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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Billings

Dance Shoes Explained

There are many different styles of dance available for students today.

With each style of dance, there is a different type of shoe necessary for the students to wear. Because there is such a wide variety, deciding which shoe to wear for which class can get very confusing. Keep reading for a brief overview of some of the most popular styles of shoes!

Ballet Shoes

We will start with Ballet Shoes. Ballet shoes are worn by dancers of all ages, boys and girls, for ballet technique class, and by younger students for performances. Female dancers generally wear their shoes in pink, peach and nude shades that are similar to skin tones. Male dancers typically wear white or black shoes depending on the colour of their socks and/or costume.

Ballet shoes are very lightweight and made of leather or canvas. Leather shoes tend to last longer, but are not as popular among intermediate and advanced dancers. Ballet shoes have a thin leather sole that can cover the whole bottom of the shoe or it can be split to only cover the ball and the heel but not the arch (see photos right). A thin piece of elastic stretches across the top of the foot to keep the shoe in place. Ballet shoes should be very snug to ensure a clean view of the articulation of the foot.

Tap Shoes

Tap shoes are constructed much like jazz shoes, but they have a different bottom. They have a firm sole and a thick heel. The taps are screwed into the soundboard, a thin fiberboard integrated into the sole. The taps are made of metal and are attached to the toe and heel. Tap shoes are fun to wear because of the sounds that they make!

Character Shoes

Finally, we will talk about character shoes. Character shoes are worn for character class as well as for auditions for Broadway style dances. In case you aren't familiar, character dance is a somewhat-codified style of dance inspired by the folk dances of many European countries. Ballet dancers are sometimes required to take character dance as part of their training, as it teaches an assertive quality in dancing and improves rhythm and coordination! Character dancing is also used in many town/village scenes in many of the classic story ballets. They are typically a Maryjane-style leather shoe with a bit of a heel. The heel ranges in height from 1.5”-3” and allows dancers to perform heel-clicks, stomps and other popular character dance steps. For a performance, dancers could also perform character dancing wearing a character boot with a rubber heel, similar to that of a jazz shoe.

Jazz Shoes

For classes like jazz, musical theatre, and hip hop, students wear jazz shoes. Jazz shoes are a leather shoe with a rubber split sole. There are some variations to the style of jazz shoes, but they all have a slightly thick heel, made of rubber, to allow for shock absorption. Jazz shoes can either lace up or slip on and are typically either black or nude.

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