As a dance teacher, I always have students complaining of their shoes being too tight. Some of the words they use are “squeezing,” “pinching,” or just plain “hurts.” But, the story usually ends the same. Their parents purchased the shoes only a few months (sometimes even weeks) ago, and they just don’t believe the shoes are too small.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen ill-fitting shoes be the demise of a promising young dancer. We can usually tell who will be a good dancer from the time they start at a young age — trust me, we’re not just blowing smoke! If a student at age 3 or 4 can feel and hear the beats in the music, smiles during class, does their movements really big, and generally knows their routine or the flow of the class, chances are the little dancer will grow to love dance and stick with it for a very long time. So, it just plain stinks to see one of those little ballerinas quit class because they “lost interest.” We know the real reason relates to the shoes, but the parents just wouldn’t believe it. So, how can you tell if your dance shoes are actually too small?
What is your child’s foot type?
The first thing to realize is that there are different types of feet but rarely different widths of dance shoe, particularly in children’s styles. Some dancers have a wide foot all the way down, while others are particularly narrow. Some have a narrow heel and an average width across the bridge of the foot (where the toes are), while some others have a narrow heel and a wide bridge. All of these lead to different fits; however, the dance teacher usually requires one brand and style of shoe for uniformity. Therefore, knowing the width of your child’s foot will help you in determining how big or small to go when initially purchasing the shoe.
Floppy Shoe Syndrome
This is a sincerely professional term for when a parent buys shoes two sizes two big (or uses big sister’s hand-me-downs) to avoid having to purchase multiple pairs of shoes in the same dance year. Ok, just kidding…it’s not a professional term. But it’s definitely annoying to the dance teacher and to the student. They can’t work properly in a shoe that doesn’t fit — whether it’s too small or, in this case, way too big. Learning how to stretch their feet and understanding the connection between the ground and their foot is learned at an early age. Floppy shoes will stunt their growth in this area and lead to frustrations from your dancer down the line.
If your dancer’s foot is growing, you will need to purchase shoes throughout the year. It’s just the way it is, folks. When I fit shoes on my students, I usually tell the parents that they will need one pair at the beginning of the season and one pair mid-year. Plan on purchasing shoes twice in the same dance season in order to avoid the inevitable — your dancer tells you a week before the recital that their shoes are too small. Now you’re stuck buying a pair that they may grow out of before next season starts. Also, checking the shoes about every month to two months will help you determine if your dancer needs to order new shoes and when that order should take place.
The “Rule of Thumb”
The “rule of thumb” is just that — your thumb is the ruler. Take the front of your dancer’s shoes and see if you have room for your thumb to fit horizontally without touching their toes. If you have a lot more than a thumb’s space, the shoes are too big. If you don’t have room for your thumb, the shoes are more than likely a perfect fit and you won’t get much wear out of them. The shoes are too small if their toes are crunched in the front of the shoe, but since all dance shoes should fit snugly around the foot, dancers often crunch their toes because they aren’t used to shoes being so form-fitting. Use your best judgement to determine why they are crunching their toes, and when in doubt, ask your dance teacher.
Ballet and jazz shoes should fit like a sock would — hugging the foot completely around with no gaping at the heel or around the ankle. Ballet shoes are tightened using the laces at the front of the shoe and can be loosened as the dancer’s foot grows. Jazz shoes will stretch after repeated wear and almost mold to the dancer’s foot. Tap shoes should fit more like a street shoe, but make sure when the dancer walks around that the heel of the shoe isn’t slipping off. This could lead to blistering and complaining! If the tap shoe fits perfectly in the front but is slipping off the heel, go to your local drugstore and buy heel grips. They are sold near pantyhose and shoe inserts; you put them inside of the heel of the shoe and it helps to the heel to stop slipping off.
Hope this helps you in determining how to fit your dancer’s shoes and avoid future complaints! Comment below with questions regarding shoes or how they should fit! I’d be happy to help!
Whenever the audience beholds a tap dance performance, they always marvel at how a dance style also function as a percussive instrument. Thanks to the tap dancer’s agile and rhythmic movements, dance shoes become a source of pure delight. Tap dancing is as much music as it is dance, which falls in two main categories: the Broadway tap and the rhythm or Jazz tap dance.
The word jazz comes up here mainly because of tap dancing strong ties to this ‘50s music and dance genre, one of America’s giant contributions to art and culture. Our first encounter with tap dancing is probably through musical theater, as tap dance became a major feature of plays from its heyday in the ‘30s. Today popular musical theater productions, such as Chicago, continue to incorporate tap dance.
The dancer performs a series of rhythmic let movements bearing a pattern and tempo. Dance shoes are made with metal taps on the toe and heel, creating an infectious, melodic sound when the dancer starts hitting the stage with dance steps.
The main difference between Broadway tap and rhythm tap is function. Rhythm tap puts an emphasis on the musicality of the dance steps, how it’s akin to the free flowing rhythm of jazz music. Broadway tap is big on dance as a component of a bigger theater production.
The equally rousing and charming Irish step dancing is one of tap dance’s forebears. But it is African American dances, like the Juba Dance, that tap dance takes significant roots.
Choreography in tap dance relies strongly in the rhythm unit called beat count as well as a good deal of improvisation, taking its cue from Jazz. Most performers follow musical accompaniment, while others rely solely on their dance shoes to create music and dance simultaneously.
The most basic tap dance steps involve shuffles, flaps and cramprolls, hitting the floor alternatingly with the ball and heel of the foot. Combining more complicated steps such as the paradiddle or triple time steps make for a compelling tap dance, while professionals use a great deal of rhythm changes and improvised step additions to shape the choreography.
When you witness a tap dance performance that produces a louder and firmer sound, the dance is being performed by what they call Hoofers. Their dance is sometimes called “rhythm tap.” Hoofers are among the first kind of tap dancers, combining African influences with Irish step dance, a style that primarily uses the legs. When tap dance developed and became a phenomenon in America, the dance penetrated the stage, and grew into the kind of tap dancing we know today, which also uses arms and hand movements during a performance. This variety is also called “show tap.”
Some of the most iconic purveyors of tap are Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. Kelly fused his ballet background to create a fluidly graceful brand of tap dancing. Fred Astaire infused ballroom steps into dap dancing and innovated on style. Their efforts became known until today as Broadway tap. Broadway tap performers wear high-heeled dance shoes and dance to show tunes and musical theater numbers.
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