Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Heel, Girl!

Betty Roeser, original (Balboa) Swing dancer,
often wore flats - but her feet flew!
Photo Source: LAPL Library
Over the last week, there's been a lot of chatter in the Lindy Blogosphere about Women Dancing in Heels - Yay or Nay (inspired by Why Women Should Wear Heels by Sarah Breck). I'm not surprised that it created some excitement (although I did think it was going to center around the oppression of women rather than physical comfort! ;) The other night a couple people asked me about dancing in heels, so I thought I'd write up a little sumpthin'.

For roughly the last 3-4 years, I've danced nearly exclusively in heels - not too tall, 2 3/4" is my favorite heel height. But I don't give it a lot of thought, my shoe choice is almost exclusively based on color...

Dancing only in heels wasn't a conscious decision - back before that I only danced in sneakers or wedges, but my feet started feeling heavy and sluggish and grounded, and when I danced in heels it forced me to lighten up and pick up my feet more. It changes your posture because your weight is forced forward onto the ball of your feet, and it gave me a jolt to re-evaluate how I wanted my posture to look while dancing Lindy. The more I wore heels, the more I liked the look and the feeling, and now I feel clunky in wedges. (I still kinda like tennies.)

Nowadays, I rarely drop my heel to the ground, and when I do it's usually to accent a beat or do a certain styling - I almost never put a lot of weight on it. It's come a long way from my old flat-footed dancing!

Reasons I wear heels:
1) I'm lazy - I don't like to change my shoes throughout the night, so I just pick a cute pair and stick with them.
2a) They're loud. I know just enough tap dancing to make trouble, and it's easier to add a little tap rhythm styling while wearing heels.
2b) I'm more inspired to do footwork in general - because I'm not as "grounded" it's easier to move the dogs around.
3) I like the look of a tight narrow base (regardless of 1 foot or 2), and heels help focus your weight into the smallest area possible. Should I try pointe shoes next? :)
4) I only go dancing 1-2 nights per week, and that's when I like to dress up. I'm super casual and wear flats the rest of the time, so I figure I have time to recover from the damage I do to myself. If I danced more, I'd have to switch it up.
5) Heels were popular with Original Balboa dancers.

Reasons to not wear heels:
1) They really do injure you, and make existing joint issues worse.
2) In general, Original Lindy dancers wore flats or wedges.
3) Because your weight is forced only the balls of your feet, it's really really hard to pike properly in a swingout, especially to fast music.

Funny thing is, after talking about wearing heels, I want to get out some flats and experiment with them. I wonder what I'd discover?


  1. In no way would I ever be considered a legitimate dancer but I love reading your posts about the finer points of Lindy Hop. Maybe I will become a better dancer by virtual osmosis!

  2. I'm glad you enjoy them - I bore myself, so I can't imagine how horrible it is for my readers! :) But you raise a good question - why don't we dance more?! You're a fun dancer.

  3. Does that mean you're bringing some flats to Bal Rendezvous? ;)


  4. If it means I'll dance like Betty! ;)

  5. Interesting topic! I just started lindy classes and there's no heel in sight. Balboa on heels is easy as it is such a different dance and already feeling more "upwards". Maybe I'll have a go at lindy on (lower) heels when I feel comfy with the steps.

    And I like your blog. Might as well pick up some swinging tips from your posts. :-)

  6. I prefer 2 3/4 inch heels as well..it offers me the perfect balance that I need when dancing.. or when running! I can't wear high heels because I feel the restriction and I have to listen to my body but the low heel shoes are perfect!

  7. I'm a flats wearer 98% of the time. I just wobble around in 'high heels' but for a smart occasion or if only gonna wear them for a couple of hours I'll choose a low heel.
    I've only just started trying to dance in heels. It's pure accident I found a pair that I could dance in (I left my pumps I was going to change into at home and only had my comfy smart heels...what my mum would call 'school shoes' I was wearing). And found them ok as long as I wore them with some socks over my tights. (Heel is only about an inch and a bit high).
    I have tried heeled 'dance' shoes before, and my ankles couldn't take the heel hight & slipperyness I wobbled like a stiltwalker. So I gave up on them.


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