The Character Of Bolero
by Brent & Judy Moore
as a dance is actually a marriage of many influences -- Smooth ballroom
(waltz), Rhythm (rumba), and ballet -- but it is not dominated by any
of these root rhythms. It does have a strong rise and fall action in
the basic figures like waltz, with the maximum elevation occurring on
the slow; however, the elevation is achieved with the leg and body and
not with the ankle and foot as in the smooth dances. Footwork is very
Latin in character and is primarily a ball-flat action as in rumba --
no heel leads! In some figures, especially syncopated ones, the
elevation is constant and can be up or down. Unlike the rumba, there is
no Cuban motion of the hips in the fundamental figures. Hip rolling
action is used occasionally as an accent or for contrast. Likewise, the
hold is not the same as in Latin dances but is a slightly modified
waltz dance hold with the partner offset to the right.
All that basically means is that bolero dances with a waltz hold in
closed position, Latin feet in all figures, and rise and fall like
waltz (but the rise is early rather than late as in waltz).
The tempos of bolero are among the slowest in dancing -- as slow as 22
measures per minute (waltz is 28-30). As such, it requires significant
patience and a strong commitment to sustaining the movement. Much of
the color and flavor of the dance lies in the contrast of strong and
soft lines and quick and slow movements. Capturing the romance of the
dance lies in good execution of these contrasting actions.
As with most rhythms, bolero has a few defining figures that exemplify
its fundamental actions and character. The ones that we think of as the
essentials are the basic, the three or four fundamental breaks, and the
passes. With these as nuclei, figures from other dances or individual
creative balletic actions are woven together to create distinctive
Even though we are now beginning to "mature" in the rhythm (more
syncopations, more use of smooth base figures, more balletic movements)
the key to maintaining competency is to not lose touch with these
fundamentals. As with most American Rhythm dances, there are several
approaches to fundamental action that can be used and the approach a
couple uses will depend on their training and individual preferences.
We mix and blend about three approaches in our dancing to hopefully add
color and individuality. In most respects, they are the same but they
emphasize differences in leg speed or stepping distance to give a
unique feel and appearance to particular movements. We also will break
the prohibition about foot rise to achieve some effects or extra drama
in an action.
We find that using a variety of styles creates very distinctive
differences in the appearance of a dance. We also find that not all
figures and movements look and feel as good or as right using just one
style. We choose the style we think best fits the figure or
amalgamation and/or our physical skills. We occasionally alternate
styles on some figures for the contrast that this offers, as well.
Having such a rich source for material and style, bolero is one of the
most enjoyable rhythms to perform. Great pleasure can be gained by
developing and utilizing a style that works for you, by paying
attention to the details, and by using variations in action that add
notes for a URDC/ICBDA convention,
in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, April 2018.