There are dozens of different types of dancing popular all over the world and many of them require the dancers to wear certain shoes. Below, you’ll find discussions of six of the most popular dance styles worldwide, which are all instantly recognizable by their shoes.
Ballet is one of the most performed and admired types of dance in the world because it is so beautiful, so elegant and so captivating to watch. Classical ballets run on-stage every year, offering opportunities for thousands of dancers to get their ballet shoes on. These shoes are lightweight and soft to promote foot flexibility, designed to cling to the feet, and give the impression that the dancer is wearing no shoes at all.
Typically, ballet shoes are made out of nude-coloured leather, which lasts well, but they are also available in canvas and in a variety of different colours. Pointe shoes are a different type of ballet shoe, made out of silk and fashioned after the traditional shoes, with long ribbons that wrap around the ankles and blocks in the toes that allow the wearer to go right up on their tiptoes. Only advanced ballerinas move on to wearing pointe shoes.
Tap dancing is an energetic, expressive form of dance that relies just as much on the ears as the eyes. So, tap dancers need high-quality tap shoes in order to make the signature tapping sounds that inspired the name of the dance style. Tap shoes are most often made out of black leather, though the leather is hardened, unlike the soft, flexible leather used for ballet shoes.
The soles are the most important part of tap shoes because the contact between the sole and the stage is what makes the noise. In past centuries, tap shoes had wooden soles, but modern tap shoes have metal soles, which produce a clear sound when struck correctly against the floor. Simple laces are used to tighten the shoes and keep them securely on the dancer’s feet as they put all their energy into perfecting the steps and sounds.
Jazz is also an expressive form of dance, but unlike tap, the shoes are silent. Jazz shoes can be described as ballet shoes with more coverage because they are also made of soft leather and designed to allow the foot to flex as the dancer moves. The soles are usually made of rubber to provide grip and support to the bottoms of the feet. Typical jazz shoes are closed-toe and slip onto the feet, so there is no need to tighten them.
Ballroom dancing is such a vast categorization, but many types of ballroom dance, such as tango, foxtrot, waltz, and quickstep, require the dancers to wear the same types of shoes. For women, these are heeled shoes with suede soles for grip and delicate straps around the ankles for support. Often, the shoes are bright and glittery, made to match the fabulous outfits that ballroom dancers wear. For men, ballroom shoes emulate dress shoes, but with softer soles to promote flexible feet and a heel of about an inch for extra grip.
Irish dance is all about the legs and feet, so wearing the right shoes is essential. Men and women wear very different shoes for Irish dance. The women wear ghillies, which are made of soft, bendable leather, like ballet shoes, with eye-catching criss-cross laces over the tops of the feet that fasten around the ankles. Male Irish dancers wear reel shoes, which are more similar to jazz shoes, with thick toes and less noticeable laces.
Flamenco dance is a Spanish dance style consisting of spectacular movements and costumes, so it makes sense that the shoes are similarly impressive. Flamenco dance shoes are like a cross between jazz shoes and ballroom shoes: closed-toe, high-heeled, rubber-soled and made of leather. They are fastened up tightly to ensure they stay on and then the dancer emphasizes each step with a percussive accompaniment from the toes and heels of the shoes.
Dancewear in Canada
There are many different styles of dance to explore but a lot of them will require specific shoes for genuine proficiency. Don’t let this hold you back. If you’re looking to get into dancing in Canada, you should consider one of the styles mentioned above. Getting the right shoes for the type of dance that you’ve chosen is the exciting first step, the rest of the magic happens once you put them on and start moving! Although this is not a dance local to Canada, you will still be able to find the right dancewear in Canada to participate.