The special footwear a dancer uses for the percussive element in the dance functions as an instrument in many ways. Since rhythm is especially dominant in Flamenco the aural effect must be sharp and clear. This sound was achieved in various ways, either with a hard leather heel and in the past often with castanet wood of a very sturdy kind such as ebony or pomegranate.
The castanet wood gave a wonderful quality to the heel beats but the drawback was a occasional split in the material posing a hazard. This was especially possible with very hard attacks of the shoe. Later all flamenco dancers relied on nail heads pounded into the heel of the shoe for a resounding crack which carried well even on poor flooring. This was a practical matter in performance.
Shoes in different styles depending on the sort of dance are worn to enhance the musical expression of drumming which it is for the most part. In the past the dance wear for women usually were confined to an attractive pump to flatter the foot and compliment the female costume. It is notable today that the dancing shoes of women often are more sturdy to emphasize powerful technique rivaling the taconeo used by male dancers. The shoes are often out of place with the beauty of the costume. The appearance is sacrificed to achieve more power and security in the work.
Like everything in art, there is constant change and the performance is altered to take on new challenges .
Since I often performed male dances myself, I wore boots in various styles to match a male costume and make it possible to use a more spectacular technique. Ankle boots and higher styles to match trousers in a campero.
Apart from Flamenco, in dancing other forms in the Spanish idiom, Ballet slippers are worn for the “slipper dancing” of Escuela Bolera. Also in the past footwear called Chapines were another style.
In past years when I performed a dance such as the stylized Intermezzo of Goyescas I wore delicate shoes to compliment the stately costuming appropriate for the choreography.
A long time ago, a student of mine gifted me with some special heels studded with rhinestones. I later had them attached to some classic pumps I bought as a regular shoe, and then used castanet wood I had on hand to fashion the heels. The pale gold of the shoe itself was enhanced by the glitter of the heels and made a theatrical accessory to dances I did to Scarlatti which I made in the past. The images of that pair are seen in this article. An interesting history on its own!