Paso Doble

History of the Paso Doble, a popular wedding and social dancedancers Robyn and Bill


Doesn’t a little drama draw you in? The pulsating beat of drums and castanets as a bullfighter enters the ring can raise your heart rate. In the same way, the flash and flair of the Paso Doble can double your pulse and excite you to dance.

The Paso Doble’s history is vague. Most sources agree that the Paso Doble began in the 1800’s with the music played as bullfighters entered the ring.  In Spain, the dance is also known by the name” El Soleo, “ and it was played as the Torero’s arrived in the bullring. By the 1900’s it was danced as a partnership folk dance in southern France by the border to Spain.

Around 1910 French competition dancers picked it up this folk-dance form of the Paso Doble and danced it as a one step. By 1920 a choregraphed pantomime of a bullfight emerged. The man was the Toreador, and the lady played his red cape. This was a novelty for this time. Other dances that influenced the Paso Doble of this time were the Flamenco and the Spanish Fandango. The most notable Paso Doble, “Espana Cani“ was written by Pascual Marquina in the twenties. The Paso Doble was then made popular with the upper crust of by Paris Pierre Lavelle.

In 1930, between wars, the Paso Doble made its entrance into American dance society. The Paso Doble enjoyed a short spurt of popularity before being overshadowed by “crush” dances of the period. It was added in 1945 as one of the international Latin dances for competitions before it could fade into obscurity. Paso Doble can still be found as a social dance in pockets of Spain, France, Vietnam, and some parts of Germany to the left of the river Rhein. It was the feature dance in the movie “Strictly Ballroom”


Paso Doble means ”two steps” in Spanish. It is danced to march-like music in 2/4 time, at a tempo of 60-62 BPM. The Paso Doble tells the story of the bullfight, and each figure represents elements of the bullfight. It is a dance of precision, where the outcome symbolizes a matter of life and death. The gentleman portrays the Matador and the lady portrays his cape, or a Flamenco Spanish dancer.


Due to its origins, the pattern names are tri-lingual. Some of the figures have French names like Sur Place (on the spot), Deplacement (an abrupt movement); Huit (French for eight); Appel (to call – the Matador’s call to the bull); Ecart (from the French word ‘ecarter’ meaning to separate); La Passe (to pass); Chasses (to move sideways one foot chasing the other); Coup de Pique (the word ‘pique’ in French has several meanings, one of them being the injection of fat into cooking meat by way of a long hollow needle, a similar action to the final thrust of the sword into the bull on step 1 and its rapid withdrawal on step 3!).Then the English names such as: Sixteen, Link (to join); Chasse Cape, Fallaway Slip Pivot and Open Telemark. Last of all, the Spanish names like Banderillas (hooked sticks used to goad the bull); Fregolina (the cape being whipped quickly behind the Torero).
The Paso Doble is an exciting Spanish influenced French dance to add to your repertoire. Dance it for fun, for show, or competition. Just get up and dance.



  • French Dance
  • Tells the story of the Spanish Bullfight
  • Popular dance of the 1930’s
  • Danced to 2/4 time music
  • Music Tempo at 60-62 BPM


Holly Collins
WEDDING DANCE instruction
author of
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Champion Ballroom Dancer & Coach

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