In the 1930’s a dance known as the Paso Doble became a huge hit among the upper classes of Paris. It was a dramatic dance based around the story of the bullfight. Everyone wanted to be seen as knowing this remarkable dance.
Paso Doble is French for “Two Step” which refers to the nature of the powerfully styled walking steps, as they are traditionally organized in patterns of two (left, right). Steps are usually taken with the heel forward but leaving the back leg in place long enough to create a long, straight leg line. The man emulates the role of the matador in the bullfight. He keeps his center forward, creating an optical illusion as he turns his body in different directions. In the bullfight, this creates a false space where he places his cape, allowing the bull to think it is attacking him when in fact there is only empty space. The woman in the dance typically represents the cape, moving with graceful curves that emulate the flow of a cape around the man as he swings it dramatically. At times both partners take on the personality of flamenco dancers, challenging each other in a dramatic way.
Throughout the world, Paso Doble is danced in Championship Latin competition. But it can still be found in social dance settings in some clubs and studios. In Canada it is particularly common in Quebec and Ontario, but also played once or twice a night at most ballroom studio social dances in BC and Alberta. It’s also frequently played in Spain, France, Vietnam, Australia and Germany. Those who know this dance can enjoy an opportunity to perform when the music is played while everyone else must take to their seat with nothing to do but watch.
If you want to learn a dance that is novel and unique, a dance that only a selected few are capable of dancing well, look for Paso classes as they will offer your chance to shine. Paso Doble is a dance fit for any serious dancer with a bit of dance background.
The music of Paso Doble
Paso Doble is based on music played at bullfights during the bullfighters’ entrance (paseo) or during the passes (faena) just before the kill. The nature of the music allows the use of Flamenco actions which fit beautifully into the fast-paced beats of the dance.
The woman in the dance typically represents the cape, moving with graceful curves that emulate the flow of a cape around the man as he swings it dramatically
Paso music is generally played at a speed of 59-60 bars per minute. The most common tune played for Paso is “Espana Cani” (or “Spanish Gypsy dance”). It has very unusual phrasing that consists of mostly 8-beat bars of music with some 4, 5 and 6-beat bars, a 10-beat bar and with breaks in fixed positions that are often used to create highlights.
The exact phrasing, to the music of Espana Cani, goes like this:
8 8 8 8 4
8 8 8 8 8 8 3 ! 1
8 10 8 6 8 8 8 8 5 ! 1
8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 5 8 !
Note: ! is a highlight, or “crash” in the music.
Character of the dance
The Paso Doble features very quick, staccato steps with lots of dramatic shaping of the body. Matadors are arrogant so the man carries his body in a strong, masculine, arrogant manner throughout the dance. At times the feet strike the ground in an action known as an “Appel” which represents the movements a matador will make to get the attention of the bull. The lady’s movements are usually soft and large, representing a cape that is flowing around the man. One of the more interesting aspects of the dance is that the man must reflect a quality of stillness throughout, with bursts of movement. In the bull ring, the matador uses stillness to show that he is not afraid of the bull charging towards him. This same character is an integral part of a good Paso Doble.
Below is a video of some basic Paso Doble steps performed by Slavik Kryklivyy and Karina Smirnoff, one of the top professional couples in the world. It’s a few years old but is a great example of these basic steps. If you ever have a chance, watch for a similar video by Sergey Surkov and Melia, which was removed from YouTube as it was unauthorized. It is even more dramatic in illustrating the contrast between the man and woman. A great video of a competitive Paso Doble performance can be found on our Dances Overview page of this website.
Learning the Paso
We teach the Paso Doble in the Delta Dance Advanced Ballroom Dancing Program. A six-week program is based on choreography developed by Andy Wong of the Grand Ballroom. It takes participants through much of the syllabus, from Bronze through Gold level steps. The six-lesson schedule allows you to learn the dance in an organized way, with enough time to understand the steps involved. Check the Calendar to find out when the next class begins.
In today’s world, the bullfight is falling out of favor, and for good reasons. While it may be unfortunate that the dance carries such a legacy, this history has no impact on the dance itself. No bulls are harmed in the teaching of this dance.