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Hepcats Dance Shoes Review

I purchased 2 pairs of Hepcats dance shoes last weekend and had promised to provide feedback and information for those of you who are interested!
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Overall I like them and would recommend them, alongside Saint Savoy and Slide&Swing. Below is some detailed information on fit and designs, etc.
Each leather color fits a bit different because the textures of them are different. The silver and gold are the softest with the most stretch (could feel a difference just with trying them on for extended times). The green were the “strongest” leather with least give, with mulled wine being very similar. The blue were a bit softer still, but not as much as gold/silver.
I purchased a pair of the Blue Frontlines and Gold Jewels. I liked the design of the Frontlines much more in person and on my feet than I did from the photos. I am in love with the mulled wine color, but did purchased based on the fit.
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Sizing: I bought both pairs in 37, which is a size down than my normal size. The 38’s were far too long, they fit almost identical to a Saint Savoy or Slide&Swing 39. And the 37 were in length about the same as both SS’s 38. But, the toe box on the HC are MUCH roomier, and the leather did have a better stretch to them than Savoy’s, but the leather is not as soft as Slide’s.
 
They are still a bit too tight, but am hoping they will get even softer and roomier with a couple more wears. The Frontlines fit a bit roomer than the Jewels. I could only choose the gold in the Jewel because it was the only color to provide enough give to be able to *hopefully* make them fit. The Frontline I could only do silver or blue. So again, the sizing isn’t quite ideal, but overall I am pleased so far.
 
Quality/Durability/Materials:
They seem to be made with attention to the types of leather and other construction material. They are leather/textile combos on the uppers, so some stretch but not to the point of an entire half size. Heel caps are plastic, but do come with a replacement. Soles are a brushed leather.
 
Comfort/Stability:
I wore the Blue ones ALL night, and they were super stable and comfortable. I could feel them forming to my feet as the night went along. They were very stable, and felt more like dancing in flats than heels. My feet felt fine at the end of the night and no blisters. I like the heel placement and never felt I was being pushed off balance.
Other Thoughts:
Well made, comfortable shoe with decent designs. I wish sizing was a bit better for my feet, but I am sure they will fit many people perfectly. I am excited to see what designs and colors they bring to the future. Heel design is also a bit bulkier than my preference but nicely balanced so I am happy with that. They are super close to hitting the mark (sizing/design/weight dispersement) and we keep my eyes out for how they develop!

OMG – Shoes!!

There are so many options for dance shoes these days, but limited options to try them on in person. This has created an interesting situation for me of ordering shoes, trying them on and either keeping them or selling them to someone else. It also has allowed me some time to try out and review SO MANY brands. Anyone who knows me knows that I love shoes. There was even a YouTube sensation about it! Ok, so maaaaybe it wasn’t made about me, but it may have well have been!

 

This is by no means an all-encompassing list, nor does it say how these shoes will fit YOU. This is just a quick rundown of my experiences that will hopefully help you! One thing to know about me is that when looking for anything with HEELS, I am very particular with the way the heel is stacked. I prefer the way heels were designed in the 20s-40s, which allowed your weight to be dispersed properly. Many shoes today, actually angle the heel, which pitches the shoe, making your weight artificially forward more than what is good for natural alignment (or for where you want your weight for dancing).

 

When it comes to sizing, every brand is different and every human’s foot is different. I try to base sizing and shoes from the US, to China, to UK to EU to try to gauge what the most consistent sizing is. I also have bunions (thanks family and dancing!) Which means some styles just don’t work for me.

 

Remix Vintage Shoes

Balboas, Emilys, Gramercy, Aviator, Brescia

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Sizing: I have found their sizing to be a little all over the board, depending on the style. Typically shoes made with the same last/framework will be similar in size, but the material on the upper part of the shoe also influences sizing. I am a 7 in the Balboa, 7.5 Emily, 8 in Gramercy/Decos, 8.5 Aviators, 7.5 Brescia
Quality: Overall a decent shoe. The leather uppers tend to be very soft, which leads to A LOT of stretch in the shoe, especially as you wear them more. The heel is stacked slightly more angled than I would prefer, but some styles are better for this than others (the old style Aviators and the Gabrielle). There is quite a bit of bend in the sole at the start of the toe box.
Durability: They tend to last for a while, as long as they don’t stretch to the point of not fitting. The soles can wear down a little fast, as there isn’t much thickness to them
Comfort: Not my favorite. Between pitching my weight, lack of padding and support I tend to use these more for looks than comfort. The shoes tend to curve inward by design, which is not the way most feet are shaped. I find this can cause ill fitting in many people.
Materials: Most styles come in soft leather or suede, and hard leather soles
Additional notes: The Balboas are a nice lower heel, making them good for Balboa and Lindy, though they cramp my toes far more than I want. I like the Emilys and Gramercy’s for Balboa, but they get too loose around the ankles after a few wears. The Aviator heel height was too much for me, and caused too much pain on my bunions. Most of their styles are loose around the ankles, but tight toe box. I am not able to add inserts without lifting my foot too far out of the shoe.

 

Saint Savoy

Riviera Low/High, West, Pony

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Sizing: Also a little across the board, depending on style. I am a 38 in the Pony, 39 in the West. Sadly the Riveiras just really don’t have a size that works for me. The 39 were way too long, and the 38s kept my toes all curled up. (Update! I just received a pair of the Stardust low heel Riviera in 38 and they FIT!!!) She also has a new, higher heel design coming soon that will have a slightly larger tow box! *Additional update: they re-did the higher heel Rivieras giving them a bit more room in the tow box. I tried these on at Focus and they fit. I also tried on the Sky low heel which fit, as did the Ruby. The Cafe and Green did not fit.
Quality: Well made shoe. Keeps it shape/size with a small amount of stretch for breaking in.
Sturdiness: This feel really stable. Heel is placed right were I like it.
Durability: So far these lovelies have held themselves together for a long time.
Comfort: Decent amount of padding under feet, soft leather linings. Again, most of the 38s were too tight in the toe box. However, if they DO fit, they are up for a full night of dancing.
Materials: Heels have a brushed leather sole; Ponys are suede over a couple layers of smooth rubber. Upper are leather, though many styles are actually a layered leather/textile combination which helps change the shape
Additional notes: They are VERY responsive with feedback, super nice and easy to work with. The Pony is actually too stiff for me, the sole doesn’t have enough bend for the preference of foot movement I have. I am excited to see the future designs they put out. I highly recommend their shoes. I am in love with their designs, and again Rani is wonderful to work with. My newest Rivieras have been a blessing, and I have some more on the way! My favorite dance shoe company out there.

 

Slide and Swing

Lace up Oxford Heel, Mary Jane, Lace Up Oxfords

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Sizing: Not all over the board, but still not a one-size magic. Their single color oxford I was a 37, their summer styles 38, and their lace up oxford/mary janes in between a 38/39.
Quality: They have changed their producer since they first started, so I cannot say for sure for all their lines, but their current ones seem to be good. Many of their styles use a method of connecting the upper to the bottoms that is often reserved for men’s shoes, but allows a bit more stretch of the shoe. The uppers tend to have a good amount of stretch since the leather is very soft.
Durability: The sole is closer to the Remixes, but a bit thicker so they should last longer, but maybe not as long as SS or Swingz. Low thick heels and flats options make these styles you can wear pretty much anywhere.
Comfort: Thanks to the very soft leather and low heels, you can wear these and have them broken in by the end of the night.
Materials: Hard leather soles, soft leather uppers
Additional notes: Overall I like their shoes, though many of them are not ideal dancing shoes for me, but I would love to just wear them around the city! I do LOVE their Oxford Heels.

 

Swingz Lindy Shoes (Begona Cervena)

T-Strap and Dorothys

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Sizing: Very true to size. Whole and half size options.
Quality: Some of the highest quality made shoes out there.
Sturdiness: Heel is stacked just where you want it. Materials hold their shape. The toe of the shoe is a bit stiffer than most people are used to.
Durability: It will be tough to destroy these beauties, they seem to be made to withstand years of dancing.
Comfort: Great padding under the sole, leather that stretches to fit. Weight placement allows you to stay in these all night.
Materials: Leather soles, leather, suede and patent leather uppers.
Additional notes: One of my favorite companies out their. Their shoes are incredible. I highly recommend them. Plus, you can order designs they already have or you can also customize!

 

Some other dance shoe brands that I have tried, but unable to collect as much information on:

Balboa Zin – My experience was great and my shoes fit me perfect. However many other people have NOT had this experience. They are custom order, which means the variables get a bit more chaotic. Mine were leather sole with soft leather uppers. They were easy for me to work with, and very responsive.

Made In Lindy – semi customizable. Their newest round seems to be good quality, but the pairs I ordered don’t fit me enough to try them out. But they are pretty! Seem to have decent materials and build.

 

Some other great shoes that are out there, not “dance shoes” but I wear all the time for dancing based on their comfort and heel heights (none of these have been sueded or anything, I just wear them the way they are!):

Mrs L Fire Daisy (mine are Mint color) 1.5in heel, smooth rubber sole
Restricted brand – variety of low heel and flats
Keds champion oxfords
Nisolo low boots (these have a leather sole)
Chelsea Crew low boots (I do not care for their heels based on the heel alignment)

Teaching – How can I Improve My Skills?

One of the questions I frequently encounter is how can someone become a better teacher, or how can they get hired more. While there are a variety of things that go into both of these, I figured why not go ahead and compile a quick list of things that could help folks on their teaching journey. Again, this list is not all-inclusive, nor does it guarantee anyone anything. However, I do hope you find it useful and insightful. I have tried to provide enough to detail for you to understand, but please feel free to ask for clarification (I will try to respond but do not guarantee it). These ideas I have collected along the year from coaching, teaching dance and working with the Training Department of Red Robin.

 

Before the Classroom

Plan your classes – Actually take the time to sit down and go over your class. What ideas do you want to address and how will you do so? What shapes, rhythms and exercises do you want to convey? What will people struggle with and what might they misinterpret? What questions will they have? How much music should you have ready, what type of music, and what tempos do you need? What items will you address and what will your partner address? Practice your class!

 

Challenge but do not overwhelm – Make sure your class provides some sort of challenge. If it is too easy, people get bored. If it is too hard, they get frustrated. This may mean that you need to layer your class material to be able to reach multiple levels of students. It may mean altering your plans on the spot.

 

Remember your goals – As a teacher, you are offering a service. You most likely have ideas, thoughts, passions that you want to communicate, and this is probably why you do what you do. These things are import, but don’t forget your students; this is their hobby, their downtime, and their date night. The class is about them, not you. Don’t get caught up in your own ego about what the class should be. Focus on the students, providing the material they want and need and helping them to have a good time.

 

In the Classroom

Give your students more credit – Most of the time, we under estimate what our students can actually do, especially when it comes to beginners. Will they get it perfectly? No. But that is ok! People can understand a lot more than you may realize, which means you can probably fit in more class material than you may first think.

 

Short and simple – Explain things in the most simple, clear and short way possible.

 

Use normal language – Using words that are complicated or foreign can make classes more complicated than necessary. Instead, slowly introduce new terms, and/or provide their definition.

 

Use names – When someone asks a question, or you go to give them feedback, ask their name and then use it as much as possible. It will help you remember the students name and helps the student feel more connected to you.

 

Use titles (leader/follower) – Whenever addressing the class, try to use the terms leader and follower or leads and follows as much as possible. It helps the class identify whom you are addressing with your statement and helps avoid inaccurately labeling someone in a specific role (vs “you” or “ladies”).

 

They vs he/she – Unless you are specifically talking about your partner and they are ok with those pronouns, try to use “they” when referring to an individual/group. Again it helps avoid making people uncomfortable or leaving people out when addressing a specific role.

 

Repeat questions – When students ask questions, repeat the question back for the class. This ensures anyone who couldn’t hear the student hears the question not just the answer, plus it make sure you understand the question properly.

 

Ask questions – Ask your students questions. How did that try go? What was hard? What was easy? What looks different? Etc. This helps your students focus on visual learning, and it helps them assess their own dancing, and puts them on a path towards learning on their own.

 

Observe – Pay attention to your class. Watch them. How are they doing? Should you move on or are they struggling? Are they bored? Are they paying attention?

 

Show/Tell – Try – Details: Show the move and talk about it at the same time (It saves time, flows better and connects what you are saying to a visual). Let them try it, let them fail. THEN give more details/answer questions. This allows the students to figure things out on their own. Often times they solve their own questions.

 

Outside The Classroom

Don’t under value yourself – Charge appropriately. Under valuing and under charging doesn’t just affect you – it affects all teachers in the scene. It also affects organizers, musicians and students.

 

Talk to other teachers – What do they charge? What is in their contract? What ideas are they playing with? How do they approach certain topics? Don’t be afraid to ask for advice.

 

Seek out mentors – Find a teacher you like or know. Ask them for guidance. Ask them for feedback. Take lessons from them, either group or private. Take notes. Build a relationship with them.

 

Continue to take classes – There is always something to learn. Whether it is a different way to explain something, or a new type of connection, or how not to teach something; you can always find something to take away from a class. Don’t stop furthering your own education just because you start teaching.

 

Teach as much as possible – The more you do it, the better you will get at it. Teach your roommates in your living room, group drop in lessons, regional workshops, and corporate gigs. Teach, teach, teach.

 

Thoughts on Following

So you have chosen to learn to swing dance, and for now, you would like to learn to follow. Fantastic! Welcome to the family. Or maybe you have been swing dancing for a while as a leader and you are curious about the other side – woohoo, welcome to the family! First and foremost ANYONE can be a follower. Woman, man, agender, nongender, puppies and cats! But seriously, I don’t care who you are, if you want to follow I want to help you!

 

I LOVE swing dancing as a follower and am always excited about other people being interested in it too. I enjoy leading, and am very much still working on being a better leader, however my first love goes to following. I hear a lot of things as a dancer and teacher that often make me sad or even cringe in regards to being a follower. So I would like to share some of my thoughts on following with you! These are not classroom or social dance specific but just an overview of some basic ideas (I will cover more classroom specific ideas in a future post)

 

Partner Dance

So first things first – swing dances (Lindy Hop, Swing, Balboa, Shag) are PARTNER dances. That means there are two of you. This means a couple of things. 1) It means that the dance is about BOTH of you – your enjoyment, your involvement and your input, not just your leaders take on those things. 2) It means that in a dance where there is a Leader and a Follower, you can’t both try to be doing both at the same time. It is not an even 50/50 split. Sure followers can (and should) influence the leader, but we both still need to lead and follow, otherwise we just run around each other holding hands (and hey, if that’s really your thing, then go for it) I aim for a 70L/30F -ish, but that 30% me is more from how I follow though on my movement, my rhythms and being as clear as possible with all my weight changes. But I dislike when a leader just stands there looking at me waiting for me to “take my space” or “contribute”. I much prefer to be lead into a movement and allowed to finish that movement my way.
As a side note, I support people enjoying swapping roles throughout a dance, but PLEASE make sure the other person is ok with that before you forcibly switch roles. But even if we swap roles – someone needs to lead and someone needs to follow.

 

Being a “good” follower

What does this even mean? You follow perfectly? Boring. You contribute all the time? Lot’s of pressure to do the thing plus dancing on top of each other. You read the leaders mind? Creepy. Being a “good follower” doesn’t mean you follow everything perfectly all the time. Knowing what your body does through a movement and making that happen is equally important to understanding what initiates it/causes it/ends it.

To me, being a good follower means I am active and present in every dance. I am actively listening to my leader, I am listening and trying to connect to the music, I am dancing and moving in the rhythm of the song, I am trying to convey my ideas to my leader. It does not mean that I follow everything perfectly, not even close. It does mean I move in a way that is clear to my leader, and can contribute to their idea on the dance.

Followers, I encourage you to be in control of your own movement – I move my own body, I make sure it is comfortable and balanced, but I wait for the leader to initiate that movement. Once that movement is initiated, it is mine to control and continue until the leader slows it down, redirects it or stops it. The leader doesn’t forcibly move me, but they do physically initiate my movement and ask me to move.

 

“Honest” following

I disagree with the idea of “honest” following. Honest implies if I don’t do exactly what the leader had in mind then it’s lying and wrong – which it’s not. I do try to respond as directly as possible to what I interpret the lead to be. There are also times when I understand what a leader is asking for, and I choose to do something else that makes more sense to my movement – and I full heartedly believe this is ok! It is not backleading or ignoring my lead, it is taking control of my movement. There are also time where you may choose to make a shape happen because it is easier to the flow of the dance, or times when you follow exactly what you feel even if you know it is not what the leader meant. Both of these choices are ok, and neither are “honest” they are just different ways of going through the dance.

Followers we have every right to stop our momentum, add to it, change it, etc . At the same time, I am aware of what these choices/changes may cause and I try to do things in a way that don’t disrupt the dance or put anyone (including myself) in harms way. I also try to be as clear as possible with these choices so that the leader can then adjust appropriately. Throughout the night (or class) I may vary on how much I directly respond vs make changes. This can depend on my leader, the song, how tired I am or just our connection in that moment. I try not to live in the absolutes, and instead understand that there is an ebb and flow to my choices.

 

Heavy vs Light

Oh boy, where do I even start. This may be my most hated phrase in our dance scene. A refrigerator can be heavy, a bag of groceries can be heavy. In my opinion a follower can not be heavy (and someone explain to me why when a leader does something that creates the same feeling, instead of heavy they are abrupt or rough or strong – cultural influence much?) Please stop using these terms, which will help us move away from the ideas that heavy is wrong, heavy is fat, heavy is a bad follow. BECAUSE NONE OF THOSE ARE TRUE.

A follower however CAN be: Difficult to move or easy to move, quick to respond or slow to respond, ask the leader to help support their weight or always support their own weight. None of these ideas have to be separate. I can ask my leader to support A LOT of my weight but still be easy to move, or support my own weight and be slow to respond. Also none of these things are inherently BAD, they are just different.

Often times when people use the term heavy, they don’t realize that: as a leader if they anchored down a little bit more they could more easily counter the movement of the follower; Or the follower is adding a downward feeling at an odd moment that disrupts the flow; Or any number of possible things that are not a human being heavy. I encourage us to stop thinking in terms of heavy/light and start thinking about how to more effectively move our bodies as followers or initiate movement as leaders.

 

Dance!

Even if I am following, I still want to be dancing. Followers: DANCE, don’t just stand around waiting to be led during the dance – move your body, pulse/groove/jam, feel the music and then let the leader initiate movement into your dancing. Inspire your own movement instead of the leader creating it. There is so much we can give just by jamming out while dancing with our partner. We don’t need to be perfect and absolutely always ready to go whenever the leader says so. If you are dancing, your leader will be more likely to feel your weight and your choices and then adapt to them, and lead based off of you. When we don’t do that, we are asking the leader to do all the work. Share the load!

 

My final thought for now is, please stop telling followers they need to learn to lead. It devalues the role of a follower, which I think is a pretty damn awesome thing. If someone wants to lead, of course they should do that. But stop telling us to lead so that we can dance more or be more useful to the scene. Following is awesome and it should be more than ok to be a follower!

 

Welcome to my new blog!

So here goes my first adventures into blog writing!

 

Disclaimer – I am NOT, by any means, a writer. I am however someone who cares deeply about what I do. I have ideas and I want to share them with as many people as possible. So please, try to appreciate the thoughts and not the horrible grammar or writing technique.

 

I plan to delve into a variety of ideas, starting with some simple thoughts on following. If you have topics you would like to see my thoughts on, please feel free to reach out and let me know!

 

Upcoming blog posts:

 

Thoughts on Following

How to be a better student

Small tips for improving your teaching

So you want to run a dance event