Dance Footwear

Although many might call it belly dance - what makes us dance basically are our feet. This is why I took a deeper look into "what shoes to wear for dancing"...

I found that there are many dancers who spend lots of money on costumes, jewellery etc. but don't care much about how their feet look. The obviously most simple solution is: No shoes at all. For some people to dance barefoot is the only choice because it is regarded as authentic and gives the best contact to the floor. However, sometimes it might not be the best thing to do, depending on the material of the floor.

For example spinning on wood can hurt because the soles of our feet are not "slippery" enough to turn quickly. If you decide to dance barefoot, take good care of your feet. Rub off old skin and put some cream on. Painted toe nails always look elegant - as long as the polish is intact. If you don't want to paint your nails, keep them in good shape. Short is better than long "claws". We dancers should pamper our feet - they are our most important instrument!


As soon as you step out of your (hopefully) clean class room you will find that your feet can be in danger in many ways... The classical example is a restaurant, where people drop glasses, food and other things on the floor. So even if you dance in a restaurant with carpet floor, I recommend to wear shoes for your protection. Plus, if it is a place where the audience also uses the dance floor, you might find yourself with the blackest feet ever because of all the dust and dirt that are carried in from the street. Too many dancers have had injuries from stepping into sharp objects, an experience that you sould spare yourself.

Then there are all kinds of challenges, especially outdoor shows. Don't even think about dancing barefoot on concrete, cement or similar materials. The skin of your feet will rub off the first time you do a spin - and that hurts! Imight even bleed... When it comes to dancing on grass or earth, it depends on the weather. If it's dry, you might give it a try to dance without shoes. But especially in the evening, grass is always a little humid - and slippery!

As for theatres, there is a whole range of possibilities. If you are lucky, the stage will be carefully wiped. This is also important if there are many dancers, because there is always a chance that someone will lose some coins or beads and it's not nice, to stump on them... Some stages are too slippery to dance with shoes on. Always try out first, what will work best with the floor.


Now, what style of shoes? First of all I would like to remind you to choose the colour of your shoes as carefully as the rest of your accessories. I have seen dancers in delicate pink costumes and black shoes. It's ugly! To start, you will only need two pairs of shoes, one in silver, one in gold. These will fit with any costumes and look good. But of course a matching colour is even better to make the look of your costume complete.


You will find different styles of dancing shoes: Textile slippers are very popular.

They come in many colours, sometimes also in leather. Some slippers are decorated, you can also beautify a normal pair by sewing or glueing on sequins.

Just be careful: some skirt hems may tangle with the sequins! Some dancers wear ballet slippers, but those only come in pink and black.


There are also slippers coming from Egypt. Their plastic sole is very slippery in the beginning, especially on carpet! However, they work well outdoors.

Some people use stick-on appliques for the bathtub or masking tape (from the theater) on the soles of these slippers.

This slippers are not advisable for people who sweat a lot on their feet because this model is "full plastic".



Then there are hermes sandals and ghillies. Always tie them well - you wouldn't be the first dancer to lose one sandal during a performance...

Half sole sandals (also called lyric sandals), as used for modern dance, are a good alternative to dancing barefoot. The sole only covers the balls of the feet. But they don't provide much protection.



Choose shoes according to your costume and dance style. An expensive Egyptian costume would look just as strange with hermes sandals as a tribal style dancer in golden pumps.


There are also different kinds of soles, leather or rubber.

Basically, leather is for indoors and rubber for outdoors. Dancing on a humid meadow or on soil can ruin you leather soles!




Now, the big question: What about high heels? Some people think, they're impossible to dance in, others wouldn't be without them. In the Lebanon, all dancers wear heels. In Egypt some do, some not. For example Dina might enter the stage in pumps and take them off after some time to continue barefoot. Around the 40ies or 50ies, dancers in Cairo wore shoes to show that they actually could afford them. If you see old pictures of Ghawazee dancers, they always wore shoes with a little heel - and it's still done today.

Shoes are also an essential accessory for melaya leff dance. Other folklore dances like baladi or stick dance are done barefoot.

For raks sharki, I think wearing heels or not is basically a question of taste. I don't like the platforms they used to wear in Turkey, but the Lebanese pumps style is very elegant.

If you decide to dance with heels, I would recommend to take high ones. The shoes should fit very well and be tight enough so you don't loose them. You could buy special ballroom dancing pumps. Some of them are made of white silk that can be dyed in any colour you like. Don't try to be too fashionable, the classical pumps shape looks best for dancing. After all, you don't want you audience to focus your shoes.


Practice enough in these shoes, before you step in front of the audience. You can't just do the same stuff you did barefoot. Some moves are different with heels, some are easier (shimmies!) and others don't work well (f. ex. backbends). Pumps look best with tight or chiffon skirts. They don't look that good with very heavy, full skirts.

And some good advice... Basically, if you are going to dance at a place you've never seen before, it's better to carry different shoes with you. That way you will be able to wear the ones that are perfect for the floor. And being comfortable with your footwear adds a lot to your success - one thing less to think about during your performance...


For all kind of dancewear:

For ball room dancing pumps, just put "dance shoes" into your search engin, there are lots of vendors.