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.
TIMING, COUNT, AND TEMPO
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
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.
HOLD AND USE OF ARMS
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
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.
USE OF FEET
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.
CONTRA BODY MOVEMENT
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
From clinic notes prepared for the annual RAL convention, 1990, and published in the ROUNDALAB Journal, summer 1990.
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