by Harold & Meredith Sears
4 beats/measure; 22 - 28 meas/min
Bolero was a Spanish dance in 3/4 time during the 1700s, but it was danced to 2/4 music and then to 4/4 music in Cuba during the 1800s, and it became popular in the United States in the 1930s. Round dancing picked up this rhythm in the 1990s. The classic example is Sleeping Beauty by Brent and Mickey Moore, released in 1993. Bolero is smooth, powerful, romantic, full of love and yearning. It has been called the "Cuban Dance of Love."
Bolero is characterized by a closer hold, almost a waltz closed position, by the side step that begins most figures, by body rise during that first step, and by one of the slowest tempos in round dancing.
The rise and fall constitute one crucial feature of bolero. Begin each measure in a lowered position with soft knees. Rise to a height at the end of the long first step (the slow), lower a little for a small second step (the first quick), and then lower more for a medium third step (the second quick). You are now low and ready for the next side step. The rise and fall is in the body, not in the feet and ankles. Again, step well to the side on the slow in a lowered position. Don't rise as you step, but step and then rise to two straight legs. The two quicks are not just a rock and recover, but take a small step, really just placing the foot in preparation for a substantial third step. It might feel like "step, rise, push, crash."A second key feature of bolero is a heaviness, an inertia, and a connectedness between the partners, from one body, through the arms, to the other body. So you don't just take the steps described above. You have tone that connects you to your partner, and each helps the other take each step. There is a dragging kind of feel and a consequent smooth flow. Especially during the "quick, quick," he pulls and then she pulls. Maybe it's like swinging on a double playground swing: he pumps and then she pumps.Bolero is certainly a Latin rhythm, but there is not much use of the Latin or Cuban hip motion that is more noticeable in rumba and in mambo. We would use Cuban hip motion in Bolero Walks, but in other common figures, body rotation would be more important. As you step to the side on the left foot, rotate a little left face. As you step back with the right, keep that rotation—we are using contra-body movement. In rumba, you tend to dance square to your partner, but in bolero, you dance at an angle, always rotating. Bob Powers, an accomplished ballroom instructor, says that we don't use a lot of body sway. We don't shape to our partners. We maintain an erect posture and turn on the long axis of the body—always moving, always at an angle, always turning. He also emphasizes "fast feet/slow body." During the slow count, get your foot out there, but let the body lag behind and slowly flow over the whole two beats. You will see below that Roundalab does emphasize body stretch and shape, but bolero is slinky. The body never stops; it stays in motion.
The steps are not taken with a heel lead but are taken ball-flat. Slide the inside edge of the ball of the foot across the floor, take weight, then lower the heel.