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!
A conflation of many dance styles, modern jazz or jazz dance has become a favorite among beginning and amateur dancers who love twisting and turning in their jazz shoes. Modern jazz dance emerged from the golden age of jazz music in the 1950s. Before it was popularized as a distinct genre of dance, modern jazz still belonged to a broader classification called jazz dance, a style culled from African American vernacular dance. Tap dancing, Boogie Woogie, and Jitterbug were some of the other dance styles under jazz dance category.
It was until the ‘50s when Katherine Dunham transformed the genre, and then came modern jazz. Other styles separated and developed individually, while modern jazz became a staple on Broadway shows, incorporating a smoother, fluid style of dance that is practiced today. Shows like Chicago and Cabaret are two of the most famous examples exhibiting the modern jazz dance style.
Beginners need to get acquainted with basic modern jazz knowledge. Performers wear jazz shoes, which usually are split-toe slip-ons with leather soles. Jazz shoes allow for ease of movement, especially when doing turns.
When it comes to technique, modern jazz embraces an array of dance styles, primarily ballet, hip-hop, contemporary, and lyrical. Modern jazz is often performed with a nod to its Afro-Caribbean roots. Many type of dancers find it relatively easy to perform modern jazz, but those with a strong ballet foundation excel.
Center control is highly regarded in modern jazz. This refers to the dancer’s ability to execute movements that seem to rise from a center of balance. Control and balance are important when performing dance moves that normally should disrupt one’s balance. Expect also plenty of fouettés and pirouettes, controlled by a dancer’s excellent spotting. As with ballet, modern jazz values being on point. Dancers align their toes with their legs while performing in jazz shoes.
Dancer wear for modern jazz depend on a given performance piece, but beginners should start with a good pair of tights and leotards. Jazz pants, a lighter and tighter version of sweatpants, is also an option. Female modern jazz dancers can also wear dance skirts with shorts or throw a ballet skirt over their tights.
Beginning modern jazz dancers must possess superb flexibility. The movements that modern jazz commands require you at your most flexible, lest you break our center control. Before starting your modern jazz training, you should undergo some strength training as well. This will prepare your muscles for the strain of performing modern jazz movements. You are required to stretch and use your muscles at maximum. Early on, practice some flexibility exercises, such as stretching your leg muscles until you are able to perform splits, back bends, and lift your leg that it touches the side of your head.
Expressiveness is another element that beginners need to take heed. With its close ties to musical theater, modern jazz requires a dramatic presence. Performers should be ready to project a range of emotions through movement, from desire, apathy, rage, sadness, to joy. The dance requires you to execute the technical complexity inherent in ballet, while also bearing the passion and expressiveness of a theater actor.
To find high quality jazz shoes and other jazz dance wear, visit www.alycedancewear.com
Ready to own the dance floor with a new choreography? First you have to get your steps right and choose the perfect music. The beauty of modern jazz is that it blends the rudiments of classical ballet with patches of other styles like hip-hop, contemporary and lyrical. Because of the wide scope of modern jazz, you can be wildly creative in in your choreography and take inspiration from and edgy pop song or club hit. You can even pick up concept for your dance attire by listening to that great track. So to get you started, we’ve composed a list of 5 cool pop tracks that make for a great modern jazz number. Get your fingers flexing, keep your dance clothes ready, and see what inspires in our top 5 hot tracks for modern jazz.
1. “Cosmic Love” by Florence and the Machine
Stuff your stirrup dance tights into your dance bag and groove to the enchanting vocals of Florence Leontine Mary Welch of Florence and the Machine. Cosmic Love is the sixth single from their album Lungs. The track sweeps from Welch’s soft crooning layered with harp and bustling percussion’s. The song is best for intermittently slow dances that burst toward the end with sonic glee.
2. “I Follow Rivers” by Lykke Li
A more industrial but still upbeat electronic sound, “I Follow Rivers” is anchored solidly by the 25-year old Swedish pop star’s solid singing. The song fits well with a choreography that mimics ocean movements, crashing waves, seagulls darting down for food, and mist. Lace-up your jazz shoes for movements high on extensions, leaps and pirouettes, matching the songs surges and even parts. The dancing accessories that could match this song and number are sea green leg warmers, frayed scarves, and frills.
3. “Love” by Kazaky
We hope you have enough stretch stirrup dance tights for this next number. This Ukranian pop group Kazaky is composed of four gorgeous, ridiculously sculpted men who dance a mean jazz on killer stilettoes. The design duo DSquared loved them so much they let Kazaky walk on their Spring 2011 show—and yes, dance the hell out of that runway. “Love” is a fast, rhythmic techno beat that’s sexy and ferocious. As much as we love seeing the Kazky boys do front sommersaults on stilletoes, we recommend you wear leather dance performance sneakers for this.
4. “Video Games” by Lana del Rey
Ignore the controversy over her Saturday Night Live performance. The hype is well deserved. Lana del Rey gives us a truly soulful and unique torch song that could just be one of biggest hits this year. “Video Games” is caramel rich in its detached lament and infectious lyrics. Choreograph a number for ballerina turned screen siren, whirling and whirling in her ballet dancing shoes as del Ray purrs, “It’s you, it’s you, it’s all for you.”
5. “Moon” by Bjork
It’s time to embrace the edgy rock star pixie inside. “Moon” is a single off the Icelandic diva’s innovative Biophilia, an album that’s both a disc and an Apple application. Create a costume reminiscent of red-haired Matryoshka dolls and computer keys. Fuse the earthy and organic with the technologically modern in your choreography and offer a dance for the lunar eclipse. Dances shoes would have to be rhinestone half lyrical shoes and leotards swathed in dark lace.