Dancing Barefoot (final, for now)

Capezio Footundeez Full Body

Capezio Footundeez Full Body

I did say in a previous post that I was expecting a pair of these, and that I would review them as soon as I’d had a chance to use them. Well, the chance came last week, and I have to say that these appear to have nearly all the advantages of their older brothers the Footundeez, without any of the problems. I’ve worn these at home, and again during practice. I never needed to adjust them at all, they stayed well in place, without the twists I’d experienced with the standard FU.

There are two problems I can identify, and that prevent me from switching to these as my permanent dancing shoes:

  • dirt: the floor where we practice can have some extra dirt piled on it, depending on the day; after a single use they were FILTHY, and requiring a thorough wash by hand using stain remover and a brush, and my toes were in a similar state.
  • sizing: unlike the standard FootUndeez, which come up to XL for sizes 8-9, these only come up to a Large, suitable -in theory- for sizes 7-8; sadly, this size is NOT good if you’ve got wide feet, and they will feel quite tight, at least until they get some wear and stretch a bit, or at least that’s what I hope.

Therefore, my current plan is to keep these at hand, use them at home for a few hours at a time to try to stretch them, and keep them as a viable option for short performances where I know the floors are going to be clean or where standard slippers might not work right (i.e. grass). Alternatively, I might have to check whether they’ll be suitable to put on a shoe stretcher to do the job.

The “barefoot” feel is really good, while having everything covered, so if you just cannot dance with shoes but for some reason need your feet covered, these are the best option I’ve used so far. They are also brilliant if want your feet covered but have any condition that require your toes to be free (i.e. ingrown toenails or hangnails) or simply prefer to “grip” the floor. Or if you want to work on your toe posture and prefer looking at your feet directly instead of having the points masked by slippers.

Overall, I would recommend getting these provided your feet are not terribly wide or they fit well within the brand’s sizing; they are comfortable and useful for certain circumstances, and I would think almost everybody could do with having a pair in reserve.

Shoes – part III: Bleyer

I am giving Bleyer shoes their own post because I own two different pairs and have used them quite extensively. Bleyer has several different styles on offer for bellydancing, including some half-sandals quite close to those used in lyrical dancing, and a few models more in line with the typical oriental dance slippers.  The two styles I own are from this second group, and for the most part, the construction details are quite similar. I own a pair of Stretch Satin Oriental Dance Shoe, and one pair of Sportis

Bleyer’s are made in Germany, I believe, and use European sizes, so again, be careful when ordering. Bleyershoes.com in the UK does list equivalences. Unlike other dance shoes companies, Bleyer runs theirs true to size with generous width, so this is one case where you will want to order your actual size, not one size bigger. I normally wear 7 1/2 wide, need 8+ from other companies, but when I got Bleyer’s size 8s, they were a bit too long. Still very usable, but if I could have exchanged them, I would have done so.

Both  models have identical internal construction: there’s a good suede bottom, quite soft, the whole interior of the shoe is lined with absorbent fabric, and there’s a hint of a cushion on the sole.

Their Stretch Satin Oriental Dance shoe is the most expensive one in the line, and comes in black with either silver or gold embroidery. The “satin” feels plasticky to the touch, and is a bit too shiny to be real satin. The embroidery is pretty and tasteful, but the thread used for stitching the sequins is rather flimsy, and you might want to at least reinforce the ends so they don’t start unravelling.

The Sporti is at the other end of the line, the cheapest, and come in plain silver or gold. They are a bit more pricey than Egyptian slippers purchased locally, but this difference is not significant. The synthetic upper feels soft, and you even have the option of suede or rubber soles.

When sized properly, these are incredibly comfortable, and will stay on your feet no matter what, even if they are running a touch bigger. There’s the advantage that they are made in Europe, so the sizing runs higher than Egyptian sizes, which tend to only get up to (a rather small) 41, so if you’ve got bigger feet, they might be your safest option.  If they made these in different colours I would certainly get more to complement my costumes.

I currently alternate between the Sporti and a pair of Egyptian slippers that I got around the same time, and I can say that the difference in performance is minimal. I feel *slightly* more comfortable in the Bleyers, because they fit better around my feet, but I suspect this has more to do with differences in shape and cut rather than actual differences in manufacturing quality. The extra lining in the inside of the Bleyers means that if your feet tend to sweat, you might be better off with these, as the Egytpian slippers are not good for drawing out the moisture. I prefer the material on the upper Bleyers, but the golden colour on the Egyptians, so I can’t really say which one is better of the two, and if asked I would say “either”.

Shoes – part II: Dancing Barefoot (or almost)

The romantic image of a dancer with bare feet is one that appears quite often. The first suggestion a lot of people will give you is to go commando, so to speak. And while this is perfectly nice and comfortable, in our little corner of the World this is not usually a wise idea, as the weather is often damp and cold. If you have to dance on surfaces that are not scrupulously clean, you will also find that your feet can become quite dirty very quickly. Also, if you have any illness that results in immune system deficiencies, you will be adviced by your health carer to avoid walking barefoot as much as possible, so some type of protection is required.

If you still want that bare feet feel but require some protection, there are other options you can explore. Most of them have been developed for lyrical dance, but are used widely and successfully for bellydancing.

Footundeez
Capezio’s Footundeez, aside from having a funny name, also have a funny shape. They do look like low-rise male briefs made for teensy trolls, and this impression is enhanced by the  suede patch at the back, that makes you think of sliding down trees or river beds. They are made of strong powermesh. You put them in with your big toe as one of the “legs” and the rest of your toes in the other opening, and they are ideal for the hot months, dancing on grass, if you prefer to have free toes to have extra grip over an uneven surface, or if you want the advantages of a thicker soft skin under the ball of your feet while dancing with the comfort of not wearing anything at all.

There are two versions, the standard and the full body, which adds a similar protection for your heel, and should be enough coverage to make everybody feel their feet are safe. The one problem I’ve found with the standard version is that after a while of dancing or turning, for me, the open end tends to rotate, requiring adjusting every other dance or more often. This can be distracting. The full cover version might not have this issue due to the back anchoring them properly, but I haven’t used them to be able to tell. They are also *quite* tight, so those with wider feet will more than likely need to go one size higher.

There are tons of really fun prints for these, from black with skulls to pink with frills, but I have been completely unable to find any of these fun ones in the UK, and everybody seems to stock just the serious nude ones.
Spoilsports.

Foot Thongs
These are similar to Footundeez  in concept: some padding and protection for the ball of the feet, trying to make the upper side as inconspicuous as possible. Bloch has several different models, and which one you choose will depend a lot on your style of dancing and what fits you best. I’ve only used Bloch’s 675 and found the exact same problem I found with the Footundeez. However, much as the shifting annoyed me, it was quite liberating to dance with them, and if I could find a way of correcting the shifting, I would be using them far more often in the summer.

Other similar options are DancePawnz, although I haven’t used these at all.  Just remember, if you do need extra cushioning for your feet, or require full coverage, neither of the above will work, except maybe the Full Body Footundeez, so be careful when choosing these. And if in doubt, head over to your local dance shop and try them on!

Shoes – part I: Flats and Slippers

My very first purchase for dancing, after the second class, was of shoes. When you’re dancing, your feet work a lot, and therefore any issues with your feet or footwear will reflect on your comfort, dancing and of course could even affect your health. Plus sizes have the extra disadvantage of generally having wider feet, and can also have weaker joints that makes finding the right shoe critical for a safe, enjoyable practice.

Ballet shoes
My first purchase, and one that a lot of people use, were ballet shoes. Black, unassuming, and almost as comfortable as being barefoot, they are easily available and generally inexpensive. I would advice, however, against purchasing them online unless you have no other option, at least for the first pair, for the simple reason that every manufacturer has their own sizing, and the difference between snug enough and too tight is too small. You might find that your feet like one manufacturer’s better than others, or that someone’s 7 1/2 wide are someone else’s 9 standard. The best way to avoid frustration is to walk into a specialised shop, and ask. Tell them what you are looking for and why, they will be able to advice you properly.

Once you’ve got your brand new ballet shoes, there are some things you might want to do. First is to turn it inside out and sew the fabric sole all along the inside if this isn’t  done already. Usually these thin fabric soles are glued in place; while you’re dancing the heat tends to soften this glue and soon enough you will find the soles bunching up in uncomfortable places. Sewing it in place prevents this from happening.

The second thing you will want to do is to make sure those lovely elastics they come with are sewn in place and at the right angle and length. I prefer to wear mine as an X from just in front of the ankle bone to pretty near the front, but experiment with this until you find something that doesn’t bother you. Remember, the idea is to keep the shoe firmly in place in the middle of all your arabesques, gliding and shimmies, so you should aim for solidity, not prettiness. Shoes are usually covered by the skirts during performances anyway, at least if the skirt is cut to the right length, so don’t worry too much.

Good ballet shoes should see you perfectly well thought class. Some people, particularly those with wider feet, will find that the thin, short sole of the ballet shoes makes them feel unstable on their feet, or “pinches” in the wrong places. If that is the case, then these won’t be for you, although don’t discard the possibility of using them if you are in need of a particular colour of shoe to finish off an outfit: in this case, the white canvas, easily dyeable ballet shoes will come handy and save the day.

Ballerina Flats
Quite a few people in my class has tried these at some point or other. Either the standard flats or the currently very popular foldable party shoes, the kind that come in a little bag for you to change into after your feet have given up the ghost if you’ve been partying hard. These are comfortable but not the sturdiest, although most of them do have the required elastic around the opening to stay on your feet, so while they might be good for showing off your moves at that party or an ocassional performance, I wouldn’t choose to wear them for class. If you do choose to use these, make sure that the bottom is somewhat smooth, to help you with gliding and turning. If you choose to wear standard ballerina flats, make sure you add the elastics to help keep them in place, otherwise you will find yourself stumbling quite often.

Chinese Bellydancing Slippers
Don’t. Save yourself money and aggravation, and just don’t. If my word isn’t enough, I can give you a reason. These are knock-offs the egyptian bellydance slippers. But instead of suede or leather soles, as the originals have, they have made them with a fake suede that has a bit of a “foam” consistency. They will feel very comfortable and cushiony for as long as it takes you to wear them through, which in my case, was about a week where I practiced around one hour daily. They are easily available all over Ebay and even, to my dismay, at some specific bellydancing websites, selling them as Turkish (they aren’t).  The worst of it is, these are not that cheap comparing with the Egyptian ones, there’s just a couple of pounds’ difference, but saving yourself that little will result in needing to spend more quite soon.

Egyptian Bellydancing Slippers
Do, if you’ve got the chance. These are usually made with leatherette tops, but a double layer of leather or suede inside and outer soles. They are sturdy, are usually hand-sewn, and can last a long while. They tend to come in two versions, one with a teensy heel -around 1.5cm or just over half an inch-, and completely flat. I prefer the flat versions. They normally come in silver and gold, although some sellers have started offering them in other colours, and so far in the UK I’ve been able to find red, green, turquoise, black and cerise, all with silver,  and saw red and blue brought from Cairo. They  all tend to be done in metallic colours, most commonly gold and silver, and if you are doing tribal or you feel your gothic heart shrinking at the idea of  glitter on everything, you might find them a bit off-putting. I’ve resigned myself to the bling in exchange for their suitability.

The only issue I can see with purchasing them is that Cairo uses metrics and European sizes, so if you’re in the UK or US, make absolutely CERTAIN that your intended size is the one you’ve requested. Also, since they’re done by hand mostly, the sizing can be a bit erratic.

 

 

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