Saturday, October 22, 2011

How to Burlesque: Shoes for performance

Choosing the right shoes for your burlesque routine is like shopping for specialty fudge, you kind of have to know what you're doing. This 'how to' is about choosing the right shoes for what you're going to do on stage.
Burlesque routines can vary in choreography as much as a good day of weather in Portland. What you're doing in your routine is going to determine the type of shoes you will want to wear. If you are planning to sashe across the floor gracefully, you probably won't want something too tall with a rubber sole. 
Ballroom Dance Shoes - Ballroom dance shoes are made for action. The average shoe has a suede based sole for moving on dance floors, and will run from $30 to $200 depending upon the quality of the manufacturer. A couple sources I recommend are and in Portland: The Glass Slipper 3106 NE Broadway, as well as the Letoard 2432 NE Martin Luther Kind Blvd. 503 284-9244. Ballroom dance shoes can be found with a reinforced stell plate in the arch so that they don't break down too fast. After your first few pair, you will know exactly what you like (closed to vs. peep toe etc.). Ballroom dance shoes are made for lots of movement and dance, and are some of the more dependable shoes for dancing and costuming. They have 'stood the test of time' and are a formula you can count on, as well as highly available in almost any city. There  is always someone doing ballroom dance.

Stripper Shoes - Using shoes for stripping in your burlesque act means you have a solid base for the sole that will not break down. They are availabe in platforms of various heights, 1-3 inch up to 7 inch heels. They can sometimes be more comfortable because there isn't a high arch, however if you're going for a vintage look, you will have to be careful not to get anything too modern. Reference old magazines to get the look right on this. I recommend using ribbon wrapped around the ankle and leg several times to secure the shoe to your feet if there isn't an ankle strap or you want to add some glitz.
Vintage Heels - Finding and restoring vintage shoes can be fun and rewarding, but sometimes a bit pricey. Most vintage clothing dealers sell things for their looks, not their functionality. That means you can find rot in the shoes, and may have to replace the lining as it's all old and curled up from sitting for 20 years. If it's a two-tone or wing tip look you're going for, you can sometimes find department store brands that emulate that. The most important thing to look for in a shoe you intend to perform in is after looks, functionality. If your shoe does not have a continuous hard sole (like most walking or non-dance shoes don't) you will find a lot of discomfort over long wear.
Flats / No Shoes - If all or part of your routine is to be danced in bare feet or you will move on stage after removing your shoes, I recommend a Jazz toe guard. It fits over your large toe, and ball of foot, allowing ease of moting, and spinning on the floor, without tearing up your feet. This can be worn under stockings or with bare feet. It's also good for rehearsing in.
Whatever look and functionality you are going for you can find it in Portland OR. with tons of shops to choose from. I do love the Leotard for all things Jazz, Ballroom, and Ballet, and they have amazing leg warmers as well. 
For more shoe selection visit and the local stores mentioned above.