My first Repettos were a very deliberate purchase from Hu’s Shoes on M Street in Georgetown, Washington DC. It was around 2007, at the peak of my salsa dancing, and I had been filling up a closet with high-heeled, open-toed, synthetic-soled shoes that looked like what the dance instructors wore, but with the added characteristic of delivering targeted pain to my phalanges, or for another pair, my heels, and for yet another, my arch, and ankles.
I needed to dance.
Four hours, if I wanted.
I don’t remember if I went into the store that day thinking I would find appropriate dance shoes. But I walked in, spotted them in all their sparkling beauty, and measured them against what I’d come to learn — the hard way — were the characteristics of a good dancing shoe.
Leather sole (forget that suede sole) for smooth low-friction movement across the dancefloor, which for salsa should be wooden, always wooden, smooth, and slightly varnished. Check.
A strap to hold the foot securely in place below the ankle. Check.
Proper heel support, not in the form of a strap across the back of the heel of the foot, but a solid chunk of leather holding the heel in place during even the most rigorous of spins. Check.
A low-to-medium heel with a CG well-positioned in the middle of the heel, not too far backwards or forward. Check.
A soft, comfortable bed for the feet. Check.
(Ahem, sparkles. Check.)
The shoes fit like gloves. Whole Foods (Whole Paycheck to my friends who were familiar with its organically priced offerings, and heck I called it that too :-)) would have to wait, as I had salsa needs of the non-food variety to attend to. I could hardly contain my excitement. If I didn’t have a strong and sensible rule of only wearing my dance shoes on the dance floor, I might have worn those darlings home from the store.
Five years and over a hundred salsa nights later, I don’t dance as much as I used to. But my trusty shoes still lie sturdy in their case, awaiting the days – like last September in Lagos – when a chance to spin, sashay, shuffle, and Suzy-q around a dancefloor presents itself.
Today, walking down rue de Rambuteau and spotting a Repetto store at the end (pictured), I smiled my gratefulness to those shoes that spared my feet so I could savor to the painless fullest, that most aerodynamic of human movements.