PureDWTS Ask Courtney: Why Do Ladies Have to Wear Heels For Ballroom/Latin?

I confess: no one specifically asked this question, but some of you may have noticed that tend to get bit irritated whenever a female celeb or pro on the show opts to forgo the traditional heels in favor of boots, sneakers, or going barefoot.  I thought I’d explain just why I get my knickers in such a twist over it :-)

There are two primary reasons why heels are worn in both the Latin & ballroom dances: the first is aesthetic, and the other is technical. Aesthetically, the shoes are worn to give the the women’s legs a long, lean appearance – the neutral flesh tone of the fabric blends nicely with the skin, giving a nice, long, unbroken line; the heels themselves of course make the women look taller, which in turn enhances the illusion of long legs.  You may have noticed that the women on the show don’t often wear colored dance shoes – that’s because a color that contrasts with the skin tends to “chop off” those nice long lines, and make the women’s legs look shorter.  Why is it so important to have long legs? Because the longer your legs are, the nicer your lines are going to look, and the better technique you’re going to show – and the happier the judges are. :-)

From a technical aspect, the shoes actually help to ensure that the ladies are using the proper technique in their dances.  Remember my post about heel & toe leads? Well the shoes that the ladies wear for Latin are specially balanced so that the ladies’ body weight is shifted over her toes – and remember, all the Latin dances move forward (and backward) with a toe lead.  The ballroom shoes tend to keep the ladies’ body weight balanced evenly on her heels & toes, much like normal shoes, as all the steps in the ballroom dances move forward on the heel and backward on the toe – just like normal walking.  The shoes alone can’t guarantee that a dancer will always have the right technique – but they certainly do help!

So let’s say a woman *cough*Lacey*cough* decides to forgo wearing the proper shoes while dancing, and instead wears something more flat-footed, like boots.  In the Latin dances, it’s probably going to result in her legs looking very short & stubby, and her lines not as impressive.  Case in point: Lance & Lacey’s cha-cha in season 7:

Or, in Hope’s case this past season, those boots just gave her a complete lack of hip action, and resulted in a very flat, boring rumba:

 The effect is a bit less noticeable in the ballroom dances, since they move so similarly to natural walking movement, and I can’t really think of a time on the show that someone has danced a ballroom dance barefoot.  However, I do remember Twitch & Kherington’s Viennese waltz routine from season 4 of SYTYCD, and I remember not being wild about them doing it barefoot, as it just looked somewhat “unfinished” and more like contemporary than real ballroom:

 So there you have it – you be the judge.  I personally think that all ballroom & Latin dances should be done in the proper footwear, and it’s only (semi)acceptable to go barefoot if you’re a pro doing a contemporary-ish pro dance.  But what do you guys think? :-)