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Bolero -- An American Dance

by Bob & Sally Nolen

Many consider the modern bolero to be one of the most beautiful, graceful, and romantic dances ever created. The original Spanish bolero was invented by Sebastian Cerézo about 1780, who used the Spanish folk boléro as a basis for his French ballet. It was then popularized in the 1930s at the same time that one of the most famous examples of bolero music was written, by the French composer Maurice Ravel -- Bolero, 1928 -- which was danced by Bronislava Nijinska.

In round dancing, we use many of the names and movements from this modern bolero but have "normalized" others to be more in line with other Latin rhythm movements used in round dancing. The current bolero done in round dancing was introduced by George and Mady D'Aloiso at the 1983 URDC convention in San Antonio, Texas. They also taught a workshop on advanced bolero. Sally and I were there; when we saw what was being taught, we looked at each other and said, "That will not last." Well, nothing like eating your own words.

It was some time before bolero took off with some very popular dances in the mid-1990s. For instance, Brent & Mickey Moore released Sleeping Beauty in 1993, Bob & MaryAnn Rother released A Taste Of Bolero in 1993, Ralph & Joan Collipi released Almost Bolero in 1994, and Brian & Pam Galbraith released Ginny Come Bolero in 1996. We're still dancing them.

Bolero is a unique blend of rumba (in the arm styling and flowing movement), tango (lots of CBMP), waltz (having rise and fall), and finally it is like a Smooth rhythm in that we dance it in closed dance position with firm body contact. In addition, unlike other Latin rhythms in round dancing, there is almost no Cuban motion used, except in specialized movements like Hip Rocks. The bolero in round dancing uses a strong rising action in the first half measure, followed by a quick return to the starting level for the rocking steps. All of these factors combine to create a very sensuous and powerful dancing experience.

The timing and actions are depicted below:

Count

Slow

Quick

Quick

Beats

1

2

3

4

Elevation

Down

Rise

Lower

Down

Size Of Steps

Large

Small

Medium




        

From clinic notes prepared for the ICBDA convention, 2015, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, October 2020.


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If you would like to read other articles on dance position, technique, styling, and specific dance rhythms, you may visit the article TOC.



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