Dancing 101: The Bolero

By ABC.com Aug 22, 2013


The history of the 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 Danzon and Beguine. It was introduced in the United States in the 1930s. 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.


Character: love and romance
Movement: slow, graceful, romantic movements
Timing: 4/4

The Bolero is the slowest of all the Latin American ballroom dances. It is often called the Cuban "Dance of Love," because of its slow and dreamy tempo and its beautiful melodies.

The first step is typically taken on the first beat, held during the second beat with two more steps falling on beats three and four. The dance is quite different from the other American Rhythm dances in that it requires Cuban motion and rise and fall.

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. 

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.