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An Introduction to Bolero

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Description of Bolero

Along with cha cha, rumba, east coast swing, and mambo, bolero is one of the five rhythm competition dances in American style ballroom dance competition. The bolero is a close cousin of the Rumba, sharing the same footwork timing and many similar figures. Bolero is the slowest rhythm dance. The music tempo is only 96 beats per minute. As with rumba, the basic footwork timing is slow-quick-quick. As with rumba, three steps are taken to four beats of music and the music is written in 4/4 time. For spectators, it is often difficult to distinguish bolero from rumba. It is also difficult to class music as either rumba or bolero. In competitions, the “standard tempo” of rumba music is 104 beats per minute, which is slightly faster than the “standard tempo” of Bolero music, which is 96 beats per minute.
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Character of Bolero

Rumba is often called the dance of love but so is the bolero. The music and the feeling of bolero enhances a sense of love and romance. Slow, graceful, romantic, movements and actions characterize the bolero.
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The Basic Step of Bolero

The basic step of bolero is a long, sweeping step to the side on the slow beat, followed by a rock step forward or backward, on the quick-quick beats. In this way, the basic step of bolero is somewhat similar to the basic step of nightclub two-step.

Unlike the rumba, the bolero traditionally includes rise and fall and stretching actions. During the slow step, there is an extension and lift of the body.

As with the rumba, the bolero uses figures such as cross body leads, open breaks, underarm turns, fifth position breaks and crossover breaks.
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History of Bolero

The history of Bolero is a bit of a mystery. Bolero has the same Afro-Cuban roots as the Rumba and is thought to have originated from Cuban or Spanish folk dances such as the Danzon and Beguine. It was introduced in the United States in the 1930’s.

Originally a Spanish dance in 3/4 time, it was changed in Cuba initially into 2/4 time then eventually into 4/4. The music is frequently arranged with Spanish vocals and a subtle percussion effect, usually implemented with guitar, conga or bongos.
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Bolero Music

Some typical bolero songs are:
  1. "Beautiful Maria of My Soul" - The Mambo All Stars from the album The Mambo Kings: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
  2. "Mas Alla" - Gloria Estefan and Abriendo Puertas
  3. "Live to Tell" - Madonnafrom the album The Immaculate Collection
  4. "My Heart Will Go On" - Celine Dion from the movie soundtrack to Titanic
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