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A Few Notes On Advanced Bolero

by Sandi & Dan Finch

Advanced Bolero isn’t so much about a bunch of new figures, but using figures you already know in new and exciting ways. Interesting combinations and changes of timing can add new life to basic figures.

There are only eight Bolero figures standardized at the advanced level in round dancing (as of 2016), but that is no problem when you can create excitement from a basic figure. Try turning a turning basic into a syncopated turning basic and combine it with a pivot into a throwaway oversway. Do the familiar rumba figures—spot turn, lunge break, curl & wrap—with Bolero timing. Take the basic right pass and check the action to make a checked right pass. You learned a half moon to do the first Bolero taught in round dancing, the classic Sleeping Beauty, and now you can expand it into a full moon.

The trick to advanced Bolero is maintaining the basic characteristics of Bolero. Without that, even the bolero basic is just a side step and rock recover.


The basic characteristics apply throughout the phase levels. Bolero is known for:
  • Feeling: Romantic, emotional
  • Timing: Say: Slow (ohhh) Quick Quick to use the music fully
  • Position & Connection: More like smooth dances when in closed position
  • Movement: Smooth, sweeping steps
  • Extended leg with pointed toe
  • Body rise and fall only (no foot rise)
  • No heel leads—steps are generally ball flat

Bolero is the slowest of the rhythms we dance, at 21 to 26 measures per minute (mpm) compared to rumba at 28 to 32 mpm, or waltz at 28 to 30 mpm. The slow uses two beats of very slow music, so the first adjustment is learning to use all that extra time.

Almost all Bolero figures start with a side step on the Slow. To start a figure, you are standing with all weight over one foot with a flexed (soft) knee, and the free foot extended to the side, leg long and straight, toe pointed. Skim the free foot to the side on count 1. Straighten the knee (rise) as full weight goes onto the new standing foot on count 2. This is the maximum amount of rise to be done. Lower into the first Quick (small step slipping back for Man). He will dance forward (more than a replacing) with slight lowering on the second Quick. As described in our Phase Manual, the transfer of weight between step 3 and the beginning of the next measure has no rise; the step is taken in the lowered position with soft knees. That sequence will create the bolero form of rise & fall to achieve its characteristic look.

You will have taught the turning basic with its slip pivot type rotation before getting to advanced work. Make sure that dancers understand that the turning basic can be done entirely in closed position with the standard side step to start. It can be dressed up by adding drama on the first step: Man can step forward and side on the slow, opening his partner for a kind of high line before the slip. She will feel a windup into the slipping for the second step. At the advanced level, the figure can have many different endings: turning basic with right lunge, turning basic into new yorker, turning basic with hip rocks. It can be syncopated.

Aida will be taught and cued slightly differently by many advanced clinicians, to encourage dancers to more emphasize its Bolero characteristics. Aida in rumba is QQS; in Bolero, the timing is SQQS, meaning the bolero is done somewhat differently. Cued as just aida, dancers will turn too quickly to reach the final pose. Try cueing: prepare the aida (SQQ), aida line (S) and (for example) hip rock (QQ). Teach dancers to remember that this is the other dance of love as they prepare the aida, make sure they look at each other and emote before turning into the aida line. This action is more characteristic of bolero.

From clinic notes prepared for the RAL Convention, 2016, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, August 2017.


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