The bolero is a musical genre and a dance that has been part of Hispanic American culture for more than 100 years. Its songs are sentimental and romantic. Their dance is intimate and sensual. This dance is perhaps the Hispanic American tradition that is most associated with romance and love. To dance this slow rhythm, the couple embraces each other in a romantic way.
Origin of the bolero
According to historians, the bolero originated in Cuba in the city of Santiago at the end of the 19th century.
In 1883 the Cuban composer, Pepe Sánchez, composed what is considered the first bolero in history, the song “Tristezas”.
At that time there were troubadours in Cuba who traveled from city to city singing their melodies accompanied by the guitar. The bolero comes from the musical tradition of these troubadours. It is also influenced by the contradiction.
Some historians think that the bolero inherited its name from the Spanish bolero. The Spanish bolero originated in Spain in the 18th century. With a slow rhythm, it was danced with castanets and guitar.
However, the musical structure of the Spanish bolero is very different from the musical structure of the Cuban bolero. Most historians think that one has nothing to do with the other; and that the only thing they share is the name, and perhaps some characteristics in the dance.
Popularization of the bolero
In the thirties and forties the bolero travels to the rest of Latin America. In Mexico and Puerto Rico the bolero is very popular. Great composers from those countries, such as Rafael Hernández and Agustín Lara, composed boleros that became popular throughout the Hispanic world.
At that time, musicians in Cuba also began to incorporate elements of son into the bolero. The bolero becomes a danceable rhythm. The great orchestras start to include it in their repertoires, adding other musical instruments, beyond the guitar.
The bolero becomes the most romantic dance music genre in Hispanic culture. For the first time in Hispanic society, it is accepted that the couple dance in such a close and intimate position.
The bolero as a ballroom dance
The bolero did not go unnoticed by the precursors of ballroom dancing. In the fifties, the master of ballroom dancing, Monsieur Pierre, brought to London what was known in Cuba as the bolero son.
The bolero son was a more danceable version of the bolero. In London, the steps and movements of this bolero were adapted to the Ballroom style, giving birth to what is known today as the Ballroom rumba. On the other hand, the North American school of ballroom dancing also adapted the bolero and incorporated it into their repertoire of Latin dances.
The bolero today
Today the bolero has a permanent place in the Hispanic culture as a genre and romantic dance. In the nineties it began to regain its place among the young generation, thanks to recordings made by singers such as Luis Miguel and Gloria Estefan.
The bolero is not lacking in a Latin party. In Latin music discos this dance is reserved for the end of the night. Couples hug and dance, dragging their steps to the slow, sentimental rhythm of the bolero.
Characteristics of the dance
In dance, the bolero has strong son influences. It is danced to a 2/4 rhythm (the original rhythm of the Cuban boleros) or to a 4/4 rhythm. It is a very sensual dance. In no other Latin dance the couple has such an intimate position as in the bolero.
The steps in the bolero are very simple. The couple moves slowly staying in almost the same place. As in salsa, the bolero has three steps in three beats and a pause in the fourth beat. The hips move with each step, even in the pause. The first step is executed in the second beat of the rhythm. The three steps are taken to the side. Or the first step is taken to the side, and the next two to the front or back.
In the bolero Ballroom style the couple does not embrace each other and the steps are more stylized. The basic step consists of a slow step to the side that is executed on the second and third beats of the rhythm; and two fast steps to the front or back that are executed on the fourth beat of the rhythm.