Paso Doble

(Spanish One Step,
One Step Espagnol,
Paso Doblo)

(1920s Paris)


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.)

The Dance

The Style

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].

The steps were described as being taken with flat feet [LD22, AP24b, WQ26], or toe first [MN20], falling onto flat feet [MN21, AB22], with no swaying of the shoulders [MN20, MN21 WQ26], but a slight side-to-side movement of the hips [MN20, MN21, AB22, 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].

The Steps

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.

The Music

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:


© 2021 Nick Enge

If you or your community is interested in learning this style of Paso Doble, .

For more dance descriptions, see our three books on dancing:
The Book of Mixers: 100 Easy-Teach Dances for Getting Acquainted (2022) by Richard Powers and Nick & Melissa Enge,
Cross-Step Waltz: A Dancer's Guide (2019) by Richard Powers and Nick & Melissa Enge, and
Waltzing: A Manual for Dancing and Living (2013) by Richard Powers and Nick Enge.

For full-length teaching videos, visit: University of Dance.

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