The Paso doble dance has evolved from its Spanish military roots. Today, it can be found at weddings and special celebrations at the top stages of the most prestigious competitions. And it’s popular not only in its homeland of Spain but also in many Latin American countries like Venezuela.
But where exactly did this vibrant Latin American dance originate? What are its characteristics and steps?
That’s what we’ll delve deep into in today’s article, which can tell you all about the history of the paso doble dance, the traditional steps, the music, the costume, and more!
Table of Contents
- What Is The Paso Doble Dance?
- Paso Doble Dance Origin
- Paso Doble Dance Characteristics
- Paso Doble Dance Steps
- Paso Doble Dance Costume
- Paso Doble Dance Music
- Final Words
What Is The Paso Doble Dance?
The paso doble dance is a Latin ballroom dance with a lively two-step tempo and dramatic choreography. The mental images that the choreography inspires are about one of the most famous traditions of Spain: bullfighting.
The male dancers play the role of the matador (bullfighter) while their female partners imitate the movements of his cape.
Paso doble steps typically involve a mix of quick footwork, intricate turns, and solid wall position (where the man places his hand on the woman’s hips).
Paso Doble Dance Origin
The history of paso doble dance is quite interesting.
It’s believed to have originated in the 18th century in Spain, where it was known as “El Soleo.”
However, despite being rooted in a distinctly Spanish tradition, many sources and dance historians believed that what’s now known as the “paso doble dance” is a product of the French. The dance is their way of displaying the vigorous theatrics of a bullfight.
More specifically, many sources claimed that the paso doble dance meaning comes from a French military march called “Paso Redoble.” Like the paso doble, the Paso Redoble has a fast, march-like characteristic with its 2/4 beat at 130 BPM.
But these days, the consensus around the origin of the paso doble is that it’s a dance that has a mixture of both countries in it, French and Spain. The spirit and the inspiration are taken from Spain, while the French developed and interpreted it further into a full-fledged ballroom dance.
That is why many of the steps in Paso Doble have French namings!
Paso Doble Dance Characteristics
The characteristics of the Paso Doble are:
- The dance is very fast-paced; it’s currently the fastest Latin ballroom dance out there.
- The quick heel-clicking steps.
- Rapid arm movements.
- Precise footwork that’s all set to passionate, fast-tempo traditional music.
It also has several distinct rhythms, such as stomping feet, strong claps, and snaps of fingers, all of which signal transitions in movements and convey emotive meanings.
The dancers tell a story as they move around the floor, usually depicting a drama between a proud bullfighter and his admirer.
The male partner serves as the “matador” who controls every step of this high-energy dance with powerful authority. Meanwhile, the female partner takes on three roles: the cape that he swishes around to symbolize his matador moves, a flamenco dancer; and ultimately, “the property” of her macho companion.
It’s a very traditional dance with clearly defined gender roles where the man (as the matador) is at the center stage.
But that doesn’t mean the lady has to be timid or submissive. In the dance, the lady has to be just as strong with fluid, soft, and flowing movements. The female partner must also display great self-control and confidence in their sensuality to match the arrogance of the matador.
Remember that it’s just roleplay and theatric; no matter what role you pick, you’ll have great fun practicing and performing the dance!
Traditional and Ballroom Paso Doble Dance
The traditional paso doble dance is where you’ll see the legendary “bullfighting” theatrics in full glory. The man and woman both take individual turns as the leader of the dance number.
This fiery, aggressive performance includes dramatic facial expressions, forceful arm movements, and powerful leaps and bounds. The music used for this paso doble dance style is often fast-paced, with strong drums and sweeping horns.
On the other hand, the ballroom paso doble dance (also known as the “modern” paso doble dance) carries the same spirit, but it’s adapted to fit in today’s competitive ballroom dancing.
Unlike its predecessor, this version involves less aggressive elements such as turning circles and steps adapted from waltzes.
Additionally, while it still has a passionate feel, dancers often use a slower tempo than the original to emphasize their beauty, finesse, and technical skill. The traditional dance is more tuned to showcase the power dynamics between the two partners.
Paso Doble Dance Steps
Looking to practice the paso doble? There are a couple of basic steps that you can try and learn on your own time. Here they are!
The promenade link is one of the most basic patterns you can learn in the paso doble.
The partners hold their hands in an inverted V-shape. The leader’s left-hand clasps the follower’s right hand, holding it up in the air around the eye level of both dancers. The other arms will brace against one another’s shoulders.
On the second beat, both partners turn their heads in the direction of their clasped and raised hands, then turn and stretch the conjoined hands forward. Elbows out and flat.
Take the first step forward, then a second. Imagine you’re taking a walk (that’s what “promenade” means in French!) with your hands linked together (hence the “link” part in the name.)
At the end of the second step, the follower will turn around and face the leader, hands still joined, and reset to the inverted V-shaped at the start.
“Chassé” means “gliding” in French. In dance lingo, it means taking a gliding step in one direction, with one foot displacing the other.
It’s extremely simple: sweep your right foot to the side, then close your feet together.
And that’s that! It’s basically taking a side step.
You can combine the chasse right with the standard Latin dance hold to give your performance extra spice when you practice with a partner.
Chasse left is the direct opposite of the above. Reverse the direction: make a sweeping side-step to the left with your left foot, then close your feet together.
Separation with Lady’s Caping Walks
A separation is when one of the partners (typically the follower) backs out far away from the leader. However, in paso doble, despite the split, the two partners will still keep one of the hands linked together.
A good-looking separation is a separation with the lady’s caping walks.
The two partners start in a standard Latin dance hold (arms on one side in an inverted V-shape, the other bracing against each other’s shoulders).
On the second beat, the follower will bend their knees, releasing the bracing arm on the leader’s follower. Then, quickly back out as far away from the leader as they can while keeping the other hand linked.
Then, the follower will make fast, smooth, gliding steps around the leader’s back with hands still joined.
Imagine the follower being a cape that flutters behind the leader’s back!
When the follower returns to the leader’s front, the dance position is reset to the standard hold.
The Ecart is a basic step, starting with both partners in a closed position.
- On the first count, kick your right leg to the back, then strike the heel down the ground.
- When the clack of your heel sounds on the floor, lower your knees and take a step backward.
- Then, take a gliding step to the side.
- To finish the move, turn your upper body toward your clasped hands, turning it inside out so that your elbows are outward.
The Drag is extremely simple.
- Take a wide step to the left while angling your clasped hands downward using your upper body and hips.
- Slowly and sensually trace your right leg inward, turning your clasped hands upward until your position is reset to the standard closed hold.
Think of deplacement as a stylized turn.
- Start in the standard closed hold.
- Then, on the first count, the leader takes a step forward with their left leg, while the follower takes a step backward with their right leg.
- It’s quickly followed up by the leader taking a step with his right foot while turning his body to the left.
- The follower will also follow the leader’s momentum to turn their body to the right.
By the end, after resetting to the standard closed hold, the couple will be facing in a different direction from when they started.
The open telemark is a classic move that’s often used to transition to the Promenade (hence the “open” part). The leader will face the diagonal center and lead the follower through a reverse heel turn.
In the second or third step, you can transition to a promenade link, chasse, and many other moves depending on your skill level and choreography.
The Sixteen stands for the sixteen steps in this move. It’s composed of a long sequence of steps, often with lots of turns.
Despite the steps sounding extremely complicated and long, the movements are fairly basic. You’ll be able to get the hang of the Sixteen with just a couple of days of practice.
In the Grand Circle, the leader leads the follower through a great circle around them before resetting to the standard closed hold.
Paso Doble Dance Costume
The paso doble dance costume is typically a formal uniform or outfit.
The attire usually includes a frilly, ruffled skirt for the lady. The skirt should be red to symbolize the color of the matador’s cape.
As for the male dancer, they will wear the traditional costume of a Spanish matador, which includes a bolero jacket and matador pants.
For this dance, ladies should wear closed-toe shoes with low heels, such as ballroom shoes. For men, a pair of Latin dancing shoes are recommended.
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Paso Doble Dance Music
A paso doble dance performance is usually backed up by traditional music also called the “paso doble”. The music typically has a dramatic, march-like beat to simulate the glorious atmosphere of a bullfighting ring. The band will play classical instruments like castanets, guitars, drums, bass, and horns.
It typically has a simple 1-2-1-2 rhythm, which is perfect for a military march (it was used as march music for some time). There are next to no rhythm changes in the music, so the beat is consistent throughout.
Speaking of the beat, paso doble music is usually very fast-paced at 120 to 124 beats per minute, at 60 measures per minute.
Here are some songs you can do the Paso Doble dance to:
- Spanish Gypsy Dance – Orquestra Carrasco
- Amparito Roca – Luis Cobos
- Bad Romance – Lady Gaga
- Volare – Gypsy Kings
- Thriller – Michael Jackson
- Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
- Matador Paso – Andy Fortuna
- S.O.S. – Rihanna
- Temperature – Sean Paul
- Paralyzer – Finger Eleven
- Dance, Dance – Fall Out Boy
- Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix
- Spanish Bull – Miguel Moreno
- Applause – Lady Gaga
- Free Your Mind – EnVogue
- Turn Me On – Nicki Minaj
- Scream – Usher
- We Will Rock You – Queen
- Paparazzi – Lady Gaga
- Rhythm is a Dancer – Snap!
- Spanish Guitar – Bo Diddley
- U Got The Look – Prince
Check more: 30+ Best Tango Songs
The paso doble dance perfectly captures the spirit of the bullfight and the drama between the matador and the bull. While its exact origin is still debated, it has become one of Spain’s (and Europe’s) most iconic dances, characterized by its powerful steps and rhythms.
The dramatic flair of the dance has attracted many dance enthusiasts to practice it for decades. So, if you’re thinking of giving it a shot, you’re not the only one!