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by Wayne & 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 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 the rhythm/dance.
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.

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.

From clinic notes prepared for the RAL Convention, 2014, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, May 2019.


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