Bolero is a name given to certain slow tempo Latin music, and its associated dance and song.
The history of Bolero is a bit of a mystery. It probably 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 1930s.
The Spanish bolero is a 3/4 dance that originated in Spain in the late 18th century. Dancer Sebastiano Carezo is credited with inventing the dance in 1780.
The Cuban bolero tradition originated in Santiago de Cuba in the last quarter of the 19th century. It does not owe its origin to the Spanish music and song of the same name. In the 19th century Santiago de Cuba there was a group of itinerant musicians who moved around earning their living by singing and playing the guitar. This kind of life had probably been going on for some time, but it first came into focus when individuals left their marks on Cuban popular music.
The bolero is perhaps the first great Cuban musical and vocal synthesis to win universal recognition. Jose "Pepe" Sanchez (1856-1918) is known as the creator of the Cuban bolero. The Cuban bolero spread to Mexico and the rest of Latin America soon after its conception.
In Cuba, the bolero is usually written in 2/4 time, elsewhere often in 4/4. The music has a gentle Cuban rhythm related to the slow son, which is the reason it may be best described as a bolero-son. Like some other Cuban dances, there are three steps to four beats, with the first step of a figure on the second beat.
In international ballroom, a version of the Cuban bolero is danced throughout the Latin dance world, supervised by the World Dance Council, under the misnomer "Rumba". This came about in the early 1930s when a simple overall term was needed to market the Cuban music to audiences unfamiliar with the various Cuban musical terms.
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.
Bolero is the slowest rhythm dance. In competitive dance the music is in 4/4 time and will range from 96 to 104 bpm.
Rumba is often called the dance of love, so is the bolero. The music and the feeling of bolero enhance a sense of love and romance. Slow, graceful, romantic, movements and actions characterize the bolero.
As a close cousin of the Rumba, it shares the same footwork timing and many similar figures such as cross body leads, open breaks, underarm turns, fifth position breaks and crossover breaks. As with rumba, the basic footwork timing is three steps are taken to four beats of music.
The basic step of bolero is a long, sweeping step to the side typically taken on the first beat and holding the second beat, followed by a rock step forward or backward on the third and fourth beats. In this way, the basic step of bolero is somewhat similar to the basic step of nightclub two-step.
This dance is quite different from the other American Rhythm dances in that it not only requires Cuban motion but also rise and falls such as found in the Waltz, contra body movement and stretching action.
Popular music for this dance style need not be Latin in origin.
Some typical bolero songs are:
- "Beautiful Maria of My Soul"
The Mambo All Stars
The Mambo Kings;
- "Mas Alla"
Gloria Estefan and Abriendo Puertas;
- "Live to Tell"
The Immaculate Collection;
- "My Heart Will Go On"
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