I'm at the dance studio coaching a woman who has only had a couple of classes. She's a bit wide-eyed at the whole Argentine tango, which is something I see fairly often, given how -- well, much of a muchness tango can be. She looks at my feet, notices that I'm wearing jazz slippers -- soft shoes with a very flat, barely there heel on them -- and she says, "oh, those must give you better balance, right?"
I've been dancing this dance for a years and her question catches me in a web of considerations. It's a bit esoteric, how dance shoes work in tango. On top of that it's individual, since those of us who dance in heels (women, yeah, mostly) have very different feet and very different movement patterns.
I asked similar questions early on, about flats, stiletto heels, thick heels, high and low high heels. I'd get a different answer every time, and my experience almost inevitably contradicted them all. Wrong for me maybe or wrong for where I was at then.
What no one told me is that what you need in a dance shoe changes as your skill and balance changes, as your style matures, and as your partners improve. Also, it depends on the condition of your feet. I never knew feet could be buff.
It depends how the particular shoe fits your particular foot (not feet, because each foot is different); the more control you have, the less wiggle room (literally) you want in the fit. But that's calculated after your feet have swollen from dancing, not before.
This is all too much to explain to someone who's had three lessons.
By now my silence has gone on a handful of seconds. She says "well, of course it's easier!" and laughs at herself, as if to admit her question's answer is obvious and simple.
But it isn't. I say so.
I explain that as she gets better, as she wants more smoothness and control in turns on the ball of her foot, thinner heels provide an advantage, because you've got less heel to get off of to make the turn. That for linear movements, the thicker and lower heel might be more stable, but for circular movements, it's the thinner heel that -- ironically -- gives you the better stability in motion.
Kinda like life, you know. We gather things to ourselves -- people, places, beliefs -- that have low, thick heels, to give us stability in our linear movements. And then we realize we want to do turns, we want to try something new, maybe wacky, with a whole different perspective. Suddenly the very things that kept us stable through all those linear years and linear concepts make it hard for us to turn gracefully. Hard to do new things.
Ah, life. Ah, tango.