The Bolero!

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The Bolero - An Overview

The bolero is classified as a rhythm dance so just as I was asked many years ago by the incomparable Bobby Medeiros, I ask you now, “What is a main characteristic of the Rhythm dances?”

My answer was the correct one but is yours?

It should be Cuban motion. So what does that mean for bolero? When you hit a pose and wiggle? No! It means that Cuban motion is within the basic structure. Yet it also has rise and fall. Technically, the bolero has everything; rise and fall, stride, rotation, cbm, cbmp, smooth and rhythm hold, ball flat action, and the main characteristic of all rhythm dances – Cuban motion.

Originally, bolero wasn’t in either the bronze or silver syllabus. It was considered an advanced dance but as more students competed, it was included in silver and eventually bronze. However, there never seemed to be an overall understanding of the technique. Henceforth, very few knew how to teach the basic action.

I do feel that understanding the use of the rise and fall, which is somewhat different from waltz, is very important in understanding how to incorporate the addition of Cuban motion. There are basically 2 types of rise and fall; foot rise and body rise. In waltz you do foot rise into body rise but in bolero you do body rise into foot rise. The foot rise is also a quicker rise than that used in waltz. The lowering is the same. Another important aspect of the rise of bolero is that it should move across and up; not just up. It should also be incorporated in walks, swivels, and turns.

The basic hold is just like smooth hold but the rhythm hold can be incorporated as well. To really understand how to do Cuban motion within the basic structure, we have to restructure the old definition of it: Cuban motion is the lateral movement of the hips caused by the bending and straightening of the legs. Change 2 of those words and it means something totally different. Replace “caused by” with “causing” and add rib cage: Cuban motion is the lateral movement of the hips and rib cage causing the bending and straightening of the legs. Otherwise, how can you do Cuban motion when lowering into the legs? Is there anything physical you do using the legs first? Walk? Run? Sit down or stand up? Kick a ball?

The lowering brings on another subject particularly from a back break. You do not lower maintaining a straight, forward leg from a back break. This prevents you from; (A), being able to do Cuban motion because the hip can only be down; (B), lose support of the free side; and (C), irritate the hip joint. There is no reason for the leg to fully extend until you are ready to move in that direction.

I’m all about understanding how the muscles work to cause the action of all your “appendages”; legs, arms, and head. Utilizing the muscles absorbs the action and decreases the strain put on the joints. After all, that’s why we were born with them.

I have to admit that whenever I am judging and hear, “…the bolero”, I'm just hoping to see some semblance of a bolero basic. Remember sometimes it’s not the best of the best! My very first pre-champ event that my partner and I won many years ago, I was told by a judge, Pete Taylor, “You know we were judging the best of the worst.” Any of you who knew Pete, this was not an unusual comment from him! R.I.P, Pete!

Susie Thompson is a former undefeated US National Professional Rhythm Champion.

  • Report by:: Susie Thompson
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