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A Tip for Beginners: Set Aside Your Worries and Dance!

If you don't come to some dances because you feel you are not an adequate dancer, or if you do come to dances but sit on the sidelines during some types of dances because you believe you don't know enough, don't be bashful about asking someone to dance or agreeing to dance when asked: let that person know your worries, and ask him/her for tips. He/she will almost certainly be glad to help.

In my case, although I have been dancing for many years there are some dances I barely "get", such as Latin dances like the Cha-Cha and Rhumba. In those situations, I do not hesitate to ask a lady (or even a guy) who obviously knows more than I for some guidance. I have always received such guidance with a genuine wish to help.

In the same vein, I will frequently ask a woman to dance who wishes to decline because she doesn't know how to do a certain type of dance, such as the waltz or ballroom tango. I will assure that in that case, she should definitely dance with me and let me teach her the basics (assuming I know the basics). Within minutes, the woman will be doing dances she believed she could not do. If you are such a woman, you will likely find yourself amazed that you can quite adequately do a ballroom tango, waltz, swing, or other type of dance you previously regarded as off limits.

Disclaimer: It is true that some dances, such as the cross-step waltz, may be too difficult for some people to catch right away. But most basics are quite easily learned. It should also be admitted that there is a handful — maybe a half-dozen — of "elite" dancers (I'm being kind) in our community who will dance only with other "elite" dancers, the latter required to be good-looking, cool, and sexy. To heck with them!!! The majority of us are quite decent and want you to be part of our community!

IMPORTANT: While gliding around the dance floor with a skilled partner can be exhilarating, there is also joy in introducing a complete novice to the world of dance, or in helping a person improve on what she / he already knows (assuming advice is wanted, that is). For me, the smile on the face of a woman whose life has just been expanded is a great reward. Dancing is, in addition to the physical pleasure of motion and music, about being able to connect with someone of the opposite sex, about sharing and flirting and simply getting to know another person. A three-minute dance is, after all, an innocent and usually pleasurable very short-term relationship!

Be assured: from my point of view at least, when you're moving about with a really nice person in your arms and there's wonderful music in the air, stepped-on toes and bumped together knees are a minor concern!

So...

Shall We Dance?

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Save those knees with smooth-Soled Dance Shoes!

Have you ever wondered how elite folk dancers spin with apparent ease while the rest of us stress our knees as our sneaker-clad feet grip the floor like suction cups? Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could have the comfort and cushioning of running shoes, yet have the spin-friendliness of smooth-soled shoes?

There is hope! Many experienced dancers, in addition to having an abundance of talent, may be wearing sneakers or other kinds of shoes whose soles are composed of leather or some other smooth material.

John Chu suggests checking out a store that specializes in dance shoes and asking for "dance sneakers".

Skip Ellis's advice is to have a shoe repair shop attach leather soles to your favorite sneakers. One such is Perry's shoe shop in Boulder, 949 Walnut, ph. 303-443-4580. Cost, subject to change, is $28-35. (Tell George Perry, the owner, that you discovered this through the Village Arts Coalition website and receive a 10% discount.)

An anonymous dancer chooses the least expensive route:

  1. Use a pair of older sneaker whose nodules on the bottoms have worn smooth, or take a pair of new sneakers and grind the nodules down. (Perhaps a shoe shop will do this for you and sell you some leather while you are at it.)
  2. Apply leather, smooth side out, to the worn soles with contact cement such as "Thousand Nails" per instructions on the container. Be sure there is a bead around the edges to prevent separation when dancing. You may wish to apply leather to the front part of the sole only — the ball and arch — and leave the heel free for "braking".
  3. Clamp with rigid material, such as plywood, against the soles. (Perhaps on a paper-covered floor with heavy weights?).
  4. Trim off the excess glue as mentioned above and excess leather as well.

Evaluation from Spencer Nelson: I bought a pair of very wide, rather ugly Merona brand black dress shoes from my nearby Targét. While they occasionally inspire a somewhat derisive comment — Frankenstein's monster would love them — the social distancing is a small price to pay for their extraordinary comfort. I then had leather soles applied by the shoe shop mentioned above. Finally, I took them for a spin (literally) on a wooden dance floor and WOW! What a difference! I was able to spin with great ease, almost as if on ice. I stopped spinning after one-and-a-half turns only because I lost my balance and had to put my other foot down. Most importantly, the pain in my knee that I often experience after dancing was greatly reduced or eliminated altogether!!! I will never, ever dance with rubber-soled shoes again.

And I haven't mentioned orthotics, another pain-in-the-foot-and-knee saving miracle, to be discussed in a later edition of this website. Stay tuned.

What about concrete? Leather-soled shoes are an advantage on the rough stuff, but they're not great, and will quickly be ground down. Someday I (Spencer), an inventor by trade, may experiment with methods for attaching an extremely tough, very slippery plastic, UHMW, to sneakers to facilitate dancing on concrete. What a knee-saver that would be!

Any thoughts? Let us know.

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