This dance is often said to have the rise and fall of Waltz, the contra-body action of Tango, and the rhythm of Rumba. It is often a favourite of higher-level dancers, as it incorporates many techniques whose objective is to create a slow, sensual, romantic dance with lots of expressive movements.
The romantic Bolero is the slowest of the Rhythm dances and is considered the “dance of love” in the American Style. It combines controlled movement with dramatic expression of the music.
- Rise & Fall–Learn grace and poise through balance
- Lead & Follow–Develop arm and hand connections
- Timing–Learn the control necessary for slow music
- Arm Styling–Create contrasting speed of arms and hands
- Footwork–Develop the use of knees and ankles to create soft movement
- Compare/Contrast–Waltz, Rumba, Tango
Bolero is a term used to describe several forms of music and dance. The oldest version appears to be the Spanish Bolero originating in the 1780’s, danced to 3/4 time music and related to Fandango. The Bolero that is danced by ballroom dance enthusiasts today and is thought to have evolved from the Cuban Bolero. The Cuban Bolero was named after its Spanish counterpart but shares basically no similarity and is related more to the Rumba and Mambo through its musical and historical associations.
The first Bolero music in the Cuban tradition was written in 1883, called “Tristezas”, by Pepe Sanchez. This lyrical type of music, sometimes with sophisticated harmonies, came to incorporate popular romantic poetry of the day. It was not widely played in non-Latin North America until the 1930’s when the American public began to be fascinated with Latin rhythms including the Rumba and the Beguine (a similar music from the West Indies).
Since that time the romantic ballads of the Bolero tradition have become a permanent part of both Latin and English language pop music genres. Today the Bolero is known as the “dance of love” in the American Rhythm style and is danced in professional competition in that division.
Bolero is danced to music which has a rhythm similar to Rumba, but is slower and usually with less accented percusion – music played in the melodic style of Latin ballad. Music for Bolero is played in 4/4 time and its tempo is slower than that of both the International and American Styles of Rumba, approximately 24bpm (bars per minute).
While Rumba music is strongly rhythmical, the Bolero is usually more lyrical, melodic and is performed with strong romantic feeling or other deeply felt undertones.
The basic step is similar to the same basic step in Mambo, International Style Rumba and the progressive basic of Salsa – Side to left, rock back, right, left, then side to left, rock forward left, right and repeat. The basic count used is SQQ (Slow, Quick, Quick) and is commenced with a side step on count ‘1’ in the music.
The Bolero is characterized by long sweeping side steps and slight use of rise and fall creating a smoothness that makes this dance unique among the Rhythm and Latin dances. The rocking action is also unique here and it is known as a “progressive rock” that is an essential part of the character of the dance. In the progressive rock the first step of the rock is very small, almost closing the feet, and the second step of the rock is progressed forward or back with a sliding, smooth action.
At the appropriate stage of learning Bolero is a great dance for developing an advanced partnership connection. Bolero is known as an advanced dancer’s dance and takes considerable skill to master. It can be danced as a social dance by the advanced dancer but is definitely not a dance for someone who wants to ‘blend in’ on the dance floor as it is a dance that will virtually always ‘stand out’ on the floor.
The exaggerated expanding and contracting dance position of the Bolero is physically very elastic and can make a very dramatic and romantic statement. At it’s highest level Latin hip action similar to Rumba is incorporated with the lyrical feel, along with exaggerated ‘rippling’ body actions, creating a romantic yet very sexy effect.
Bolero songs and artists include:
- Con Los Anos Que Me Quedan – Gloria Estefan
- Why – Annie Lennox
- Sin Excusas Ni Rodeos – Julio Iglesias
- From Here to Eternity – Frank Sinatra
- White Flag – Dido
- Besame Mucho – Andrea Bocelli
- Belleza – Marta Sanchez
- Stay Now – Jem
- Porcupine Tree – Lazarus
- Lo So Che Finira – Anna Tatangelo
- Set Fire to the Rain – Adele
- Satisfy My Soul – Paul Carrack