Sign up for the the Swing90x waiting list!
Dax & Sarah’s new program is a 3 month adventure combining RhythmJuice’s learning environment with coaching, feedback and guidance. We will also feature our new lesson series, the Total Swing Experience, which contains our most recent ideas, exercises and technique for Swing Dancing.
The idea is simple. Each week you are assigned core tasks that must be completed. In addition to core tasks you are encouraged to work on bonus tasks which explore different areas the dance and culture. Those who complete core tasks continue and those who fail get booted out. Our program is recommend for people who are serious about making a change in their dancing and are willing to do more then just talk about it. We will be straight forward, this is going to be hard work. Our program is not about homogenizing dancers. It is about helping you unlock the ability to make choices that more clearly represent what you want your dancing to be. Space is limited so if you are interested read on, otherwise keep swinging!
90 day transformation programs have been proven, in many fields of self improvement, to show dramatic results. We will give you the feedback and information necessary to make a change. In addition, you will not be alone. Our program enforces team work, partnerships and international collaboration which are crucial elements that have contributed to the success of all great dancers.
Our Goals for You:
- improve body movement, rhythm and physical ability
- learn to communicate body movement clearly while partnering
- improve mental understanding of dance technique
- improve physical understanding of dance technique
- increase creativity and idea flow
- refine personal style
- improve teamwork within partnerships
- improve teamwork within local workgroups
- increase knowledge of jazz dance history, swing music and culture
- have a kick-awesome time and strive to be proud of our own accomplishments
Goals for Dax & Sarah:
- develop and fine tune our program
- get measurable real results and testimonials on the effectiveness of the program
- experiment with the effectiveness of RhythmJuice’s learning tools
- contribute to raising the level of social dancing
- contribute to making swing dancers more respectable in the eyes of non swing dancers.
Reality Check #1 – Learn to Learn
Every top level dancer did something that the rest didn’t. The learned how to help themselves. Whether it was with their own ideas or the the knowledge they acquired from others, they took their dancing into their own hands and put in the hours needed to make the change. You can talk about your goals, but if you don’t practice, it will never physically manifest.
Reality Check #2 – Practice
Practice is the most powerful concept for personal development. Practice helps you develop a habit, and because the best dancing is unlocked when you stop thinking and start feeling, you need to develop the habits that support the dancing you desire. However, many people don’t practice, they just go dancing. Practice is doing with intent to acquire proficiency in something. Moreover, practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect and blue practice makes blue. (No Manu, “blue” doesn’t mean shit.) This means you become better at the “thing” you practice and perfection doesn’t necessarily need to be ones goal. For example, the dancer who spends a lot of time talking about dancing, will probably get really good at talking about dancing.
Reality Check #3 – No Excuses
You can do seriously do this. Swing is one of the only dance styles where greatness has never been defined by a specific body type or personality. Self doubt and laziness are the only two excuses you have left. What to do, how to do it, and when to do it are decided by us. How to fix it and how to improve can be left to our weekly feedback. I have no money? The cost is only $0.88 cents a day for a 3 month RJ premium membership dude and if you are in the the Trial Program, the guidance part is free.
Reality Check #4 – Space is Limited
Space is limited and there are some requirements that you must meet.
Requirements for participation:
Dance Partner : There will be a lot of partner work required so you must have a fully committed dance partner for the full 90days.
Creating a Local Work Group: We recommend creating a local work group of around 2-4 couples. Working in small teams is great for inspiration and motivation. It will also allow for you to take part in the bonus tasks that require a team.
High Speed Internet: You need a fast connection that can handle video upload and streaming.
RhythmJuice Premium Subscription: We will be using RhythmJuice lessons as the primary foundation for the content and feedback system. We recommend the 3 month subscription which offers a discount over the monthly subscription.
Video Camera: You will be required to film your dancing on a weekly basis to complete tasks. We recommend an HD smartphone or something convenient that can upload to youtube with the touch of one button. Otherwise anything that takes video and allows you to upload it to youtube will work.
Practice Space: You will need a good space to practice. Something with enough room and wood floor. It should also be a place that you feel comfortable and can work without distractions.
Men, we will be doing a lot of work in hard leather shoes. You will need a pair of heeled leather sole shoes. We recommend Stacy Adams Madison or Remix’s New Men’s Captoe (http://www.stacyadams.com/shop/styles/mensShoes/classic/page0.html) as a model. Anything dress shoe can work, just get the rubber heel replaced at your local cobbler. Ask for a full leather heel for dancing. Try some second hand stores where you can usually find shoes for under $20.
Ladies, we will be doing some work in both flats and heels. Unless there is a genuine health issue you may have with wearing heels get a pair. We recommend a shoe like Remix’s Deco (http://remixvintageshoes.com/deco.html). Don’t feel pressured to spend a lot of money on your shoes. There are an example. Anything with a leather sole and a small rubber heel. Try some second hand stores where you can usually find shoes for under $20.
- Film a short video and tell us 1) why you would like to do the Swing90x challenge and 2) a little about you goals, 3) your experience with swing and 4) if you have any experience taking our classes or if this will be your first time. Then film about 1-2 minutes of your social dancing to your favorite song. (This must be a new clip, in your practice space. Not some old clip that someone took that one day and uploaded.) Try to make your video less then 2 minutes. We will be doing a lot of filming in this program and if you can’t produce a video with your partner, in your practice space or are uncomfortable doing this, then this program will probably not work for you.
- Upload your video to youtube (set as unlisted if you wish), and submit this link in your application. If you don’t have a youtube account, then sign up. http://www.youtube.com. We will be using youtube to share videos.
- Fill out the application. We will consider people in the order they apply and the Application process will be opened starting Saturday, March 10 12:00pm PST. You can however view the form to see the information we are seeking before then just don’t apply until the date or it will be disregarded. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dEltSVpGN2JJVjIxejZhLVFSQ2N1bHc6MQ
- Sign Up for a RhythmJuice Free account. Go to http://www.rhythmjuice.com and click the Join Now Button. Get Familiar with the site. We will be using a group to manage this.
What type of things are we going to be learning? The core content will be lesson’s from our new series titled the Total Swing Experience. All these lessons will have a lesson challenge where you will be required to film yourself doing the lesson material and submit the video for basic feedback and RJ Points. We will also include exercises, solo jazz routines, bonus material and other lessons to mix it up. We are planning things to boost creativity and create a more personal style. We will ask you to complete tasks that won’t necessarily have a lesson on RJ. Stuff like break down an old video clip and try the movements. Choreograph a small section of music. We might add bonus fashion tasks where men learn how to tie a bow tie, dress better or get a gentleman’s haircut and women attempt a vintage hair-do and get fully dolled up. We are going to experiment with things that cover the full spectrum of the dance and culture. We might include written tests, name that song and musician, name that old clip, who’s this dancer etc. It is going to be fully very diverse but heavily focused on the dancing.
What are the actual dates of the Trial Program? We are going to try to start about 2 weeks after the application opens depending on sign ups and processing applications.
Is this program an actual live dance class somewhere or all online? This program will be completely online so you can do it from anywhere. You just need a decent internet connection. However, we are going to consider creating a series of special workshops for people who make it though the program.
What happens if I don’t make it into the program for the trial round? Once we finish the trial, we will price it and offer it with limited places based on our time availability. Eventually we even have other teachers come from the program and be able to supervise their own so that more people will be able to take advantage of it over time.
How many hours per week are you looking for from the dancers? We are going to set it up so you can do a minium of about 4 hours of physical practice, but if you want better results you can do up to something like 7-8 hours or more. Depending on your learning speed though, this may change.
How many RJ memberships are needed for the workgroup or partnership? Each individual person needs their own RJ membership. They will be getting their feedback through this and get points for their lesson challenges that go towards their lesson status.
What about conflicts? Will there be flexibility to work around schedules and time to make up work? We can work around schedule conflicts. We can not work around laziness and excuses. We will ask that people let us know ahead that they have a conflict.
What level is this targeted towards? We are targeting this towards enthusiasts with some dance experience. We think that a work group should have mixed levels to make for the best representation of the social dance floor. Having the mixed group will give you opportunities to learn more and see how effective your lead/follow is while working with less experienced dancers. We want to see what the program can do for beginners as much as advanced dancers and there will be options to be challenged on all levels. With our material, we don’t have beginner variations and advanced variations as much as we have beginner ways to do a things and advanced ways to do things.
Should my partner and I be at a similar level? We recommend the levels be consistent within the partnerships, but not necessarily the work group. We don’t want teacher-student relationship within partnerships. We want equality and respect.
Can we share a lead or follow and work in a partnership of 3? Sharing partners… This is possible as well if absolutely necessary. Maximum 3 people. I will update the application to allow for this. When submitting your challenge videos, you can all 3 people. We will explain how to do this in the tutorial videos for the program.
What if I can’t wear leather for personal Reasons? You will need shoes that slide. We can work around vegetarian issues, but not whining such as, “I am not comfortable dancing in slick shoes and I want to use my sneakers”.
Sarah and I are extremely excited about working with people who are eager to improve and do the type of work that most dancers are just to lazy to do. If you feel like you are ready for this type of program, we look forward to working with you to make a real difference.
If you have any questions post them below!
MSJF was a blast! It was amazing spending time with fellow Ninjammerz and with the entertaining Sonny Allen. During one of his speeches he went off on a little tangent. In it he said something along the lines of, “You know how a negative plus a negative equals a positive? Well, when you get one bad dancer dancing with another bad dancer, you get a GOOOOD dance!” I can’t exactly quote him but that is what I remember.
Even though it took me a few minutes to get where he was going, I loved this statement! Dax and I preach a lot about matching; about dancing WITH your partner. I can’t help but think of what Dax usually says about drunken wedding couples; two people who have no idea what they are doing on the dance floor but they are doing it together. You can easily watch them all night. Then I think about the times I see two swing dancers on the floor…one a beginner and one the more advanced. It’s sad when it appears that the advanced dancer is taking things too seriously (I’m guessing out of frustration or boredom), and as a consequence, I see the beginner looking a little stressed from the pressure. I also rarely get a chance to witness people drastically changing the way they dance to match their partner, stylistically or technically.
At what point do we get so good that we become unwilling to temporarily sacrifice what we have built for ourselves in the name of swing dancing? Let me explain more. Think of a follower in your head that is pretty advanced. Think about her style of dancing (we all have a distinct way we like to dance). Now start putting her with different style leads. Does she change her style to match her lead or does she generally look the same? I can’t honestly think of a follower who chooses extreme change. I’m very often caught doing the same thing. It’s hard when something feels so good to you and your leader is asking you to go to a place that you don’t think you’ll like or that might look stupid.
So with that thought, ask the question, “why do you like social dancing?”. One of my top reasons why I love to social dance (and why I love to be a follower) is that every dance and every leader is different. I find it an exciting challenge to feel these differences; and understand in those few minutes the way they hear the music; chose to move their bodies; and technically view leading. I believe in going beyond appreciating that to wanting to experience it for myself. I try to join my leader’s party even if it sometimes means throwing a lot of what I believe in out the window.
I can’t tell you how many times I have a dance with a beginner student and I see pictures or a video later that I think, “OMG I was doing that?” Sometimes the pictures capture me in the most funny and akward positions but what I remember at those moments is that it was so much FREAKIN FUN! I felt like I was in a totally different body. One that wasn’t mine but just as fabulous. And that is why sometimes I like dancing with the beginners more than the higher level dancers. It’s often that the higher level dancers try to show me how much technique and variations they know. Beginners don’t have much technique or moves under their belt so the only way they know how to impress me is by dancing their hardest.
If you lead me technique and fancy moves; I will follow with technique and discipline. If you DANCE with me; I will DANCE with you
Both approaches are great and function well depending on the circumstance. There is room and a need in the swing world for everything. I just am not sure people have put much importance on learning to have the ability and willingness to do it all.
What I really like about dancing with pro leaders is how I get to go beyond matching my leader. For example, if I am dancing with JUAN (and sadly, this doesn’t happen very often). I love the idea of trying to dance as if I was a female version of him. Then I love to imagine how I would dance if I was Sharon dancing with him and for those few minutes I try to find the magic that I imagine he has with her. Then of course, I get to appreciate the way I move my body. Most people talk about “styling” as an ability to change their body movement within the lead or follow (for example replacing the rock step body movement with a kick ball change body movement). I view styling more as a way of changing the style of one body movement. I try to style by exploring how many different ways I can rock step.
Here is a video from the Ninjammerz jam at MSJF. There are a few times you see me change my body somewhat drastically. There is a part in the first solo we do of the slow section where Dax decides to do some in-and-out movement extremely loose and wiggly. We make our students do this a lot and I can’t help but feel like Gumby when I do this but it’s a great challenge because it makes you find extreme looseness and relaxation. Boy does it look silly but fun! Then towards the end of the video I dance with Thomas. He is one of my favorites to dance with when I’m trying to explore things. First of all, his rhythms and body movements are insane, I can barely keep up. Second, I love Alice’s dancing and I sometimes try to think about how she would react to Thomas.
Here is part two. At around 3:05 Dax and I do a solo. Check out how I drastically change my body movement styling. This time, they were my choices to dance different and not so much about how I was being affected by my partner. The first few eight counts I was trying to dance really smooth and tighter. At that time, I wanted to make it look like I was floating or ice skating (not that that necessarily happened. lol). Then as we started to swing out and I felt the music building; I decided that wasn’t enough for me so I imagined the end of the clip Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers Radio City Revels 1938 where the little girl is dancing with the large man, swiveling extremely low. I do one swingout attempting to do the same. I haven’t gotten them down but their getting there! The last two swingouts I think I just lost it and started whipping my head and poor Dax had to hang on. hahah.
Sometimes the choices I make end up looking really awkward but it has been one of biggest learning tools I’ve had this last year. I find it completely empowering to be able to not just follow or lead but be able to drastically change the way you move your body to fit your partner and/or the music and/or your mood.
So, wrapping this tangent up, I’d like to encourage people to not be afraid to dance ugly. To not be afraid to be completely technically wrong, and to be more open to the various possibilities your body can experience in the name of fun!
If you are free Sunday May 22, we are teaching a workshop in LA which you won’t want to miss!
We like to keep it simple. No class titles, no frills and gimmicks, just 100% pure GETTING BETTER AT LINDY HOP.
Would you like to know more about how we teach and run a workshop? Read this page.
Sunday, May 22, 2011 3:00PM-7PM
Cost and Pre Registration
Pre Register: $60.00 , At the Door: $70.00 ($10 discount for RhythmJuice Premium Members and Students who took our last workshop here in LA.)
LiveArts LA 4210 Panamint Street (on the corner of Eagle Rock Blvd.) Los Angeles, CA 90065
We look forward to see you there!
Dax & Sarah
A really famous lindy hopper once said to me, “Sweat pants almost killed the lindy hop.”
You may be thinking…WTF?
Think about it though, when swing dancing originated, everyone was dressing up and trying to look good. It was a night out, to say the least. Saying “Sweat pants almost killed the Lindy Hop” may sound completely ridiculous, but I’ve been thinking about it recently.
Let me bring your back to my beginning. I vividly remember the first dance I was invited to. I had learned a few moves at my High School swing club and now it was time to go out dancing. However, there was a big problem. I couldn’t go cause I didn’t have any vintage clothes. How funny is that. I actually didn’t go, and that next week I was compelled to go buy some dress pants, suspenders, and some shoes. Ridiculous…………..ly Awesome, now that I think about it. Not the suspenders, but there was a time where you actually had to think about what to wear. Fashion mattered and peer pressure combined with the image of Swimg made people care about what they went out in. Then everything changed.
If you have been dancing for a while, you might remember years back when people were wearing sweat pants to social dances. I remember, cause I used to wear them!
It was right around the time when social dances were being moved to dance studios because real venues were kicking Lindy Hoppers out for bringing water bottles. I am surprised that we didn’t end up with yoga mats and stretching sessions by the end of the night talking about how the only important part of the dance is how it feels.
Why did many people stop dressing up? Why did I stop dressing up? Obviously many continued to keep swing stylish, but those aside. What tipped the decline of swing fashion? How did all this happen? I don’t really know, but I speculate that maybe workshops, with 5 hours of classes a day, caused people to start dressing in athletic gear. Fair enough, but this sort of “comfort first” mentality started to trickle into the social nights. Soon the line between what was appropriate blurred when it came to style. Personally, I know I also started to focus more on just the dance, and not what the dance was part of. I think this happened for many people. We became so focused on Lindy Hop as only a dance and forgot the bigger picture of Jazz Culture, Music and Fashion and History.
I really think this affected my dancing, and probably a lot of other people. With this more casual approach to what we wore, came a more casual approach to how we danced, how we looked while dancing, and the tempos we preferred to dance to. Groove music soon took over, the stretched swing out died, charleston was “not cool”, and live music wasn’t worth the extra 5$ cover charge.
Is Fashion Part of Understanding the Dance?
I wish I got my act together much sooner when it came to fashion. It all started to click when when I realized that Lindy Hop was part of something bigger…that there was more to the dance then just learning how to dance well.
Lindy Hop, if removed from the influences that were present when it was originally developed, is awkward and lacking. As I get better at dancing, I enjoy listening to better dance music. As I listen to better music, I get better at dancing. As I move better and swing harder, I want to dress more vintage. As I start to dress more vintage I begin to move better and swing harder. Funny how this all comes together.
My Lindy Hop is so much more complete now that I am 1) dressing better, 2) playing swing music on my guitar, 3) listening to better dance music and 4)watching more old clips from the 20s, 30s and 40s. I can finally see how it all works together and feeds the rest. Over the past few years, I have seriously become more interested in all things that swing; looking beyond just the dance technique.
So, in case you missed the message going round town; Classy Is Cool. Vintage is cool. I even feel it may be a critical part to understanding the dance better.
If my wardrobe progressed along side my dancing over the past 10 years I would be set, unfortunately it hasn’t and now I am having to catch up. I wish I could go back in time and dress well so that all the pictures floating around didn’t look so silly.
More and More People Are Dressing Well!
Over past few years, I see more and more people bringing style to their Lindy Hop. I am also starting to recognize the people who have kept Vintage Influenced Style alive over all the years and taken it to respectable levels. I am not saying you should dress vintage, but if you think that lindy hop looks better in a T-shirt and Jeans over being decked out is some classy attire…I am asking you to think again. Would the Nicholas Brothers be a legend if they wore sweat pants? Would the Spirit Moves documentary look so badass if they were wearing polyester comfort clothes and Adidas shell toes? Hellzapoppin in jeans and t shirts? Seriously…?
A quick shout out to Peter Loggins, who is the ultimate male icon of Swing Dance Fashion. You would never find him in a cheap suit, and can go through every single photo for as long as he has been dancing and you will see him dressed well. He has heavily inspired me to get my shit together. Thanks Peter!
Here are some pics I grabbed of some couples who always inspire, letting the world know that “Classy is Cool!”
Where are you with your fashion? Have you been oblivious so many years like me? Have you been rocking vintage the whole time laughing at us who dance in jeans and t-shirts? Do you think that not vintage attire looks better for Swing? Are you aware, but to lazy to dress the part? Do you shop at Mens Wearhouse, wear tennis shoes with your suits and spike your hair?
This post is is related to Sarah’s post on why ladies should conquer wearing heels. I would like to elaborate based on my personal experience why I believe learning to dance in Hard Leather Dress shoes dramatically enhanced both my dance technique, leading technique, style, range of variations and best of all….how I looked in a suit.
I used to be ANTI-slick shoes. Of course I was; I couldn’t slide for sh*t and doing a swing out felt darn near impossible without slipping around like Bambi. Seriously, what lead wants to look like Bambi? Exactly. The immediate disappointment always kept the good ol’ slick shoes in hibernation. Not to mention, I had subtlety convinced myself that dancing in street shoes or moreover “stickier” shoes was the cool thing to do. Obviously, for me, those days are long gone, but if you are finding yourself in “similar shoes” then I insist you read on and hopefully get the motivation to eventually conquer the slick’s.
I now dance 95% of the time in my Hard Leather Dress Shoes. The remaining 5% I use hard rubber Dress shoes, when I need extreme control and power with no room for error. An example would be doing a routine like “Jitters” where we are dancing full stretched Swing Outs at over 300 bpm. Here we are all in hard rubber shoes. The girls are also not in Heels. This is an example of that remaining 5%, at least for me personally.
Before we go on. I want to define some stuff for the purpose of this post.
- Technique - Body Movement, Rhythm, Ability to Lead, Ability to Follow, Style, Creativity and the ability to do all things dance related. Lets lump it all into one. Better Dancing happens when all this stuff is done better. Therefore, when I say better technique, think better execution of all of the above. Add to the list if you wish.
- Slick Shoes – Hard leather dress shoes, sueded shoes, something that is slippery. They might even be rubber on a super slick floor. The idea is they slip, slop and slide.
- Sticky Shoes – Tennis shoes, Rubber soles, stuff that doesn’t allow for decent slides.
- Nice Shoes- Shoes that are comfortable and look freaking awesome with what you are wearing.
- Lame Shoes- Shoes that are not optimal for your feet, look really bad with what you are wearing or both.
How Slick Shoes Can Help You Improve Technique
I feel like swing dancing is a constant balancing act. Finding balance between my partner and I while tensions are constantly changing is a enormous task. Sticky Shoes make this easy for me to cheat. I simply grip the floor with my feet and use my muscles to compensate leading to more contractions and less stretches.
With Slick Shoes, I can’t grip, squeeze and compensate because I will slip or loose control. When I notice a major loss of control, loss of rhythm, loss of power I know I am not using my body as well as I could be. This confrontation with personal failure pressures me to be in better positions where my body weight balances the tension between my partner and I. On top of that it pressures me to pulse better in order to release excess tension to avoid slipping and loss of Rhythm.
In Sticky Shoes, due to the fact that I can compensate for worse body movement and positions with excess muscle tension, arm leading and floor gripping, I don’t have the opportunity to meet MR. FAILURE. This is what slowed down my ability to improve the quality of Rhythm, Body Movement, and Body Leading for many years. When the current system works, I.E. IS NOT FAILING, I don’t fix it. The reason is not that I don’t care, but I don’t even know what to fix because I can’t see or feel the problem!
The First Step
I will assume that dancers who have not mastered Slick Shoes have more control in Sticky Shoes, (assuming they are not too sticky and inhibiting for movement). That is the way it is for me and many others that I have spoken with. If you have been dancing for a while, you have probably obtained a certain level of rhythm, control, and fun. Let that be your mental standard for comparison. This level of yummyness is what you must try and achieve when putting on Slick Shoes. This is only the first milestone, but if you can get this far, you will have made lots of improvement in your technique. FOR SURE!
Learning to do everything you can do in Sticky Shoes while using Slick Shoes is not easy. It requires change! You can’t go about it thinking “the way I currently do things is awesome!”. Honestly, If you put on a pair of Slicks, and you are killin it, then congratulations, you probably have great technique. Chances are, it won’t end up that way. It didn’t for me, but I focused on results and changed my dancing dramatically to get them. Now when I put on a pair of Sticky Shoes, I know I am using better technique, and when I put on my Slicks…well, this is what it currently looks like. Not to mention, Sarah is killing it in her Heels as well! Regardless, I still confront failures in my Slicks that teach me more about the types of adjustments I need to make to become a better dancer. Now that I am comfortable, relaxed and stable, I am on the road to discover more ways to take advantage of what Slick Shoes will let you accomplish.
Read on if you like…
More Reasons to Wear Slick Shoes
Sliding is probably one of the most unique aspects of lindy hop that sets it aside from other partner dances. I watch old clips from the spirt moves in awe when I see all the slides and the juicy rhythmical variations that slides can produce. It is unfortunate the more people are not doing it.
Slick Shoes are much easier on my knees and related joints. When I lindy hop, I do a lot of circular/pivotal movement on the balls of my feet, and slick shoes allow for the least amount of resistance for my knees and ankles while doing this. I used to mostly consider the cushiness of a shoe and jump into a pair of tennis shoes for the squish to relieve my back/foot pain. I did this without considering the toll it will take on the knees and related joints. I have learned over time that Slick Shoes are more forgiving on my body, especially since I can finally use them. Most of all, what I really learned was that good body movement has helped me maintain the best possible heath and sustain 8+ hours of dancing a day.
Compare it to Typing: Learn your home keys. Learn to type properly. You may struggle for a while but avoid long term injury that is associated with “bad typing” technique. Same goes for dance.
Learning to move well in slicks, makes your technique better, which makes dancing easier, which makes it less damaging to your body, and your partners.
If you need more comfort, buy nicer shoes, put insoles inside or experiment with 1 of the many options for increasing the support and comfort of your Slick Shoes.
Style & Fashion
After Sarah’s post, I was shocked at how ANIT- STYLE some people are when you must sacrifice a little comfort. WOW. I say, drop the excuses, and find a way to look and feel good. End of story. There is nothing more disappointing stylistically then going from head to toe on a decently dressed man(or woman) to find a pair of tennis shoes at the bottom of what could have been a great out fit. Just wear some stylish shoes and ditch the excuses. I think dress pants and suits look silly with Tennis shoes. It’s not as cool as the real deal or a stylish fusion dress/street shoe. If you need help here, just ask, I have been through more shoe drama then the average debutante living in Manhattan and more back pain than most UPS drivers.
#1 Hard Leather, Heeled Dress Shoes
- Option 1 – The Pro Build: All Leather Sole, All Leather Heel - This is the ultimate social dancer build. Allowing for the maximum slip slop potential and equal consistency along the whole shoe. Most Nice Dress Shoes, come with a rubber or partial rubber heel. You will need to take your shoes to a shoe smith (cobbler) and get a full leather heel installed. Costs about 25-50USD depending on how much leather is used and how good your shoe smith is.
- Option 2 – The Standard Build: All Leather Sole, Rubber Heel – Most nice dress shoes are built with a rubber heel now-a-days. The rubber heel adds a little more stability when you drop the sticky heel, but the inconsistency isn’t worth it if I have my pro builds with me. I feel it is more constricting since it is less predictable. I wear this shoe when I teach and walk around all day and have to go inside and outside and don’t want to carry another pair of shoes.
- Option 3 – The Illusionist: Rubber Sole, Hard Leather Heel – This is really interesting and rare build that few use. I think Sackarias mentioned he also like this build. Of course there are probably more… This is a dress shoe, with a rubber sole backed with and all leather heel. The rubber sole gives you that extra grip and control while allowing for fatty heel slides. This is a novelty build, which is fun to play with but probably not the best if you are only going to have one pair.
#2 Hard Rubber, Heeled Dress Shoes and Fusion Street Shoes - There are a lot of shoes that are designed to look great with dress pants and suits that are built with hard rubber buttons. I have a few pairs of shoes like this for the rare performance that requires more control and of course requires that my outfit still looks good. I used to really blow big time. I regret looking back at old videos when I am dancing in some stupid tennis shoes or street shoes that just look lame with my suit. Vincenzo, he always did it right, he just put rubber on his Stacy Adams, looked twice as pimp and got the grip he needed. Thanks for showing me the light Vince.
#3 Sueded Tennis Shoes – This might appear like a good stepping stone but personally, it is not even worth the time. Yes, they are slick, and will show you some flaws. However, I can find nice dress shoes that are just as comfortable, look nicer for swing dancing, and look much better with my suits. Dress shoes also last longer and have a heel. I can also wear my dress shoes outside without feeling guilty that the sole is going fall apart.
Side Note: I feel that when we wear tennis shoes, we easily gravitate towards jeans, track pants, UFO pants, raver jeans, Modrobes, and all pants that go with shirts that make outfits that aren’t super cool for Vernacual Jazz, Balboa, Swing, and Lindy Hop. I have been there. Wore all that stuff at one time, but personally my view of what is cool has totally changed. Some of you may hate me for saying it, but sweat pants almost killed the lindy hop. Regardless, feel free to wear what you like. I say “time and place”, and following that you will probably know when it is best to bust out what will get you more compliments and less funny looks.
You are going to want to wear what you practice in to a social dance. It is your comfort zone. So don’t get comfortable in shoes that you don’t plan on wearing out or you will always find an excuse to wear those sueded tennis shoes, regular tennis shoes, and cluade hoppers. Next thing you know, you will probably end up going out in sweat pants and track pants if you are not careful. ;
If you wear Jeans, sueded tennis shoes might look fine, but personally, I have pretty much stopped wearing jeans while dancing. For me, they are so much more uncomfortable to dance and sweat in. *Skinny Jeans are my personal exception, cause I love skinnies and the clean lines!
Start low: A misconception that happened in my last entry is that if you want to wear heels when you dance, they have to be high!!! This is not the case at all. Most of men’s dress shoes have a heel on them like this pair of Stacy Adams:
So your first step to wearing heels? Pick a pair of shoes with a low heel! They still feel really different than tennis shoes but are risk free and have much more class. Here are a pair of shoes from New Look I bought recently in Ireland. Not sure if they are going to last long but I like them so far:
This might be as high as you go when wearing heels and that is okay!!! Now that you have picked your shoe here are some tips to make them feel better!!!
1. No matter what you get, it should feel comfortable in the store! I’ve made the mistake before thinking that I could make them feel good by just dancing on them a few nights but your feet will not last a few HOURS dancing in uncomfortable shoes. They should also be of amazing quality. What you stand on all day should not be one of the things you buy cheaper to save a few bucks.
2. Insoles. I can’t dance in heels without insoles. Some women can but there is a little too much pressure in heels with no support. I always buy my heels a half a size bigger and put in an insole (bring the insoles with you shoe shopping. Something I learned from Jo Hoffberg). If I know the shoe is going to stretch a LOT sometimes I wait to break them in and when they get a little too loose for my feet I put in insoles and they fit again!
3. Avoid Blisters: It’s sometimes difficult to wear socks with your heels. When it’s not part of the look I wear nylons. I am always covering my feet somehow and I rarely come across a blister.
4. Avoid Sling Backs: I don’t recommend sling back heels/wedges because (in my opinion) they don’t feel that secure to wear. I want my shoes to feel glued on my foot and sling backs make me worry they are going to fly off or my heel is going to slip.
5. SUEDE THEM! or rubber them. This is supper important! I have some heels with their original leather bottom. Some heels with suede (just make sure you brush them regularly) and some heels like my wedgies I have rubber. This lets you handle any floor situation so you don’t hurt your knees or slip a lot.
6. Know when to stop. I usually wear heels in the beginning of the night and sometimes I get to a point where I just can’t dance anymore in them so I switch to lower heels/flats or tennis shoes. Dancing in heels in the beginning is going to be more tiring because your legs have to work harder…but I have found that this makes me much stronger and so when I DO put on tennis shoes, dancing feels like taking a walk! lol
7. Dance with leaders you trust. As you are figuring out how to dance in different shoes, dance with people you know will take care of you. I was lucky to have Dax to dance with who knew how to challenge me but still keep me safe and catch me the few times I let my heels get the best of me. hahah (I’m kinda joking on that last one…kinda)
8. Get foot massages! I read a comment in my last blog about this and I knew I needed to add this tip!! Dax and I get foot/body massages a few times a week…It so good for your body and it’s really not that expensive. We go to thai town or somewhere with a lot of massages and end up paying 20 buck for the hour.
9. Know this: IF YOU CHANGE NOTHING ABOUT YOUR DANCING, NOTHING WILL CHANGE. Dax says this a lot but I found this completely true about my experiments with heels. If you choose to dance the same way (the same style and same flaws) then you will never feel the benefits of changing shoes. You will find that you can only dance in your Keds and everything else is impossible because you are not willing to change you body and movement to adapt to new circumstances. Be open and listen to your body. You shouldn’t feel like you are falling over in 1 inch heels. Experiment; be safe; and have fun!
Growing up in the Lindy scene I have heard so many times how women should wear heels because that’s what women are suppose to do. We are women and women wear heels. Now I loved that traditional ideal but I never could get past the FEELING that being in heels gave me. Every attempt I had made to wear heels I felt off balanced; unstable; and constricted in my movement. I loved the idea of heels but came to the conclusion they were not for me. Since then, I have spoken with many other women who have said the same thing. It wasn’t until about a year ago..maybe even less…that I came to a realization.
Heels did not feel good because they showed me all my flaws.
When I wore heels I felt weak and unstable in them. Why? because I hadn’t figured out yet how to put my body in strong enough positions that let me be stable. I felt constricted. Why? because I let the idea of being in heels freak me out, causing so much tension in my body I couldn’t move with ease like I can in the comfort of my Keds.
So the reason I wear heels? Because they help keep me in check. I feel like I become a better and stronger dancer when I wear them. Wearing tennis shoes for a long period of time actually cause me to develop bad habits. I’m an not saying you should throw away all your tennis shoes! I love giving my feet a break while I’m teaching on my feet all day and I love being in something with more cushion when I practice ariels. I think there is a time and place for everything. All I am saying is don’t just look at the fact that heels make you look like a classy woman but look at how heels can change your dancing for the better.
And this will take time. I made myself wear heels every social dancing night I could for two months before things started clicking for me. It was a stressful and disappointing time but I stuck with it and am so grateful. For those of you ladies still thinking heels are not for you, I encourage you to take the challenge and spend some time in them. They will not only compliment your vintage dresses much better but they might teach you a few things
Next post I will write about all the ways I have made dancing in heels more comfortable!
Ladies and their heels!
And here is a video of a recent performance Dax and I did at Rusty Frank’s 13th Anniversary at Stompy Jones! I am wearing a pair of Remix shoes that I had sueded the bottom. After this dance I realized my next challenge to overcome is tight skirts!!