What Is the Bolero?

The Bolero rhythm was historically in 3/4, and is normally characterized by numerous Spanish vocals and subtle percussion, at a tempo of 20 to 25 measures per minute. It is danced based on a “slip pivot”, which is a typical rotation of the body on the ball of a supporting foot. This creates a pivot back and forth, while the body rises and falls except for the feet. The effect of the combination of these body movements and the “slip pivot” is a pattern of smooth and powerful dance moves that bring out a romantic feeling to the dancers and the audience.

The Bolero involves eight steps in two sets: the slow, quick, and quick steps. The slow has two beats, while each quick has one beat. Bolero dancers bend knees in positions such that the posture forms a straight line from shoulder to hip. The bent leg rises and slides towards the side by sliding the ball of the foot across the floor. This step can be performed once, or as many as five times. During the slower second beat, dancers pull up, straightening the knee until it’s flexed but not locked. In beat two or six, going up on one toe is another common move, though it is not necessary. On beats three and seven, dancers bend gradually while lowering themselves, before coming back to the first position. In this position, dancers bend their knee slowly to complete beats four and eight.

The History Of The Bolero

Originally, the Bolero was a dance for couples, and was played at many weddings and family events. Years later, interest expanded, and composers adapted it for larger venues, with more talented dancers and dynamic choreography. Italian ballet specialists performing in Spain influenced the Bolero’s success in theatres. This growth continued into the twentieth century, with the opening of many Bolero schools and training companies.

The Bolero, whose music was initially in the 3/4 metre with a moderately slow tempo, consisted of three ‘coplas’, or verses. Each copla lasted for 36 bars. A copla was made up of 3 parts, each followed by a swap in the positioning of the dancers. The culminating pose of each part is known as ‘parada’. The end of a copla was crowned with a dramatic pose, or ‘bien parada’.

Ever since its inception, the Bolero has undergone many changes, notably: the 3/4 meter changed to a 2/4 meter under Cuban influence, and later to 4/4 as practiced in Arthur Murray Studios. Arthur Murray instructors have kept up with the changes to the dance, and are flexible in their teaching. You will find yourself practicing some of the oldest all-time classic techniques, while keeping abreast of the latest innovations in the dance.

How to Dance The Bolero

The dance comprises three coplas. Each copla contains 36 bars. You’ll dance to a steady tempo here. Coplas are succeeded by a position switch, or parada. You’ll finish your copla with a bienparado. This is a bold pose, and forms an essential part of many Spanish dances.

The basic movement comprises six steps similar to the rumba alternative basic, and the mambo basic. Your timing here would be slow-quick-quick. There are two counts for music here. Your first step comprises a side step, with a back rock, and your second step is a side step, succeeded by a forward rock.

The rise and fall motion here is often compared to the rise and fall motion of the classic waltz. Basic elevation is used here, and you may, or may not use a foot rise. Remember that a foot rise adds complexity, so it’s advisable to omit this if you’re new to dancing.

Hip movement can be incorporated when partners are in an open, or closed facing stance. You may also add some body shaping moves into your basic bolero with the contra check, and the back check motion.

You can also add an element of fun here with your castanets, for special effect. You may have to learn how to play these though. Don’t worry, as these are easy to master with a bit of practice. Simply hold these by its handles, but remember to always keep a finger on the upper castanet. Stroke the castanet against your knee for sound. Try to use the ones derived from rose wood for the best effect.