The bolero at 80-120bpm provides an open, more controlled context for the development of physical skills than salsa at 160-220bpm as the space between beats is further apart. But the danger in learning off a dance i.e. using it as a stepping-stone is that it can be mis-represented as a poorer genre; as has occurred in the U.K. with the merengue. The bolero will be treated as a genre in its own right.
Most salsa dancers begin their development with attention paid to physical abilities e.g. step sizes, pivot speeds, set-ups, hip action. It is natural to overlook the invisible. Understanding the dance-floor as an environment of potential perturbations which exist physically (being bumped into, changing spaces) and invisibly (changes in audio quality affecting the perception of rhythm; changing tempo; shifting genres).
Charting the progression of rhythmic skills:
- Rhythmic Resilience - resistance to perturbations by development of consistency of the internal metronomes, calibration to multiple tempo sources.
- Rhythmic Supremacy - recognition, navigation, and resilience across the prevalent Caribbean genres, culminating in 'future-proofing' i.e. resilience to rhythms not yet created, via synthesis from historical connections in knowledge-base.
- Rhythmic Transparency - the ability to render rhythmic supremacy transparent (impalpable) to the observing third person, replicating the results of acquired rhythmic skills.
Focus on the long side step over the open tones, partnered.
Practice: play the bolero rhythm while dancing the basic (Part 1)
Individually, on thighs, right-left-right (boom-bim-boom).
Bolero conga rhythm played.
Concept: the double palm-to-palm (2p2p) hold with fingers folded
Introduction to a basic symmetrical partner hold found in the Caribbean.
Practice: play the bolero rhythm while dancing the basic (Part 2)
Partnered, using hands in 2p2p hold, right-left-right (boom-bim-boom).
Bolero conga rhythm played.
Concept: foot position definition
Introducing first through fifth position.
Constructing the full bolero basic by the addition of two complete weight transfers
Partnered, in 2p2p hold. Bolero conga rhythm played.
Hands playing bolero open tone rhythm, right-left-right (boom-bim-boom).
Legs performing bolero step and rhythm: long-short-short / slow-quick-quick
The impact of foot position on hip action and partnership distance
Contrasting activity: grounding a bouncy partner
Leader: leveraging the lower gate (lumbar curve).
Follower: distributed, equilibriated contact across the shoulders; use of body-weight with softened knees.
Contrasting activity: merengue, floor relations and hip action; an introduction
Two basic actions: surface skimming and deep floor driving
An advanced action: 'double-tapping' i.e. two-impulse deep-floor driving
The Spectrum of Circular Movement
An underpinning principle of the rueda style:
- One extreme: the leader pivots on axis as the follower is led to describe a circular dance path;
- The other extreme: the leader describes circular dance path while the follower is contained on axis; and
- Mid-way: both the leader and follower describe an orbit of identical distance and angular velocity, rotating around middle axis.
Partnered, palm-to-palm pressure-only contact, clockwise and anti-clockwise.
Partnered, contredanse hold, clockwise and anti-clockwise.
Practice: bolero basic to increasing tempo
Ethnomusicology: bolero and bachata as the daughters of trova
In the absence of bolero music being played in the U.K. social dance scene, bachata provides a suitable real-world substitute based on a shared heritage. An introduction to the similarities, the differences, and the sociopolitical evolution of the genres.
Practice: bolero basic to bachata music
Highlight: common (subconscious) compromises made by the taller dancer
- inclined torso - restricts the forward step and forward hip motion of the taller dancer, restricts mobility of the backward step in the partner.
- flexed knee - restricts the the development of lateral strength in the ankle; prevents stacking of torque curves to the hip; confounds the development of hip action.
- lack of travel - stunts development of drive i.e. the anterior and posterior power chains, especially in the thighs if in conjunction with flexed knee (above).
Partnered, various holds.
Emphasis on loooong side step during the open tones.
Compensating for height-length-mobility differences by moving through arcs.
Contrasting activity: Seat of Timing
Introduction the the concept of timing, calibrated to a specific anatomical plane.
Use of the "rope attached to side of foot/hip/heart" learning metaphor.
Practice: Seat of Timing
Lateral exercise using the side-to-side basic.
Employing the rope metaphor at the levels of foot, hip and heart.
Solo then partnered, in a 'mix-and-match-and-detect' style.
Contrasting activity: Whole-body cascade
Foundation skill for the utilisation of torque. As per Body Movement Exercise: Whole-body Cascade.
Bolero rhythm pages from "Latin-American Percussion: Rhythms and Rhythm Instruments from Cuba and Brazil" by Birger Sulsbrück
Sobre Las Olas by Latin Brothers
Repetidiendo La Dosis by Orquesta Canela
Loo Yen Yeo