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Paso Doble

by George & Mady D'Aloiso


The Paso Doble dates back to centuries ago, in its classical form. Paso Doble music (originally intended for use at bullfights when a toreador was victorious in the ring) adapted itself so beautifully to the dance that villagers danced to the gay, lively music for hours on end.

Americans first viewed the Paso Doble when Flamenco dancers used this music to dance the role of a toreador. It has been a favorite (in its ballroom version) since the 1930s. In the ballroom version of the Paso Doble, the gentleman portrays the toreador and the woman is his cape.

In the Paso Doble, "shuffling along" simply won't do. Easy though it is to perform, the pleasures of dancing it cannot be realized fully until one begins to acquire proper styling. A most helpful aid in acquiring the proper styling is to visualize the pageantry of the toreadors, as they make their entry into the bullring -- visualize the marvelously "pulled-up" torsos that create the proper stance -- visualize the arms and head held high, the arched back.

While the round dancers' version of the Paso Doble is not a literal reenactment of the bullfight, some of its steps bear a close resemblance to actual maneuvers and passes of the cape used by the bull fighter.


Paso Doble music is usually written in 4/4 time (and many in 2/4 time) and should be played at a tempo of 29 to 31 measures per minute (58 to 62 m/m for 2/4 music). The music can be written in 3/4 and 6/8 time. The Paso Doble music with that timing is rarely done and for the purposes of this article, that timing will be ignored.


It is desirable for each figure or group of movements to commence at the beginning of a musical phrase. This is simply achieved by a sensible use of the "linking" figures, namely Sur Place, Basic Movement, and Chasses.


Most dancing is divided into two categories, smooth and rhythm. In the smooth category, we have Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango??, Quickstep, Peabody, Viennese, etc. Smooth dancing is typified by heel leads and gliding. In the rhythm category, we have Cha, Rumba, Mambo, etc. Rhythm dancing is typified by flat and ball/flat footwork and with piston-type leg action. Paso Doble is kind of in the middle of these two types of dancing. One caution is not to use any Cuban hip motion.

The Paso Doble is a progressive dance moving along the line of dance, but many of the figures are danced in place. A staccato movement of the feet, rise and fall, pulled-up torso, and dramatic movements of the head, arms, and hands highlight the style of the Paso Doble.


The use of highly stylized Flamenco arm movements in the Paso Doble will add greatly to polished technique. Correct positioning of the arms and hands is extremely important if a dramatic effect is to be achieved. The classic Flamenco arm positions feature an acute bend at the elbows to create strong lines, arms held high and away from the body, fingers extended sharply. In direct contrast to the classic Flamenco arm positions is the more current modern Flamenco arm positioning, which features completely straightened arms (no bend in the elbows), but retains the fully extended finger position of the hands.

The following is one interpretation of Flamenco use of hands and feet: Stand facing partner, head erect and body upright, about six inches apart when in closed position. The man should place his right hand on the woman's left shoulder blade, the woman resting her left arm lightly on his right arm following the curve of his arm to the shoulder. The woman should place the fingers of the right hand between the man's thumb and first finger, and the hands should be lightly clasped. The joined hands (man's left and woman's right) are raised to eye-level with the arms gently curved.

When in promenade (SCP) or counter promenade (RSCP), the hold is widened until the couple are about nine to twelve inches apart. If it is not practical for the man to retain hold with his right hand on the woman's back, he may slip his right hand to the top of her left arm. In promenade the joined hands (man's left and woman's right) are usually lowered to about chest level with the arms gently curved, while in counter promenade they are usually raised to just above the level of the head with the arms gently curved.

Always remember the Paso Doble depicts the bull fight with the man as the matador and the woman the cape, therefore a proud stance should be maintained throughout.


The use of Flamenco footwork is intended to create accent and to give an appearance of authenticity to the dance. The three basic movements of the feet are heel movements, ball-of-the-foot movements, and stomp (whole foot) movements. They may be danced individually or in combination. They may be danced with or without change of weight.


Slight contra-body movement may be used on forward or backward marching steps. This is the turning of the opposite hip and shoulder to the foot that is moving forward or back.


Most figures in Paso Doble are constructed with the man commencing with his right foot on the first beat. However, in some advanced figures it is necessary for him to step with his left foot on the first beat. The woman will dance the normal opposite.

From clinic notes prepared for the annual RAL convention, 1990, and published in the ROUNDALAB Journal, summer 1990.


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