlist her help in fixing worn out heels on my well-used dance shoes, I learned a bit about  how Renate came to found this wonderful store.

Avalon is actually celebrating its 25th year in business in Vancouver. Renate's sister, a ballroom dancer in Seattle, had a store selling dance shoes. Many of her customers were from Vancouver.  So Renate decided to start a business in Vancouver for our local dance community. After operating a growing business for seven years in Coquitlam and New Westminister she decided to move closer to downtown and opened Avalon Dance Shop on Main Street. When her customers began to ask about dancing clothing she initially designed and sewed some items herself before beginning to import and feature clothing lines from other manufacturers.

Three years ago, needing more space she moved her shop to its present location at 4750 Main Street (Main and 30th). As well as ballroom, Renate stocks dance wear and accessories for ballet, jazz, tap, flamenco and belly dancing. She also has technical books, music, jewelry and shoe care products. But best of all, over the years Renate has developed a wealth of expertise  for finding the best shoes for your individual needs, and techniques and tools for extending the life of your favorite well-used shoes. And she especially enjoys using her expertise to help new dancers find the shoes that suit them best.

As for me, I always enjoy a good chat about dancing when I visit Renate at the Avalon Dance Shop, but most of all - my feet thank her!

Some Links:

The Avalon Dance Shop

New York, New York 2009 - Theatre, Food and Dance, trapped in an elevator and buying shoes in New York