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Introducing Bolero To Your Dancers

by Pat and Joe Hilton

Teachers, does the thought of trying to introduce Bolero to your dancers cause you a bit of anxiety and make you wonder “should I really try this”? If it does, we hope these thoughts will help alleviate some of those anxieties and let you answer that question with a resounding “yes I should do it”.

The Characteristics of Bolero – Per the ROUNDALAB PHASE III Manual

  • Rhythm Timing – In round dancing, the Bolero rhythm is denoted in 4/4 timing. Bolero is danced using the count of SQQ with rise within the body on the appropriate step.
  • Rise And Fall – The rise occurs as complete transfer of weight is taken onto the first step side with progression from a lowered position with soft knees. Maximum height is reached at the end of the first step. Lowering commences as step 2 is taken. Continue to lower through step 3 with slight progression in the direction of the step. Transfer of weight between step 3 and step 1 of the next measure has no body rise—it is taken in the lowered position with soft knees.
  • Step Length – The stepping length in most figures follows the pattern of the longest step on step one because it is from a lowered position, the shortest is on step two because it from an elevated position, and the medium length step is on step three as lowering is continued. Syncopations and certain figures may alter the rise and fall and step length patterns.

Introducing Bolero Figures to New Bolero Dancers

When introducing a new rhythm such as Bolero, we need to remember to keep it as simple as possible while still getting the flavor of the rhythm. We do not try to teach the beginning Bolero dancers everything we know about Bolero techniques. When learning something new, the dancers can only focus on the basics. Said another way, they should only be given the first layer of techniques. Keep it simple. The primary teaching focus for beginners should answer the following questions:

  1. Where do I go? – Cover beginning and ending directions [LOD, WALL, RLOD, COH, DIAGONALS] and position [CP, SCP, BJO, SCAR, OP].
  2. How do I get there? – Tell them about the foot placement [where the step lands] and timing of the figure [SQQ; SS; etc.].

Use music with a strong beat to help the dancers get a feel for stepping on the beat of the music. This is very important because it helps the partners move together in unison.

Show how the figures the dancers learned in Rumba can be converted to Bolero figures. This significantly reduces the dancers’ learning curve, since many of the figure names are the same and contain some common elements.

Making the Process Fun

The idea is to keep the early sessions moving and fun by giving the dancers a chance to get the feel of the Bolero rhythm and helping dancers to be successful during the first class session. Build a short routine that will allow them to “dance a Bolero” by the end of that class. The dance may contain only three or four figures but that will not matter to the dancers because they will have successfully danced Bolero after only one class session. Use a short piece of music with a strong beat. Help them be successful in learning where their feet go and in dancing to the rhythm.


Here, we have looked at ways to introduce Bolero to new Bolero dancers by concentrating on  foot placement, rhythm, and fun. Remember: Keep it simple, keep it fun, help them to be successful, and above all, ENJOY THE MOMENT.

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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