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Tony Dovolani lends his expertise to men’s ballroom shoes

Tony Dovolani

Capezio’s exclusive Tony Dovolani range is a top seller.

By Deborah Searle of Dance Informa.

Six-time dance champion and Emmy-nominated choreographer, Tony Dovolani is a virtuoso of the dance floor. Known for his work on Dancing With the Stars and several television shows and movies, Tony brings experience, passion and precision to ballroom dance.

Now Tony has shared this prowess with all male ballroom dancers through a collaboration with Capezio’s ballroom division, designing a unique range of shoes in his namesake.

“Tony was our inspiration behind his range of shoes,” shares Melissa Brannan, Vice President of Design and Merchandising at Capezio, America’s leading dance shoe manufacturer.

Capezio ballroom shoes

Capezio's Tony Flex Latin for men and Valentina BR179 for women.

Combining Capezio’s over 125 years of experience in handcrafting dance shoes for the world’s most successful dance companies, shows and performers, with Tony’s specific ballroom expertise, the team was able to create a range of versatile, practical, but stylish men’s ballroom shoes.

It’s obvious that working with Tony was a joy, when hearing the enthusiasm in Brannan’s voice. Tony was involved throughout the entire design process and he gave Capezio many insights into what male ballroom dancers need and want.

“We laid out dozens of designs and he went through them and picked his favorites. We then did tweaks based on those,” Brannan explains. “One of the things he disliked about ballroom shoes was that on the standard shoe the back on the men’s heel is a straight edge, it’s the shape of the heel, but it’s an edge. So now our shoes actually have a slight slope to the back of the heel so that when leading with your foot you have a larger surface area to push off of and it doesn’t wear down like with regular men’s shoes. We developed this feature through a conversation we had with Tony. We had an ‘ah-ha’ moment and we knew this was something we could effect change to.”

Sketches of the Tony Latin

Sketches of the Tony Latin in development.

And this wasn’t the only change Tony was the catalyst for. He also requested that a split sole shoe be designed to give dancers more flexibility.

“He felt passionate about offering the same style upper with different options to be either full sole or split sole,” says Brannan. “He likes to flip-flop back and forth behind the styles depending on what he’s doing.”

Many dancers agree, with the Tony Flex Latin (BR1004) being Capezio’s biggest seller in men’s ballroom.

The split sole was an exciting concept for Capezio’s designers. “Split sole is new for us. It’s something we haven’t done before for men’s ballroom shoes. It features a neoprene arch insert that makes it more light weight, easier to articulate and more breathable.”

Tony Latin men's ballroom shoes

Sketches showing the unique upper on the Tony Latin range.

“Tony was also a really big inspiration and had input into the design for the upper on the shoes.” The Tony range features an upper that’s “a little bit more fashionable and not so boring.  If someone wanted to decorate a shoe, it would give them almost a template so they would be able to add texture, color or sparkle,” adds Brannan.

“We never had a ballroom shoe in our line that offered a little more excitement to the upper pattern!”

And the design is not only eye-catching, but intelligent. “The way we did the design accentuates the lines of the foot so that when you’re pointing your foot in competition it enhances the arch.”

Capezio is known for the comfort and quality of their handcrafted ballroom range. Every shoe features a high-quality leather upper with a high-quality suede sole. Performance cushioning and a padded collar for comfort around the Achilles make them the ideal shoe for long rehearsal or performance days.

Tony Latin by Capezio

Final design of the Tony Latin men's ballroom shoe.

“Our patterns are created with comfort and aesthetic in mind so that we are always leading to the arch or looking to enhance the shape of the foot,” says Brannan.

Capezio knows how to best accentuate the line of the foot and support the pursuit of the dancer after creating millions of shoes since 1887 for professional ballet dancers, Broadway performers, tap dancers, cheerleaders, and of course, competitive and social ballroom dancers. They understand the specific needs of dancers in each field of performance and collaborate with professional dancers on their designs to bring innovative, attractive and authentic dance shoes to the floor.

Capezio doesn’t cut corners. “Our shoes are also always balanced; it’s one of our tenants for design.”

Tony Flex Latin 1.75" Heel

The Tony Flex Latin 1.75" Heel

And “our shoes do not have toe spring, because toe spring is counter-intuitive to the dancer.  Dancers are always forward on the ball of their feet and our shoes don’t work against the dancer,” Brannan adds, highlighting Capezio’s unparalleled understanding of a dancer’s needs.

The Capezio ballroom range also features shoes named after powerhouse couple Travis and Jaimee Tuft, who are undefeated Two-Time U.S. Amateur American Smooth Champions. Like Tony, Travis and Jaimee truly believe in Capezio’s commitment to ballroom footwear.

“Travis and Jamiee Tuft always say that we are the best kept secret in ballroom footwear and I wouldn’t disagree with that!” says Brannan.