Bolero -- Rumba with a BIG Difference!
By Kristine & Bruce Nelson
Difference”! Bolero is not just another rumba. Bolero is a smooth
rhythm danced with significant rise and fall and use of contra body
movement. The figures are similar to those found in rumba, but each
figure is commenced with a preceding slow side step with rise.
Character/Flavor The bolero is certainly the most romantic of the Latin-style
-- it is more passionate than rumba. Bolero is also the slowest
(between 21 and 26 measures per minute) of the dance rhythms. The
music is lyrical and generally has a Latin flavor (often with a
vocal) with underlying rhythmic syncopations. Dancing bolero
requires controlled execution with strong expression. The bodies
move together fluidly and even intimately. The flavor is that of
lovers (Yes, even passionately!)
dancing as one.
Rhythm The basic rhythm is slow, quick, quick (1, -, 3, 4;) which
similar to both foxtrot and slow-two-step rhythms. Some figures may
be danced with two slows or four quicks, and syncopations may be used
(more frequently in Phases V & VI).
Dance Position Closed dance position is similar to the smooth rhythms with
woman on the man’s right side slightly at an angle and held
slightly looser than in the smooth rhythms. The joined man’s left
and woman’s right hands may be held up in standard closed position
held low next to the man’s left leg. The body is relaxed with soft
knees, but dancers maintain strength and control in the thighs. Both
dancers maintain their own upright balance and a ‘flat’ back.
When in an open facing position, the partners maintain tone in the
connected arms to facilitate leading and following. While dancing
bolero, the partners often make eye contact, which enhances the
romantic expression. The free arms are an extension of the body and
may be held to the side, side and back, or raised, following the
movement or sway and the body line.
Movement Body weight is centered over the weighted foot. While
good balance, the body moves to the side, forward, or back through
the legs. There is the feeling of a controlled push or drive from
the weighted foot to the free foot. The turning and break figures
may utilize left and right sways. There is definite shaping to the
partner. Because of the smooth leg movement, hip action is minimal
but may occasionally be used to accent a figure.
Action Bolero utilizes more rise and fall than we find in foxtrot.
action is developed in the leg and body, not the foot and ankle. The
basic figures start with a side step (S), pushing off from the
weighted foot, sliding the free foot on the inside edge of the ball
before taking weight on the flat of the foot, and staying low until
weight is transferred, where there is significant body rise. (The
body rise has the effect of changing the sideways momentum to
vertical, thereby allowing one to achieve strong balance and enabling
the next step to be taken in any direction.) The second step (Q) is
a taken on the ball of the foot quickly and smoothly lowering. It is
the shortest step of the three. The third step (Q) is usually taken
in the opposite direction of the second step with the body staying
low and well into soft knees onto the ball of the foot. This is not
a recover step. It is a slightly longer step than the second,
pushing off and driving from the weighted foot, and remaining low so
one is ready for the next figure (which starts low and ends with body
rise at the end of the first step, etc.). In general, the free leg
is not collected directly under the body on the third step as that
would tend to cause an early or premature rise. It is important to
emphasize the SLOW (Slo-ohhh) step which helps to attain a good rise.
You may visualize an ocean wave as it starts low, rises to a crest
(step 1, S), and then quickly falls down (step 2, Q), before receding
to begin the cycle again (step 3, Q). This is a picture of the rise
and fall that is used in bolero.
leading and following is particularly important because of the slow
bolero tempo. It aids in maintaining good control and helps develop
continuity and fluidity. The lady must not anticipate the man’s
timing. As the man initiates movement, the lady responds and blends
her actions to his. The result is the feeling of moving as one
The man’s body is
primary lead. The man shapes his body and/or arm to indicate where
he wants the lady to go. Her role as follower is to move when the
man moves and travel to where the man’s body is pointing.
The joined hand(s)
important secondary lead especially through turns and passes. Both
dancers must maintain tone in the joined arms to have a connection
through which the lead can be communicated and received.
following important Phase IV and V figures. As you do, try to
incorporate proper rise and fall, good bolero action, and toned lead
timing is SQQ unless indicated.
This article is taken from clinic notes, ICBDA Convention, San Antonio TX, July 2010 and was published in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, February 2011.