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  • Tom Nickson

What to Look for in a Tango Shoe


I was reminded the other day of the influences you can have on other people without even realising it!

Quite simply, one of my newish pupils who turned up every week in a pair of street shoes or a pair of trainers along with their partner, was saying that their partner wanted to buy a pair of Tango shoes.

Now I ought to add at this point that I never push the purchase of special shoes to my beginners as it is a “non-trivial” purchase for someone who has not yet decided that Tango is for them. However, I always tell them the truth when asked about “special” shoes. They ask things like “Will they make a difference?”, “Are they different from other shoes?”, “How are they different from Latin American Sandals”, etc.

So, I tell them, firstly that Tango shoes are typically not cheap so they should be sure that they want to develop their ability to dance Tango and are likely to do so for at least the foreseeable future.

Will it make a difference to their Tango? The answer to that is – an emphatic “Yes”. However, for them to realise the difference that special shoes will make, they have to have achieved a certain level of ability i.e. they must have learnt how to walk the Tango way. I know that there are some teachers who say that learning to walk in Tango is a waste of time because when you go to a dance (a Milonga) you can’t walk that way anyway because the floor is too crowded. Frankly, that is rubbish! Being able to walk correctly gives you improved balance, the ability to change direction easily, greater clarity with your lead or response with your follow and improved musicality – in fact just about everything you need to be a good Tango dancer (be it Leader of Follower)! If your teacher tells you that - find a new teacher!

Having recognised that they want to dance better and therefore need a “proper” pair of shoes, the next pitfall is going to their local dancewear shop. Most dance outfitters have no idea what is required of a Tango shoe and will happily sell you something from their stock. Most definitely, you do not want to buy a Latin American sandal – despite the fact that to all intents and purposes, they look like the same thing, they are not! (More later!)

What is the difference, then? It is a question of the support between your foot and the floor. A ballroom/latin shoe is designed to allow the foot to “feel” the floor characteristics and is extremely flexible both longitudinally and laterally. The purpose of the Tango shoe is to provide a support for your foot and axis to facilitate rotation and pivots. They are poles apart!

So, to bring us back to my “newish” pupils, they turned up at a recent Private Lesson proudly announcing that they had splashed out on that pair of shoes, not only for the lady but also, on impulse, for the man as well. My heart stopped! Oh no! What had they done? And it was at this point that I recognised the truth in the statement that you never know the impact that your words and actions can have on other people. Their next words were “We chose the shop because of what you said, Tom”. Their advertising said “We sell Tango shoes not Latin shoes.”

They described the shop which was so evocative of my experiences in Buenos Aires and showed me their shoes which were everything that I could wish for in a pair of Tango shoes. I was overjoyed!

The bottom line was that by the end of the lesson (in their new shoes), their dancing was much improved from the last time that I had seen them but, more importantly, they could feel what had been missing in their walking.

It was a salutary lesson and very gratifying for me.

(I can provide the details of the shop in London if it is of interest.)

Tom Nickson The Berkshire Argentine Tango Club +44 (0)7889 223338

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