On a Midnight Bolero

Click the video above for background music that is appropriate for this post.

 

Embed from Getty Images

 

Stars filled the night sky. A gentle cool breeze from the sea tempers the warm air. The outdoor patio at Cafe Romantico, which overlooking the city and the sea below. Rhythms of Spanish guitars fitting fill the air for this place by the sea.

The small audience remains as the night nears its end. He – a blonde, blue-eyed American in the area for business. She – a lady of the region with olive skin and long, straight, dark hair.

As a dancer knowing the rhythm, the slower-paced song speaks to him He approaches her, “Un Bolero, Señora por favor.”

She nods while offering her hand. They walk onto the dance floor of beautiful tile displaying the region’s intricate designs.

Their hands join. Their thighs touch. Her left hand goes to his shoulder. His right arm embraces her to complete the frame. They don’t know each other, yet they are one.

As a dancer, he is wise. Initial patterns are easy as each acclimates to the other. Each notices the skill level of the other. He smiles to her and she senses the simplicity is about to change.

Bolero is long and stretchy. They are close, then apart, then close. Low, then high, then low. She sends him messages through her slinky frame, moving arms, and sensual face with dark eyes. He attempts to remain unflappable, yet she motivates him.

They are close, she whispers to him in his native language. He responds by leading everything he knows. Walks, turns, contras, rondes, sweethearts, moons, sways, passes, checks, syncopated, and switches – and she answers his lead every time while continually speaking to him through her nonverbal cues as if she’s drawing him into her web.

He tries to ignore, but he can’t help notice her sensuality. Her movements speak to him – but that’s Bolero – let alone the setting.

The song ends. They silently stare into each others eyes. Seemingly eternity passes. And …. this was his night to remember on Spain’s Costa del Sol.

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On Bolero

For appropriate background music, click the video above for. You will have to stop it for the other videos.

 

Bolero – a style of music that is not music for Bolero the dance. For instance, Ravel’s Boléro is not meant for dancing a Bolero

Bolero – a slow dance to Latin music

Bolero – a dance with expressions through the arms, hands, legs, feet and face

Bolero – a fluid, slinky dance with rise-and-fall plus contra body movement (the upper and lower body slighting twisting in opposite directions)

If Cha-Cha is the tease and Rumba is foreplay, Bolero is the act of love

Image from ballroomdancers.com

 

History
Dance historians credit Spanish dancer Sebastian Cereza for creating Bolero in 1780

Bolero originally danced in 3/4 time

When Bolero music reached Cuba in the mid-1800s, it fused with African music and the timing changed to 2/4 or 4/4

Bolero originally a dance for a couple, but later adapted for large group choreography (which helped spread its popularity)

Bolero introduced America in the mid-1930s

Spanish and Cuban Bolero forms still exist today

Cuban Bolero (aka Bolero Son and International Rumba) is similar to American Ballroom Rumba, that is slightly faster than Bolero

 

Basic Steps
Bolero – a popular social ballroom dance, but also a competitive dance in American Rhythm ballroom

Bolero – danced in 4/4 time, usually at 96-104 beats per minute (slow than the Cuban Bolero in the previous video)

Basic pattern consists of six steps over two measures of music (eight beats)

Bolero’s basic pattern is as follows: (Note: Slow = two beats, Quick = one beat) Slow-Quick-Quick-Slow-Quick-Quick … (repeat)

1) Partners facing each other in standard ballroom hold

2) Bodies lower before a large, lunging step to the side (lead to the left, follower to the right), then raising on the second beat after the weight transfer (2 counts, slow)

3) Two rock steps follow (1 count each, quick-quick) that are smaller than the large side step. (Lead goes back then forward, the follower forward then back). Lowering for the next sequence occurs on the second small step.

4) Repeat the large, side step in the opposite direction.

5) Repeat the two rock steps (also opposite as below).

Watching this video will make more sense to the abbreviated written instructions.

 

When danced well, Bolero is a beautiful dance. With its long, fluid motions to go along with the music’s slow tempo, Bolero is full of expression, drama, and passion. The smooth, gliding, twisting actions, and accompanying rise and fall help make Bolero the beautiful dance of love. Enjoy the high-quality Bolero in the video below.

On Lead and Follow

A search for quotes about “lead and follow” provides many references to leadership friendship, and other relationships. Although they are very applicable, Lead and Follow is also about ballroom dance.

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When starting to learn ballroom dance, the focus is on hold and basic feet movements. At that stage, Lead and Follow is more like memorizing: Lead does this, then the follower does that. More steps means more memorizing. However, in time, Lead and Follow becomes very important – and it’s not easy. So what is Lead and Follow?

Lead and Follow is the essence of social ballroom dance, which is not choreographed. Lead and Follow is an interaction between two people that allows them to synchronize motions to compliment each other and the music. Lead and Follow is about dancing together and enjoying each other with the Lead being responsible for initiating steps and patterns while navigating the floor and planning ahead while the Follower interprets and executes the signals from the Lead.

Given a variety of skill levels present in a social ballroom dance setting, it is paramount the Lead recognizes their partner’s ability level and leads within that level. I frequently see the following at social dance: A lead is given, but the follower didn’t respond with the expected step. The Lead then goes into instructional mode of “When I do this, you do that.” That is not Lead and Follow! Yes, some of their problems may be due to skill level differences, but most is due to the lack of connection between the dancers; therefore poor directions delivers poor results.

I still recall one particular lesson we had with an instructor who wasn’t our regular one. (It probably was within the first or second year of our lessons). Her points were simple: Leads should be subtle, but clear; Followers needs to tune in to detect the subtle signal, and then respond accordingly. Both leading and following are difficult skills, but can come with experience.

Image from Microsoft Office

Lead and Follow requires a connection between the partners because that connection is the communication line transmitting signals through a strong frame. With the goal of moving together as one, signals travel through any of the following (or combination of): whole body, core, shoulders, hips, back, elbows, arms, hands, legs, and feet, plus extensions and compressions.

For me, my dance frame has been strong for much of my dance journey. Therefore, I notice when my partner’s frame is weak – which makes communication difficult. No wonder dancers struggle when both frames are weak because the communication line is (at best) on life support. I also know why ladies with good frames who struggle when they dance with men with poor frames.

Developing clear and subtle leads is a never-ending journey – and I admit that I haven’t always been subtle. Even though my frame, connection, and subtlety have improved with time, there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Yet, I now know that Lead and Follow is more like a series of act-and-react actions. After all, what if my partner does something different from I anticipated? It could mean my lead wasn’t clear – but it also means I have to react by keeping the time and adjusting my next movement while disbanding my anticipated plan – and then my partner must react to my adjusted signal – and then it’s back to me. This act-react cycle is ongoing throughout the entire dance until the music stops.

When things get out of whack, I admit to enjoying the maddening flurry of steps with a skilled partner to get us back in sync. Fortunately, I possess an ability to do that much of the time – although I may never duplicate the series again because I don’t know what I did. On the other hand, I also enjoy leading a less-experienced dancer to do steps they didn’t know.

There are numerous analogies for Lead and Follow. Lead is speaking while Follow is listening. Lead is communication while Follow is translating. Lead is the driver while Follow is the passenger. Lead is the offense while Follow is the patient defense. I’m sure there are more, but hopefully these analogies make sense.

No matter the ability, Lead and Follow is about the connection between the partners on two levels: with each other and with the music. My favorite dance partners are the ones with good frames that serve as the foundation of a good connection and they know how to follow.

On the other hand, two people who have never danced together can have a magical first dance – a dance that is socially flawless – well, as long as they have a strong connection with each other.

Recently, I have had some remarkable dancing with people I’ve never danced with before. The reasons are simple – a strong connection between two people, the ability to read each other, and comparable skills levels. For me, those times are euphoric – and at the end of the dance, two people can smile, look into each others eyes with amazement and appreciation, and thank each other for a wonderful dance.

Enjoy this video. Although this couple practiced this routine, the majority of the steps/patterns in their routine can be done with Lead and Follow in a social ballroom dance setting – well, assuming the dancers know the dance – in this case, Bolero.

On Benefits from the Ballroom

My wife and I started ballroom dance lessons about four years ago, so it is a good time to reflect at the experience. Since dance studios proclaim the benefits as part of their marketing, this post is a personal evaluation of those. The bold is the proclaimed statement, thus my thoughts follow.

#1: Improves Posture
Check. No question that my walking movements are different today than when we started – although I need to work on being more upright.

#2: Sharpens the Mind
Check. Ballroom dance is more difficult that one thinks in terms of brain activity alone. Besides the obvious learning, dancers (especially the lead) have to plan, react, and adjust. Ballroom is a challenge requiring mental discipline. The female must also increase her awareness in order to react to subtle and/or unexpected signals. Since most ballroom is lead and follow (as opposed to choreograph), the bottom line is that dance involves a lot of brain activity.

#3: Improves Self-Confidence
Check. Of course that is assuming that one is achieving what they want to achieve from the experience.

#4: Exercises the Body
Check. The aerobic extent of ballroom dancing correlates to the type of dance. Obviously, a faster song is more aerobic than a slower dance. There is no doubt that this activity also improves muscle tone and endurance while lowering blood pressure, exercising the heart, and improving breathing.

#5: Relieves Stress
Check. Although ballroom dance tests our patience, we have grown to become more patient. Besides, the enjoyment of dance takes one away from the rat-race nature of today’s world.

#6: Fosters New Friendships
Check. Since we have been at the same studio during our time, we have met many people and have become very good friends with some, thus have been to each other’s home for dinner and socializing. Since we dance outside of our studio, our circle of friends expands even more.

#7: Improves Relationships
Check. Ballroom dance is something we do together. Sure, times can be testy, but it takes two people working together to be successful.

#8: It is Fun
Check. For me, the combination of music, friends, and spouse adds up to fun. Through the music of the past and present, dance allows everyone the opportunity to rediscover a child-like spirit within us.

A Few Cautions

  • Quality ballroom dance lessons are not cheap because a studio is a business, not a recreation center.
  • Like anything else, some instructors are more professional and knowledgeable than others.
  • Having a musical background is helpful, but not required.
  • Practice is important.
  • Some participate in ballroom dance to compete, yet others do it be social dancers.

Bottom line is that we enjoy the activity and have experienced its proclaimed benefits.

Meanwhile, enjoy this Bolero – a slow, Latin dance that is one of our favorites.

Opening Image from Fred Astaire Dance Studios

On a Classy Start to the Week

Monday morning is a drag to some – or as fellow blogger The Beeze calls his weekly posts as Monday Moanin’. Although I’m not one who sees Monday as a downer, I recognize that others need something to jump start their week – thus the purpose of this Category of posts.

Instead of something lively or funny, this post is about talent, but unique talent – plus a shout-out to my favorite Oberlin College student who discovered it for me. Props to Stringfever and their idea for 4 playing the same cello at the same time. The song …. Bolero … hey guys … remember Bo Derek?