& Barbara Blackford
The success and acceptance of bolero as a rhythm by round dancers is
truly phenomenal. Some of the reasons for this acceptance are:
The rhythmic action in the measure of music is SQQ danced on beats 1 -
3 4; by using the carry over method of familiar figures between
rhythms, i.e., rumba, we can easily learn to become familiar with
bolero. Some bolero terms are also being used, because of specific
actions. Bolero is actually a combination of both "smooth" dancing
(foxtrot, waltz) and "rhythm" Latin dancing (rumba) and some ballet,
but any one of these components does not dominate it.
- The dance is beautiful and feels good.
- The tempo is slow enough for "thinking time."
- There have been many routines that have used the
fundamentals enough that the dancers have had the floor time to feel
CHARACTERISTICS: (as described in the RAL standards) [timing is 4/4]
Using count of SQQ with rise within the body. The rise occurs as
transfer of weight is taken onto the first step. Maximum height is
reached at the end of the first step (S). Lowering commences as step 2
(Q) is taken, usually with a slipping action. Continue to lower through
step 3 (Q) with slight progression. Transfer weight between step 3 (Q)
and step 1 (S) of the next measure -- has no body rise -- step is taken
in the lowered position with soft knees. Dancing bolero requires strong
control when executing each figure. Bodies should move fluidly,
intimately, and with passion.
DANCE POSITION: Bolero uses both closed and open positions. Closed
position is similar to that in the smooth rhythms with a slightly
looser hold. The lead hands may be held up in standard closed position
or held low at the man's left leg. The body should be relaxed with soft
knees but with strong control in the thighs. When dancing in open
facing position a strong tone should be kept in the connected arms to
facilitate leading and following. The free arms should be an extension
of the body and may be held to the side.
MOVEMENT: Weight should be centered over the supporting/weighted foot.
Keeping good balance, the body moves to the side, forward, or back
through the legs (The feeling of "pushing" from the supporting leg to
the free foot). Reach on step 3 (step 3 usually has a slight
progression) rather than simply recover to the other foot. This
requires step 2 to be smaller than before, so we will have somewhere to
reach to. Most people do a rock & recover -- not good.
TIMING/RHYTHM: (think waltz) Stretch out a beat and borrow from
another. So instead of slow, quick, and quick, danced 1 - 3 4;
some figures may be danced with 2 slows or 4 quicks, and some
syncopation may be incorporated.
The first step is the standard slow step taking two beats of music. The
second step is held longer than usual and the third step is quicker.
This feels really good as the reaching step is milked longer -- this is
easier in a Basic but a little more difficult in other figures.
RISE AND FALL: Bolero has a definite rise & fall. The action is
developed through the leg & body and not the foot. Do not pop back
up on the third step. Stay down on steps two and three -- transfer
weight in a "down" position. Rise occurs by straightening the knee and
body and not through the feet.
The first slow step begins in a lowered attitude from the previous
figure; step side and begin to rise. At the end of the first step rise
to full height, be on flat foot (heel not off floor), knees almost
straight, and body fully and evenly stretched upward. This is as high
as we should get. Step two is taken on the ball of the foot quickly and
smoothly lowering. It is the shortest step of the three (we usually
think of this step as a slipping action either forward or back). The
third step is usually taken in the opposite direction of the second
step, staying low as you transfer weight. This is not a "recover" step;
actually it has slight progression.
Unlike rumba there is no Cuban action of the hips. Hip action is
sometimes used as an accent (hip rocks).
Bolero requires significant patience and a strong commitment to
sustaining the movement, creating a contrast of strong and soft lines
and slow and quick movements. Once you achieve good execution of these
actions, the feeling of the "romance of bolero" will be gratifying.
clinic notes prepared for the RAL Convention, 2014,
in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, May 2019.
If you would like to read other articles on dance
position, technique, styling, and specific dance rhythms, you may visit
the article TOC.
If you are not a member of DRDC,
do consider joining. The group sponsors triquarterly weekends with
dancing and teaching, and the newsletter is one of the most informative
Past DRDC Educational Articles archived
Go beyond this site. Find other references on our Sources and Links