Now that I am able to wear shoes again, I was looking at all my footwear for dancing and thinking about the progression of how they came to me and why I love them all.
The oldest in my collection by a country mile are my very traditional Australian RM Williams horse riding boots. Beautifully made with leather soles and elastic sides, they are the most comfortable boots you’ll find anywhere. I bought these off a friend (second-hand/ foot) for $20 when I was 13 years old and they are well over 30 years old (so am I!). Extremely well-travelled boots, coming to Ireland with me and back again, they have been re-soled and repaired many times since then and I gave them an outing in my first film “Sean-nOZ”.
My first set dancing shoes I bought in 1999 from the Talbot Dance Centre in Dublin – black lace-ups with leather soles and hollow, plastic heels. There are three screws in the base of heel and these make a tappy, tinny little sound. I was pleased with them: they made me feel part of the crowd. Those are now retired, hanging up in my cupboard with holey soles from 5 years and more of constant use. I bought another pair in 2005 from the same place, lovely people, and they are still going strong.
It was about that time that I got interested in doing sean nós dancing and I started to really look at the difference between mens shoes and ladies shoes, and noticed the effect it has on dancing style. It seemed to me that mens shoes were flatter and wider, and much better for the batter! The shoes are wider and the soles are quite often thicker and heavier than ladies shoes, giving better sound and stability, particularly if you want to dance more on the back of your heels, rather than on your toes or balls of your feet. Have you ever noticed that?
So, I decided to try it out and I got lucky – very, very lucky. I found a gorgeous pair of MaxMara brown Italian leather lace-up shoes (right) in a second-hand shop here in Australia for $6. They are narrow fitting – perfect for my feet but they have a very wide, heavy sole that gives a good sound, and I think they look great, too. They were initially a bit tight, so I filled them with wet newspaper and wore them a bit while they were wet… you know, we do a few mad things for our dance passion!
The greatest compliment I got was when I turned up to the céilí at Mullaghbouy, Co.Louth end June 2012, and met up my lovely friend, John Joe Brannigan (his daughter Fidelma dances, too). We had both done the sean nós dancing class in Hilltown in early 2004 with Alison Heatley, and we always met up for at least one or two dances together every year I came back to Ireland. He took a great shine to my brown Italian shoes and I offered to swap with him. So, there were were, little (him) and large (me) doing the Clare Lancers together, dancing in each other’s shoes. I promised I would put them in my will to him!
Since then, I have found numerous pairs of Italian leather shoes – second-hand – and my current favorites are black, flat heeled and buckled Santorini shoes. They are a little bit too big but a thicker pair of socks has fixed that! More about this here
So right now, it’s pouring outside now, so I am going to exchange my dance shoes for gumboots, put another log on the fire and keep warm.
An áit a bhuil do chroí is ann a thabharfas do chosa thú.
Your feet will bring you to where your heart is.