The Paso Doble is a dance full of energy, strict and powerful. With his haughty, bold pride the dancer expresses his superiority like a Torero marching to battle. He convincingly transfers this solemn appeal to the audience. The woman is not potrayed as the bull, but rather the literal image of the “Capa”; the red cloth that the Torero uses to keep the bull under control, and is lithe, agile and elegant. At the end, the Torero often triumphantly throws the cape to the ground, making The Paso one of the most dramatic, precise dances.
The Paso Doble is a Spanish pair dance, but assigned to the Latin and North American dances. It is characterized by easy, marching-like steps. Its origin supposedly dates back to a French military march with the name ”Paso Redoble“. This is a march with 2/4 beat with about 130 steps per minute. However, at this pace walking is hardly possible; it is more like running. That’s why the Paso Doble is the fastest Latin American dance. Every second step is emphasized and that’s probably also where its name comes from, meaning “double step” in English.
In Spain the dance is also known by the name ”El Soleo“; it was played during the Torero’s arrival in the bullring. This ritual was known already in the 18th century. Not far away from Spain, in Southern France, this practice was interpreted dance-wise and music-wise around 1910 by French competition dancers and dance instructors from the One Step. It is thanks to this French development that the Spanish dance has mostly French figure descriptions. Today it is danced as Two Step, mostly in 2/4 or 2/6 beat. But it wasn’t until the 1920s that a choreographed bull fight pantomime appeared. Here, the Paso Doble emerged as the bull fight performed as a dance. The man played the Torero, the woman the read cloth, the “Capa, “or the “Muleta“ – and not the bull. This way of dancing was a novelty at that time.
Because of its arrogant pride and its bold decisiveness, all characteristics of a Torero, the dance expressed the main features of the “master“. That’s why the Paso Doble is also called “the dance of the master“. The tenseness of his body can be felt by the audience and is decisive for its aesthetic appeal. The Flamnco, as well as the Spanish Fandango, greatly influenced the Paso Doble. This can be recognized in the mirror image way of dancing, so typical for the Flamenco. The Paso Doble has adopted some elements of the Flamenco in figures and steps. It is therefore sometimes described as a Flamenco-like march. The Paso Doble can be found in this stylized form in Latin America as well, where it also adopted the character of a folk dance.
In Central Europe, it lost its significance. It has been a competition dance since 1945 and is being taught in dance schools, but it is seldom seen in public. Only a few music groups include the Paso Doble in their repertoire. Its music is clearly structured, full of energy, powerful and seems very strict – thereby not very joyful. The preferred piece of music is Maria Andergast’s “The Master Torero”. The best known Paso Double piece of music, the “Espana Cani“ by Pascual Marquina, was written in the twenties.
The Paso Doble is the only competition dance acting out a story and the only Spanish dance included in the worldwide competition dance program.
Paso is always about the story of the matador fighting with the bull - the gambling of life. Simply speaking, Paso is about bringing the bull - fighting scene on stage through partner dancing. Paso Doble paints a comprehensive picture of Spain; it enlivens a bull-fighting scene through the dancing. This prsentation of a story is what makes the Paso unique. There is absolutely no such flavor in other Latin American dances.
The Latin American dances all present the lady. Interestingly, the Paso Doble is the only dance that presents the man with much masculinity. In terms of visual image, the man is always proud of himself. In terms of the dancing, when the man raises his arm, the lady will response by approaching the man. When the man closes the hand-hold, the couple will dance together as in Surplasses (side walking steps). In other words, the man will lead the lady every step by step. The man plays an absolutely dominant role in leading in the Paso Doble.
In Spanish, “Paso Doble” means “two step” and refers to the marching nature of the steps. The dance consists of several dramatic poses that are coordianted with highlights in the music. The body is held upright with the feet always directly underneath the body. The basic “Chasse Cape”(chasing the cape) is the style most used.
The cape, whether a real prop is used or the shaping of the “lady” also helps to cast a masculine image of the matador because the cape is always heavy to manipulate. Whether dancing it or not, The Paso Doble is always a dance with great artistic value for appreciation.
A video illustrating the roles of the matador and the woman as cape. Opening Music is Montagues and Capulets or Dance of the Knights from Romeo and Juliet Ballet composed by Sergei Prokofiev
Although I’m referring to the Paso Doble dance, it’s worth mentioning that in the world of Ice Dance, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean were masters of bringing dance to ice. Their OD Paso Doble from 1984 is worth any dancer’s time to study for the precise choreography, posture, and attitude that the Paso requires. Below is a video of their performance, a precisely edited arrangement of Capriccio Espagnol by Rimsky Korsakov. In the OD at that time, a set pattern had to be repeated, thus the repetition of the step sequence 3 times - a very precise, difficult tack.