I’m going to start with a note of remorse about the loss of Slide & Swing, a swing dance shoe company with a beautiful lineup of shoes for everyone and a casualty of the COVID 19 pandemic. If you have not already, please wander to their corner of the web and check out the remaining inventory, perhaps pick up a pair and give a little to someone who is losing their business and trying to recoup costs. Cheers to all the beautiful shoes you’ve created, Slide & Swing.
In spite of a pandemic (or perhaps coming into the business as the world slid into a pandemic), there are even more swing dance shoe companies that have popped up on my radar in the last year or so. Let’s have a scan of the new offerings.
@comfydance_shoes on Instagram is offering swing dance and street shoes handmade in Mexico. It looks like they are offering two styles right now, one pair of ankle boots and one pair of low heeled t-strap shoes, both in an array of color options. Instructions are to DM for more information and that’s all the information I have!
“Boun’Shoes started their small production of vintage-style dance shoes in January 2016 thanks to the collaboration of Fiammetta, a Roman Lindy Hopper, and a family of handcraft shoemakers based in Marche, Italy. They have been manufacturing shoes for three generations in the most famous shoemaking district in Italy. In 2019 Martina joined Fiammetta and launched the shop online.”
Unfortunately, the link to the website isn’t working on either Facebook or Instagram, so it’s probably best to reach out by private message/direct message. There are lots of lovely photos on their Facebook page, showing a variety of t-straps, Mary Janes, oxfords, and boots.
Swing Love shoes are made in Hội An, Vietnam, inspired by owner Châu’s search for swing dance shoes to fit her irregular feet and her fear of ordering shoes online only to have them not fit when they arrive. Taking advantage of the existing shoe making industry in Vietnam, Châu went on a journey find her perfect pair, with much trial and tribulation, and at the end of 2018, after finishing this journey, her friends suggested she should manufacture and sell the shoes she created. Châu spent two years learning everything she needed to know to launch this endeavor and the shoes are a showcase of Hội An’s shoemaker’s craftsmanship and Châu’s design ideas.
Swing Love is offering three styles – two oxfords (Savoy and Doo-Bee-Da) and one t-strap (Suzy-Q), all flats/low heel for those of you I know who are always on the lookout for flat dance shoes. Shoe color is customizable, just email them at email@example.com with your ideas.
That’s all for now – as we see the light at the end of this pandemic tunnel, I hope you’ll consider your dance shoe needs and wants. Maybe it’s time to start breaking in a pair now so that you’ll be ready when we can dance again.
I attended my very first California Balboa Classic – aka Cal Bal – last month and I’d say I don’t know what took me so long, but I have another hobby that managed to conflict with this event year after year. I made the decision to choose Cal Bal this year and Cal Bal did such a great job welcoming me with open arms that I didn’t want to leave. It’s also the first event I’ve attended in several years that I was not hired as a musician, so there was ample time for dancing between DJ shifts, which I have sorely missed and desperately needed.
To set the vendor scene, you need to understand the layout of the hotel – this is a hotel event, but this is not your typical hotel. The Hyatt Regency Newport Beach is more of a complex, with lovely outdoor spaces connecting separate buildings, taking advantage of what are usually mild temperatures in southern California. The ballroom was a separate building within the hotel complex and to enter the ballroom, one had to walk down a little path and through a large covered-but-open-to-the-air space. It was a bit chilly at night, so the covered outdoor space had some temporary walls and heaters, as well as couches for sitting (basking) under said heaters, a snack station, a cash bar, and all the vendors for the event. Had the temps at night been a little warmer, the vendor location would have been truly ideal – during the day it was lovely.
Cal Bal had some great merch this year – you’ve already seen my post about the Kendra Dandy designed scarves and pocket squares, and there were also pins, bags, and tee shirt designs (one even featuring the Rendezvous Ballroom). I was elated to see a green tee shirt with musicians on it, so that came home with me! If you aren’t sure how to style your large Kendra Dandy Cal Bal scarf, Cleveland dancer and instructor Alexis Davila posted an awesome/adorable/creative video on Facebook of several different ways to wear it on your head – I believe you can still order one, it looks they are up on the Cal Bal web store.
At this point, I’m blessed that Re-mix Vintage Shoes owner Philip Heath knows me by sight and always gives me a little tidbit to keep me coming back for more. This year, the buzz was the production of a gold Opera model, which had previously been relegated to suede (which I don’t prefer to try to maintain) – since metallics are my go-to neutral, this was a delightful new development and I was excited that this particular model fit my particular feet, having never previously tried on any Opera model.
I didn’t notice the new addition to the men’s shoes (maybe a Fairway or a variation thereof? I’m not seeing it on the website) until Nicholas Centino posted the photo below of their gloriousness, but there’s a new two tone brown oxford with perforations that is so subtle and lovely. I’m also not seeing them on the Re-mix website, so pick up that phone…
Next stop in the circle of vendors was the new-to-me Swankys Vintage, who appeared to have mostly menswear and some women’s items, with a mix of Swankys reproductions and vintage clothing, with a very 1940’s/50’s California aesthetic in terms of styling and color palette. The reproductions were almost seamless with the vintage at first glance, the textures, fabrics, and colors were so spot on. Lots of clothing that evoked comfort, ease, and fun, as well as some really nice looking classics, like tweed trousers with a buckle back. It was so nice to see more of a focus on menswear, which tends to be minimal to non-existent in terms of vending at events.
I’ll also give an honorable mention to the gent who set up a mostly vintage men’s shop for Saturday night, who I asked for a business card and he said this was his last vending spot ever and that he was liquidating his collection and selling it to another vintage seller. It is hard work running these vendor spots/booths at events, carting around inventory, being present to run the shop, paying vendor fees and for hotel rooms, so my hat’s off to all the vendors – whether you’re still in the game or getting out, this is an important part of events and I’m appreciative of everyone who shows up.
I’m always excited to see Jenna Applegarth‘s Applejacks shoes at events, as I’ve probably learned more from her than anyone about the extensive and often frustrating process of designing, producing, and shipping dance shoes – I’m completely invested in this storyline and here for all subsequent chapters. Remember that this is a labor of love each time you buy a dance shoe made by swing dancers for swing dancers! I know several of us are eagerly anticipating the new models (I swear I saw green on Instagram), but the models out right now are particularly well-suited to Balboa. One of my friends noted that she didn’t necessarily know what she’d wear with the rose gold shoes, but that they felt so good on her feet that it didn’t matter. Good thing metallics are neutrals!
Next up in our tour of vendors was Swingbird Fashions, who I have previously blogged about in terms of an Etsy shop, but since that post this brand has expanded greatly and wonderfully. I am terribly sad that I was not able to meet the creator of these garments, Leea Kuronen from Denver, Colorado (it’s hard to be at your booth at every minute of the day, I completely understand) because I was smitten with everything – the colors, the fabric selection, and all the lovely details. There’s this one green dress with white soutache detail that is absolutely to-die-for – I saw both Teni Lopez-Cardenas and Heather Ballew had purchased one of these dresses and wore them in competitions that very weekend. It’s an I NEED TO WEAR THIS NOW kind of dress! Lovely trousers, skirts, blouses, and dresses all around – this corner of the room made me smile.
Across the room Loco Lindo represented with their line of crepe printed dresses, blouses, skirts, pants, and, of utmost importance, their Venice Beach clip dress, recreated from the one worn by Genevieve Grazis in said clip, she of the many gored twirly skirt. It’s honestly super gratifying to see a whole line of them on a rack, knowing the history behind the dress and the process of getting this dress reproduced – get your twirl on and your shuffle on, let’s do this! On a related note, I’m sad I missed the crunchy sound of shuffling on sand the Monday of Cal Bal where everyone met on the beach near the site of the former Rendezvous Ballroom – living that beach clip dream…
Sharing the space with Loco Lindo was Jen Gomez of Bandini St., who typically also shares a space at Camp Hollywood. It’s a great idea, to share space, share labor, and have that symbiotic relationship of pairing dresses with hair accoutrements immediately. This is probably going to be super personal to my preferences, but I was particularly happy to see pairs of hair flowers that were an ideal size (Goldilocks here, not too big, not too small…), flat – but with enough texture to be interesting, and a color gradient so that it goes with various shades of whatever color it represents. VERY SPECIFIC. I need to go through my closet to see what I might need, as these are available on the Bandini St. Etsy shop in several colors.
Finally, we’ve reached the lovely Saint Savoy booth at Cal Bal, with a candy colored array of heels and flats. While their Riviera model remains the most popular and is available in a wide array of colors, I heard lots of talk about their oxfords for women being particularly comfortable. A few other notes: 1) I’m pretty sure their Grace shoe in Neptune is one of the most beautiful dance shoes ever made. I own a pair and I only wear them for singing because I would Gollum-style freak out if anything ever happened to them; 2) I’m having feelings about their The Whip oxford in Mulled Wine because I had a pair of Doc Martens in high school with a similar color gradient and broguing (a whole different level of nostalgia); and 3) it was nice to see their Grand Prix t-strap dance flat in person – loving all the variety in heel heights, thank you, more of this from dance shoe makers, please. 🙂
And that’s a wrap – I hope I haven’t missed anyone! I loved all the vendors, thank you again for your time and energies in attending Cal Bal and creating products with the swing dance community in mind.
2017 was a great year at Lindy Focus – the swing dance community has been growing, learning, becoming better versions of ourselves, working toward becoming a more inclusive community, and Lindy Focus embraced that and gave us resources to explore and grow. Needless to say, I had an amazing week, I’m filled with hope and joy, and hope that our 2018 continues to see new strides in making us an even better community of people being excellent to each other.
Part of this community is our micro-economy here at Lindy Focus, where vendors set up in the two lobby areas of the Crowne Plaza Resort Asheville and dancers can browse and partake in services and products that are either personal in nature or tailored to swing dancers.
Of course there is the Lindy Focus merchandise table, which is always heavily picked-over by the time I arrive on December 27 – the gear is good, I don’t necessarily know what it was, but I got a green sweatshirt with the LF logo on it and that’s about all this green-loving gal needs. 😉
Next to the merchandise/check-in is the Savoy Shop, a consignment shop and shoe repair boutique that has become an essential part of the event to people who not only are looking to buy fun apparel for dancing or offload said apparel to make room in their closets, but also a fantastic on-site backup plan for several kinds of catastrophes that can occur when traveling to dance weekends over holidays – lost luggage, broken shoes, forgotten items, forgotten outfits, upgrades to outfits, and I’m sure there are other ways the Savoy Shop has saved people’s sanity over the course of the week. Men’s and women’s clothing and shoes available, lots of good selections, tailored to our dancing needs!
The main lobby is the main vendor area and the first person I laid eyes on when I got to the hotel was Jamie Sturdevant of ChatterBlossom, an Etsy shop specializing in hair flowers and headpieces made from vintage millinery flowers. Jamie lives near me, so I am spoiled by being able to collaborate with her on a regular basis, but I am excited that people get to see Jamie’s pieces in person because I can not overstate the fact that vintage millinery flowers are superior in both detail of floral design and in color matching to vintage clothing. Even if you don’t wear vintage, there are an array of blooms to match your modern attire and add a bit of vintage flair.
If Jamie didn’t have something for your head, Forties Forward perhaps had just the piece, offering their lovely blooms, as well as feathered and jeweled headpieces, which were great options for people seeking to add a bit of flair and sparkle to their New Year’s Eve attire. In addition to hair accessories, Forties Forward also had a nice selection of menswear accessories – ties, hats, and some silky boutonniere flowers just in time for that New Year’s Eve lapel!
A Woopie Bow was a new vendor to Lindy Focus, although I have seen these ties at ILHC in a previous year and I was happy to see them back again, as there are often fewer vendors offering menswear items and I’m sure we all like to have options. Helena Verheyen, a dancer and theater costume designer based in Ghent, Belgium, is the designer and creator of said bow ties and she selects fantastic fabrics from second-hand clothing and sometimes repurposes neckties to make her bows (which is a great idea if you have a damaged necktie, to get some more wear out of it). Her website offers custom work, as well!
It took a couple of tries to even get close to the Saint Savoy table and I felt bad for Austrian dancer Maren Merian, who was being pulled in a thousand directions – I’ll start this off by suggesting that we all proceed like civilized humans, take a minute to be patient when there is clearly a line and a demand and one person working the booth, and be mindful of personal space and allowing people to have time to make a decision about footwear. Once I did make it near the table, of course the shoes were glorious and, after waiting my turn, Maren was gracious and helpful and I purchased a pair of Saint Savoy’s brand new multicolored blues/greens Grace shoe, a perfect 1930’s style shoe in a shape I haven’t seen anyone else making and I certainly hadn’t seen in person until Lindy Focus. It was love at first sight, a shoe that you don’t even care if you own anything to go with it, it must be owned, worn, and loved! They also came in solid dark red and taupe, and I spotted Jo Hoffberg in the brown colourway. The Edens and the Rivieras were also selling like hot cakes and I’m excited to see what Saint Savoy has up their sleeves next!
I don’t know that we’ve had a makeup vendor in the past, outside of someone applying makeup, but dancer Iris Tarou brought us many shades of lip color with LipSense, a product she discovered last year before Lindy Focus and loved it so much she decided to start a business selling it. There’s nothing better than believing in and loving what you are selling! Per Iris’ post, LipSense is dance-proof, sweat-proof, kiss-proof, waterproof, and burrito-proof, which is basically what every dancer needs and what sounds like it would be an awesome New Year’s Eve to get your kiss at midnight after a long night of dancing and then go get burritos. For more information, join the Indelible Look by Iris Facebook group.
We also had massage therapists on-site, which is undoubtedly an essential part of a week-long dance event – Bennie Vo and Erin Hennessy had the perfect setup, a table and chair next to the fireplace for warmth, with the awesome swing music from the music jam in the alcove just a few feet away.
Ryan Calloway returned to Lindy Focus with his fantastic jazz music and jazz dancing prints, with a book of samples you could flip through, and then a link to a new service he is using called Redbubble, which streamlined the ordering process a bit, because Ryan didn’t have to be present to take your order and you can see all the options on the website. In addition to prints, you can also order tee shirts and hoodies with Ryan’s artwork!
Mary Kay Williams was back offering caricature drawings on-site, on-demand, while you wait. She had some great samples up, like a dancer/musician/world-famous doctor Dorry Segev in Superman scrubs and Admiral Holdo with her enviable purple fingerwaves. If you’ve never had a portrait drawn of yourself, Lindy Focus is a great time to add one to your collection!
Our new visual artist this year is dance instructor Laura Glaess, who had been gradually revealing her line of anthropomorphic jazz musicians on her Facebook artist’s page in the months leading up to Lindy Focus, drawn with a bit of pun and a lot of whimsy. It was so great to see these in person and see the full lineup of jazz musicians! She also did the artwork for Brooks Prumo Orchestra‘s debut album which is the perfect segue into the next topic…
…since our local artists also lend their talents to our swing musicians (Ryan Calloway did the artwork for Keenan McKenzie’s new album “Forged in Rhythm“). The sheer volume of music available for purchase, recorded by musicians in attendance at Lindy Focus, was so large that they had to keep adding tables to hold all the music and merchandise for sale. It made my heart sing to know that our community can support this much music, much of it recorded and/or composed specifically for dancers and dancing. I challenge you to learn about these musicians, there’s a list of them here. Google them, check out their websites, buy their music!
If any of this is incorrect or I have missed something/someone, please let me know and I will edit/add to this post! It’s hard to keep track of everything going on at Lindy Focus, I’m sure you can agree! Until next year, love and progress in 2018…
Saint Savoy just released a new shoe design, the Eden, and I was virtually stopped in my tracks on Facebook because I need a pair and need to know everything about it. Of course they have a green pair I’m dying to own, but it’s black with a deep, almost iridescent, green detail, as if to say “I’m Evil” in the best possible Una-Mae-Carlisle-kind-of-way. Also available with two tone matte/shiny combos of tan/bronze and white/silver and a double shiny pair with bronze/silver, here’s the post from this morning:
“A classic peep toe, eye-catching asymmetry, sturdy 4-cm heel, and fitted ankle strap.
With padding softer at the heel than the toe, this shoe allows the balls of your feet impeccable control of the floor while firmly supporting your ankles and heels .
A comparison between the heels of the RIVIERA and the EDEN will show the difference in cut. The sole is softer and the toe box wider than the RIVIERAs.
Enjoy this classy shoe on and off the dance floor! We deliver free of charge worldwide and include a shoe bag with every purchase.”
Best possible additional news? Saint Savoy will be at Lindy Focus!
I love a sale and I love it when I find new products tailored for swing dancers – here, we have Saint Savoy Dancewear, a swing dance company founded by Rani-Patricia Dirnhofer, a Vienna-based dancer who grew up in Spain and uses her connections there to collaborate with Alicante shoe manufacturers to create this line of men’s and women’s dance shoes – from oxfords to t-straps, flats to heels, brogueing to cutouts…there’s a lot of variety here! Additionally, Saint Savoy is running a sale until November 30, 10 Euros off any pair of dance shoes…
…but what about these shoes, you say? Let’s take a closer look:
It seems all dancers struggle with finding that perfect pair of shoes – Rani-Patricia shared this struggle: “While hunting for stylish dance shoes, we searched through countless websites from all over the world. The meagre array, several bad buys, and a lot of research brought us to the idea of starting our very own company.” What is remarkable is that people are actually doing this, starting companies and making these shoes – clearly there is a demand!
So if you could come up with a dance shoe company, what specs would you include? Saint Savoy touts the following:
– Sustainable production: “We hold the manufacturing methods of our products to high ethical standards, and select the materials used according to durability and sustainability. We proudly ensure that our shoeboxes are made from recycled paper, plastic packaging is minimized, leatherwork follows German PCP Regulations, and working conditions for our shoemakers are fair – more ways in which we join traditional and contemporary.”
Here are some favorites from the Saint Savoy line of shoes for men and women (ladies, note that there are flats and low heel options) – don’t forget to place your orders before November 30 to get the discount!