While most people's experience of the Paso Doble today involves watching couples in flashy costumes parade dramatically across the floor on Dancing with the Stars, 100 years ago, a more modest version of the Paso Doble was being danced in Paris. Described as a Spanish version of the One Step, the 1920s Paso Doble was a simple yet satisfying social dance. (An early source states that the Paso Doble was already popular on the Basque coast in 1914 [MN20], while a later source states that it was popular in Spain "long before the war" [WQ26], but written descriptions started appearing in France in the early 1920s.)
Although the steps of the 1920s Paso Doble are similar to those of the One Step, the style was described as "stiffer and nobler" [LD21] or "prouder" than the One Step [AB22], having a sort of "Spanish swagger" [WQ26].
The steps were universally described as being short [MN20, LD21, LM21, AM21, MN21, AB22, LD22, AP23, AP24b, WQ26], "no longer than the length of one's own foot" [WQ26], "with the feet not passing each other" [LM21], "so as to almost give a spectator the impression that one is dancing on the spot" [LL22], which makes it suitable for crowded ballrooms [WQ26].
One source notes that the dance should be "pleasant, not tiring" [LM21], while another notes that its simple steps make it "agreeable for those who have trouble assimilating the complicated steps found in the other modern dances" [AP24b]. Another source notes that all "frills or stunts" are to be avoided [WQ26].
One source notes that the position of the arms in closed position is higher than that of other dances, "as high as is comfortable" for both partners [WQ26], perhaps as demonstrated by the couple in the foreground of the illustration at the top of this page [AP24b].
In the brief descriptions of the steps below, the Lead's footwork is described, and the Follow dances opposite unless explicitly noted.
As was the fashion in Paris in the 1920s, the Lead starts with the right foot and the Follow starts with the left foot. But most steps were described as being possible to execute on either foot.
The names for the figures in the original sources are in bold; my nicknames for them are in italics.
Marche en Avant (Backing the Follow): Starting Lead's right, Follow's left, back the Follow along LOD with small steps (see The Style above), taking one step per beat (1, 2, 3, 4) [MN20, LM21, MN21, AB22, LD22, LL22, AP23, AP24b].
Pour Tourner (To Turn): To transition from backing the Follow to backing the Lead, do half of a box step waltz, as follows: forward right, turning 1/4 to the right to face the outside wall (1), side left along LOD (2), and close right to left with weight along LOD (3), then turn 1/4 right to step back left into backing the Lead along LOD (4) [AP23]. To transition from backing the Lead to backing the Follow, do the other half of a box step waltz: back left, turning 1/4 to the right to face the center (1), side right along LOD (2), and close left to right with weight along LOD (3), then turn 1/4 right to step forward right into backing the Follow along LOD (4) [AP23]. (Note that because the dance starts on the right foot, this step will actually start on an even count.) This can also be done turning to the left, by reversing the box step: start with a 1/4 turn left on a forward step with the left foot, or a 1/4 turn left on a backward step with the right foot. Many other sources talk about turning right or left while doing the basic Marche, but don't specify exactly how [MN20, LM21, MN21, AB22, LL22]. Other options include the Pas Marqués en Tournant, Pas Tournés and Half Pivot, although the latter was only described once, in an English description at the end of the decade.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Back the Follow along LOD for five or six steps, then, without turning, back the Lead against LOD for less than five or six steps, taking two steps forward and one step back, so to speak, while still gradually progressing along LOD [MN21].
Assemblés (Side Chassés): Step side left (1), close right to left with weight (2), and repeat as desired [MN20, LM21, MN21, AB22, LD22, AP23, AP24b]. (Note that because the dance starts on the right foot, this step will actually start on an even count.) This can also be done on the right foot to the right side (starting on an odd count) [MN20, LM21, MN21, AB22, AP23, AP24b]. One source specifies that the left side steps are done after backing the Follow, and the right side steps are done after backing the Lead [AP23].
Temps Frappé (Striking Step): Some sources suggest that during the Assemblés, the closing foot will strike (frapper) the supporting foot as it closes to it [MN20, MN21, AB22].
Pas d'Arrêt (Stop Step): A single side close to the right or the left during the course of the Marche can be used to add an accent to the basic progression along LOD [LL22].
Pas Penchés (Leaning Step): A series of three side closes to the right, leaning slightly to the left and pointing the hands at the floor, then three side closes to the left, leaning slightly to the right and bringing the hands in a half moon shape over the head (a.k.a scorpion position) [LL22]. Although not explicitly specified, this works best if you do the sixth count on each side as a touch without weight in order to have the convenient foot free to go back the other way. This means that each half is actually two Assemblés followed by a Balancé.
Assemblés en Tournant (Chassé Rueda): A series of Assemblés in which one partner takes larger side steps so as to curve around their partner, who turns on the spot by taking smaller side steps [AP23, AP24b, WQ26].
Assemblés en Arrière (Back Chassés): Step back right (1), close left beside right with weight (2), and repeat as desired [MN20]. This can also be done starting with the left foot [LD22].
Sideways Cross Throughs: Step side left (1), cross right in front of left as Follow crosses left in front of right (2), step side left (3), and close right to left with weight (4) [AM21]. (Note that because the dance starts on the right foot, this step will actually start on an even count.) It's explicitly specified that both partners cross in front, i.e., through the frame. Another source has a similar step, but inverted and with a parallel cross: side right (1), close left to right (2), in place right (3), and the Lead crosses left behind as the Follow crosses right in front [LL22].
Pas Argentin (Forward Cross Throughs): Step forward right (1), cross left in front of right as Follow crosses right behind left (2), step side right (3), and close left to right with weight (4) [AP23]. It's not explicitly specified whether the Follow crosses behind or in front on count 2, but crossing behind is more consistent with the author's note that this is an alternative to the basic Marche.
Pas Marqués en Tournant (Turn in Place): While stepping in place, you can turn either CW or CCW as a couple [LD21, LD22].
Pas Balancés (Side Balance): Step side right (1), close left to right without weight (2), then step side left (3), and close right to left without weight (4) [MN20, LM21, MN21, AB22]. One author suggests striking the closing foot against the supporting foot, as in the Temps Frappé [MN20, MN21]. This can also be done forward and backward (forward, close, back, close) rather than side to side [GE29].
Le Double Pas (Double Step): Step forward right (1), close left to right without weight (2), then step forward left (3), and close right to left without weight (4) [LM21].
Pas Tournés (Rocking Turn): Rock forward onto right foot (1), then back onto left foot (2), turning to the right, and repeat as desired, rotating on the spot [MN20, MN21, AB22, LL22]. This can also be done with the left foot forward, turning to the left [LD22]. One author suggests ending the right-turning version by abruptly stepping back against LOD with the right foot before walking forward out of it [MN20, MN21].
Réunion de Pieds (Rise and Fall): While walking (1, 2), close right foot to left foot (3), rising on both toes, and fall onto both heels (4), with the weight more on the left foot to have the right foot free to continue walking forward on (5) [AB22].
Pieds Réunis (Heel Twist): While walking (1, 2), close the right foot to the left foot and twist both heels toward the elbows side (3) and to the hands side (4), without moving the body [MN21, LD22]. Another version has the heels dropping to the floor on each count as they twist, i.e., drop the heels to the elbows side on (3) and drop the heels to the hands side on (4) [AB22].
Half Pivot: While backing the Follow, flip around to back the Lead by pivoting halfway to the right when the Lead steps forward right and the Follow steps back left. Or while backing the Lead, flip around to back the Follow by pivoting halfway to the right when the Lead steps back left and the Follow steps forward right [GE29].
Paso Doble music, 108 bpm [AB22, MN22], 120 bpm [AP24a], 120 to 124 bpm [PR28], or 130 bpm [LM21]. The recordings below range from 113 to 135 bpm.
An early source notes that if Paso Doble music isn't available, it can simply be can be danced to One Step music [LD21].
Several sources note that Paso Doble can be danced in either 2/4 or 3/4 time [MN20, MN21, AB22, WQ26], or 6/8 time [WQ26].
For a sense of what the music sounded like at the time, here are some recordings that were marketed as Paso Dobles in the 1920s:
"Pena del Alma" (125 bpm) by Banda Victor (1920)
"Adios Pilar" (121 bpm) by Roberto Firpo (1922)
"Al Cabo No Puedes" (126 bpm) by Orquesta Internacional (1923)
"Social Club" (117 bpm) by Gonzalez y Su Orquesta (1923)
"Brillantino" (126 bpm) by Orquesta Internacional (1925)
"Revenido" (123 bpm) by Orquesta Internacional (1925)
"Conchita" (133 bpm) by Banda Internacional (1926)
"Edgar" (113 bpm) by Orquesta Internacional (1926)
"Sevillia" (126 bpm) by Rio Grande Tango Band (1926)
"Vallecito" (120 bpm) by Orquesta Internacional (1926)
"Vito" (124 bpm) by Rio Grande Tango Band (1926)
"Amor de Terero" (128 bpm) by Banda Internacional (1927)
"Granadino" (135 bpm) by Rondalla Usandizaga (1928)
"Angelillo" (127 bpm) by Rondalla Usandizaga (1929)
"Cielo Andaluz" (134 bpm) by Banda de Policia de Mexico (1929)
MN20 — M. Neerman (pub.). (1920, January). Revue de la Danse. Paris.
LD21 — La Danse. (1921, May). La Danse. Paris.
LM21 — L. Moutin. (1921). Theorie Simplifiee Des Danses Modernes. Paris.
AM21 — Albin Michel (ed.). (c. 1921). Les Danses Nouvelles. Paris.
MN21 — M. Neerman (pub.). (1921, June-August). Revue de la Danse. Paris.
AB22 — A. Baïssas. (1922). Aide-Mémoire du Danseur, Théorie de Diverses Danses Modernes. Poitiers, France.
LD22 — La Danse. (1922, February). La Danse. Paris.
LL22 — L. Lévitte. (c. 1922). Les 15 Danses Modernes Pour Devenir Un Parfait Danseur Mondain. Alger, Algeria.
MN22 — M. Neerman (pub.). (1922, March/April). Revue de la Danse. Paris.
AP23 — A. Peter's [André Peter's]. (1923, February 15). Dansons! No. 24. Paris.