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Bolero -- The Cuban "Dance of Love"

by TJ & Bruce Chadd

We'd like to offer some techniques and ideas that work for us. Our goal is always to help make your dancing more comfortable. What we’re going to teach may not be exactly the same as you’ve learned from others. There’s more than one way for everything to be taught and executed. Take what we’re offering, add it to what you already know, and make it work for you.

The Origin of Bolero: There are 2 countries that take credit for the original Bolero. In Spain in about 1780, ballet dancer Sebastiano Carezo invented the Spanish version of the Bolero, using 3/4-time music (like our waltzes). Then it was danced by either a female soloist or by a couple during the ballet performances to very structured music. The Cuban Bolero uses 2/4 timing and is credited to “Pepe” Sanchez, a traveling musician in Cuba during the late 1800s to early 1900s. Since he composed most of his music in his head and didn’t write it down, much of his music has been lost to us. The Bolero introduced into the American Ballroom in the mid 1930s uses 4/4 timing and has become an American Rhythm Standard Dance.

Timing is Everything: Bolero music is very slow, and because of that it is a very easy dance to rush. Using the Bolero Basic as we dance it in Round Dancing, let’s work on making it easier for our Boleros to be slow and controlled.

Starting Position: Gentlemen should invite the Lady to dance by taking her right hand in his left and then moving gently into Closed Position with the lead arm/hand either up like Waltz/Foxtrot CP or low with hands held beside the Man’s front pocket, bringing the feet together and relaxing into bent knees with your backside tucked and your lead foot free.

The Scrunch”: We’re going to help you use your core and trunk muscles to put a little Latin in your Bolero. Once you’ve taken the Bolero position described above, you need a bit of a “scrunch” in your side. Which side depends on which foot you have free. Your “scrunch” needs to be on the opposite side of your free foot. If your left foot is free, then your “scrunch” is on your right side and vice versa. The “scrunch” occurs by using your core and trunk muscles, specifically those between your arm pit and your hip bone. Think of it as trying to bring your arm pit and hip bone together – WITHOUT tilting your shoulder or your hip. Not an easy thing to do and it takes practice -- LOTS of practice. You’re going to engage your front muscles on your “scrunch” side and your back muscles on the same side in order to accomplish this “scrunch.” A good way to practice this technique by yourself is in front of a mirror with your arms out and up in front of your body (like CP) with a tight fitting t-shirt on. It’s easy to see when your shoulders and hips stay where they’re supposed to and you can see your “scrunch” in the mirror. Practice changing your scrunch from side to side by taking your starting position, “scrunching” and then reaching your free foot to the side and touching the inside edge of the ball of that foot to the floor. Bring yourself back to center, change to the other foot and repeat. Repeat this exercise -- and repeat and repeat and repeat. You’ll find that one side of your body works better at this than the other. That’s normal -- just means you need to practice more on one side than the other.

Bolero Timing Using 8 Counts: Our Bolero figures use a timing of “Slow, Quick, Quick.” We use 4 beats of music to accomplish this timing. The “Slow” step takes beats 1 and 2 and the 2 “Quicks” take beats 3 and 4. Let’s try thinking of this in “Double Time” where each single beat of music is converted into 2 counts – our 4 counts are now 8 counts and those 8 counts are twice as fast as our 4 counts were. Now, in our basic timing the “Slow” steps take counts 1,2,3,4 and our “Quick” steps take counts 5,6 and 7,8. Using the Bolero Basic and the Man’s footwork to practice, take your Bolero starting position and “scrunch” your right side. Now start your “Slow” step to the side, stepping side with your free (left) foot/leg, making contact with the floor with the inside edge of the ball of your left foot, and leaving your body back at the starting position – COUNT #1. Now slowly roll your weight onto the left foot – COUNTS 2,3,4, bringing your body with it, bringing your free (right) foot to the left foot by “dragging” it, rising through COUNT 2,3,4, gradually straightening your “scrunch,” ending with your weighted (left) foot flat (no rise to the balls or toes of the feet), your body back to center with no scrunch and your free (right) foot beside your weighted (left) foot. Step back on your right foot, placing your toe down – COUNT 5. Roll onto the full foot with slightly bent knee – COUNT 6. Step forward with small progression on the left foot, toe first – COUNT 7. Roll onto the full foot with bent knees – COUNT 8 beginning to “scrunch” on your left side for the 2nd half of the figure. Repeat COUNTS 1,2,3,4 as above in the opposite direction. Step forward placing your left toe down – COUNT 5. Roll onto the full foot with slight bent knees – COUNT 6. Step back with small progression placing the toe of the right foot down – COUNT 7. Roll onto the full foot with bent knees – COUNT 8 beginning to “scrunch on your right side in preparation for the next figure. Try using this technique with as many figures as possible and you’ll find that your Bolero is no longer being “rushed.”


From clinic notes prepared for the ROUNDALAB Convention, June 2012.



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