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1. Basic Movement

The Bolero Basic Movement is a pattern of six steps that are similar in foot positions to that of the Mambo Basic and the Rumba Alternative Basic, but with a very different interpretation of the style of movement. There are actually several different interpretations of Bolero movement, but they all share the following characteristics: A certain degree of elevation and lowering of the body unique to the Bolero, and a modified form of rock step where the lowering of the body causes the second step of the rock to be longer than the first.

The Bolero basic timing is "slow, quick, quick", where the quick-quick counts are the rock steps. The Bolero Basic Movement consists of two measures of music, the first a step to the side followed by a back rock, and the second a step to the side followed by a forward rock. Because the lady is facing the man, she has the natural opposite, starting on the opposite foot with the second half of the movement.

Elevation and Lowering

A unique characteristic of the Bolero is the elevation and lowering of the body. It is often compared to the rise and fall of Waltz, although it is generally less pronounced. The elevation in Bolero can include foot rise, but does not have to, with the majority of the elevation being a result of the bending and straightening of the knees.

There are several variations of elevation and lowering in Bolero. The Basic Movement uses what is known as Basic Elevation: The movement begins with knees flexed, and the dancers rise gradually throughout the slow count. The first quick is up as the step is taken, resulting in a small step. Immediately thereafter the supporting knee is flexed and the free foot extended, so that the second quick is taken as a longer step, arriving on a flexed knee. The sequence is then repeated for the second half of the Basic.

Foot Rise and Footwork

Footwork in Bolero comes in two varieties, depending on whether foot rise is used. Some dancers prefer Bolero with foot rise while others prefer it without. Foot rise adds difficulty, so even if it is the dancer's ultimate goal to include it, it is best learned for a time without.

Without foot rise, Bolero footwork is similar to that of the other Rhythm dances: Most steps are taken ball-flat, with back steps being taken ball-heel.

With foot rise, the footwork is as follows:

  • LF side: Ball-heel-toe
  • RF back (small step): Toe-heel
  • LF forward: Ball-flat
  • RF side: Ball-heel-toe
  • LF forward (small step): Toe-heel
  • RF back: Ball-heel (releasing heel of front foot)

Hip Motion

Hip motion in the Bolero Basic Movement is only executed with man and lady in closed facing or open (non-contact) position. When used, is similar to that of Rumba, where each step is followed by a settling of the hip in the direction of the supporting leg. But unlike Rumba, the hip motion is taken concurrently with the elevation and lowering.

It is important to understand that hip motion, being an advanced technique in Bolero, is not required. But when it is used, it can only be present in non-contact positions such as closed facing and various open positions. Closed contact position is mutually exclusive with hip motion, because each one interferes with the other.

1b. Basic Movement in Contact Position

There are two versions of the Bolero Basic Movement: The simple version, taken in closed facing position with or without hip motion, and the more stylized version, taken in closed contact position without hip motion.

Closed contact position gives the Bolero Basic a more Waltz-like appearance, due to the body contact itself, the elevation and lowering, the lack of hip motion and the body shaping. It also allows for a greater degree of turn: Whereas the normal Basic Movement in non-contact position can turn up to 1/2 to left over the 6 steps, the Basic Movement in contact position can turn up to 7/8 total.

Body Shaping

There are two optional Waltz-like body shaping actions in the Bolero Basic Movement when taken in contact position, popular amongst more advanced dancers: The "Back Check" action, taken on step 1, and the "Contra Check" action, taken over steps 5-6.

The Back Check is a slight turning of the upper body by both man and lady to the right, the lady extending her head and upper body outward, as the weight is transferred onto step 1. The bodies are then squared off and shape restored as the next step is taken. Although high in difficulty, the Back Check is considered an acceptable interpretation by dancers of all levels in almost all American style syllabi, and is allowed in all levels at most American dance competitions.

The Contra Check is an interpretation of steps 5-6, the man's forward rock. The preceding rise is either less pronounced or nonexistent, the knees being flexed immediately prior to step 5. The first step of the rock is taken in CBMP, slightly longer than normal, and the man leads the lady to extend her head and upper body outward. The normal position is then restored as weight is returned on step 6. The rock step is taken without turn. Because it is so similar to the Contra Check of the gold level Waltz, the Contra Check action in Bolero is generally not allowed at the bronze and silver levels of most syllabi and dance competitions.

1c. Basic Movement Ended Open

This figure illustrates the technique used to transition from Closed to Open (Progressive) Basic, or from Closed Basic to any figure in open position.

It begins with steps 1-3 of the Closed Basic. (The closed contact Basic is shown, but it can also be done from closed facing / non-contact position). On step 3, the man prepares by increasing tone in the arms and extending them, in order to lead the lady to begin moving apart. Step 4 is taken diagonally forward by the man, straight back by the lady, ended in open facing position. The figure is then followed by steps 5-6 of Progressive Basic, or any figure in open position.


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