Vio’s weird shoes

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The most common thing for someone to say to me at a milonga is “you can’t dance in those shoes”. About 5 minutes later, they realize they’re wrong.

When I started dancing, one of the main attractions was the chance to dress up often, including high heels. Since I was about 14 I’ve had more high heels than places to wear them. When I finally started dancing tango, of course I’d wear the most fabulous shoes I could find. These turned out to be 6”/15cm heels with 2″/5cm platforms covered in glitter. I felt great in those shoes.

Four years later, I took my first trip to Buenos Aires. Concerned to appear respectful, I bought my first pair of actual tango shoes. I called these shoes my “flats”.  As always in flat shoes, I felt decidedly unsexy. When I stepped onto the dance floor in these I felt like I was wearing house slippers. I got a bit conformist when I went to Argentina, and I regret it.

On that trip I visited every tango shoe store, just to ask if they would do custom shoes with platforms, and how high. The best offer I got was a meager 1 cm, about 1/6 what I was used to.

As a leader, I find that shoes with a lot of elasticity in the sole, like thick boots, work very well for me and I can follow in them as well. These days in Argentina a lot of dancers are using rubber soles. Certain kinds of rubber give you strength and still pivot well.

I encourage my students to experiment with shoes, because some followers dance so much better in flats than heels, but they don’t know until they try. For everyone, I recommend avoiding expensive and unfashionable dance shoes, buying normal shoes they find attractive and having the soles re-done if necessary. Shoemakers can even build you a mixed sole, with the pivot area in one material and the outer edge in another.

I also believe that tango needs to be more contemporary and fashionable so it doesn’t get stuck as a cliché and relic. I want people to dance, so I want tango to appear as relevant to a lot of different cultural contexts.

Here’s a basic guide to choosing shoes for tango.

Here’s my history of shoes

We all need more students, more dancers in our milongas, and great partners to dance with for the next few decades…

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