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Rachel Levin
Dance and the City
California Dancing
United States
Greater Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA

Dance and the City - My Boogie Shoes

by Rachel Levin
December 11, 2004
Los Angeles, CA

Dance and the City - My Boogie Shoes

Rachel Levin

If the reigning symbol of the carefree single girl is her shoes (a la Carrie Bradshaw in her Manolo Blahniks), then no salsa dancing single girl should be without her own pair of fabulous ballroom heels.

I had been dancing in my old, plain pair for far too long, and was excited about the prospect of replacing them with something as fashionable as possible. I envisioned something open-toed to show some toe cleavage… strappy…maybe black but maybe something shiny and champagne colored…definitely high heels…possibly with straps wrapping up my ankles like gladiator sandals.

To indulge my fantasies, I went for the first time to Champion Dance Shoes, the old-time "supplier to the stars." The shop is housed in a little bungalow on Barham Blvd. near Burbank. As soon as I opened the wooden door, I felt like I entered a time warp. The wood-paneled walls and rust carpet gave the shop a slight musky smell and old Hollywood feel. The shopkeeper, who looked like she had danced on many a ballroom floor in the bloom of her youth, greeted me graciously.

The shoes were displayed simply on glass shelves and clear acrylic pedestals. I was a woman on a mission; I didn't want to leave the store without purchasing a pair. My eyes took them in with a sweeping glance. Which pair would be mine? It didn't take long for me to hone in on a shoe that would get even Carrie Bradshaw excited. They were black satin with a 2 1/2 inch heel. Twin straps over the toes fed into tiny rhinestone buckles. A slender ankle strap curved above the shoe.

"Do you have this in a size 6?" I asked the shopkeeper, holding up the shoe and running my finger over the smooth satin.

"Well, dear," she said. "I'm not sure. The owner has gone to a dance congress today, and I know that's one of the shoes he took with him. Let's see if he left a size 6 here in the store."

She disappeared into the back room while I sat down to take off my own shoes and socks.
Soon she emerged with a sad look on her face.

"Oh, dear. I'm sorry. No more sixes left."

Just my luck. Shoes, I thought, are like men. They're never available when you really want them.

Disappointed, I scanned the rest of the selection, hoping there was another equally spectacular shoe I could call my own. But nothing jumped out at me. There were other high shoes and other strappy shoes, but nothing quite as fashionable. For some reason I couldn't bring myself to try on those shoes that have nude mesh covering the toes. I know they're functional, but they always look silly to me. And closed-toed shoes seem too stodgy. Any other choices that remained came in colors that were too gaudy for my taste.

Perhaps sensing my struggle, the shopkeeper came over to help. She pointed out a shoe that I had initially eliminated as too sensible-looking. It came in three fabrics (black, champagne, and some god-awful pattern that resembled metallic leopard skin), two heel sizes (2 or 2 1/2 inches), and had a semi-open toe that let a couple of toes peek out.

The champagne and the metallic were definitely not for me, but I had to admit that the black one had a little style. The ankle strap was patent leather, and the fabric had a flirty shimmer to it. It wasn't too flashy or too plain. Plus she had it in stock in my size in both the lower and higher heel. Of course I chose to try the higher heel first.

It fit like a glove. My foot felt supported and my toe was just where it was supposed to be. Plus, they did have a bit of a saucy look once they were on. I padded back and forth on the rust carpet and tried to get a feel for how they'd be on the dance floor.

"How do you like them?" the shopkeeper asked.

"I like them a lot, actually," I said. "I was initially looking for something sexier, but these are pretty cute on."

"You know," the shopkeeper said, "sexy is having beautiful dance moves, dear, not stumbling around because your heels are too high."

"Do you think these are too high?" I asked, checking out my reflection in the full-length mirror. "I'm just so short that I can always use the extra height."

"The short ones, dear, can dance with all the best dancers. Besides," she added conspiratorially, "the real salsa dancers in the barrio are all short. I remember way back when my friends and I would go dancing in East L.A. before salsa was all 'studioed' up. Those were the days…"

So she was Miss Strictly Ballroom after all.

"Well, maybe I should try on the lower heel, just for comparison," I said.

I had to admit that the lower heel felt so much more comfortable, without sacrificing too much pizzazz. What did I need to be so high for, anyways? Memories of aching, unsupported feet from having the wrong shoes in the past came rushing back to me. I knew I couldn't buy a shoe that I didn't have some attraction to, but then again why invest in a shoe that didn't do its job of keeping my feet happy and safe?

I guess shoes really are like men: equal parts excitement and stability make the perfect match.

I couldn't believe that I had come in with the mission of buying the most sassy shoes in the store and was leaving with an entirely sensible choice. But I hoped at least I was coming away with something that would really last.

"How long do these kinds of shoes typically last?" I asked Miss Strictly Ballroom.

"Oh, honey," she said. "That's entirely personal."

Champion Dance Shoes
(323) 874-8704
3383 Barham Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90068

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