A Taste of Spain – Paso Doble Style

Nov 17th


A Taste of Spain – Paso Doble Style

MadridSo this time last year I immersed myself in Spain for a month, as I wanted to experience the many influences it has had on a dance I have done so many times I have lost count, the PASO DOBLE. This dance is based around the music played at bullfights (Espani Cani) during the bullfighters’ entrance (Toreros) or during the passes just before the kill. The leader of this dance plays the part of the matador. The follower generally plays the part of the matador’s cape, but can also represent the shadow of the matador, as well as the bull, flamenco dancers in some figures or even a gypsy.


Dancing with the Stars – Paso Doble with Pamela Anderson

Damian Whitewood & Pamela Anderson Dancing the Paso Doble

When I choreographed the Paso Doble on Dancing With The Stars in US with Pam Anderson we choose to portray the matador and his mistress and the anger between each other’s beliefs. Pam being a huge animal activist and campaigner for PETA, I can defiantly understand why she didn’t want a bull involved in the storyline at all now.



Pasa Doble The Bullfighters DanceI finally got to see my first and probably last bullfight at Plaza Del Toro in Marbella. With a roar of applause as the president enters his box, he gave the signal, and as the gates swing wide open there enters a bizarre procession, which reminded me of ancient Roman times. The parade (paseíllo) is to salute the presiding dignitary and is accompanied by the Espani Cani music played by the band up in the gods I might add. I catch my first glimpse of what I have come to see the marching of the matadors. The corrida is highly ritualized, with three distinct stages “thirds” or (tercios), the start of each being announced by a bugle sound…



The Bullfight

Marbella MatadoreThe ring is now empty, the door of the bullpen is opened and one would like to be able to say that several tons of black fury hurls themselves into the ring. Instead, a rather small black bull ambles out with the idea that he is free and in a moment he will catch up with the herd. Then he knows something is wrong, the noise, and the strange smells. The matador and banderilleros (the ones who stick the darts into the bull) enter the ring to test the bull’s ferocity and wear him down as they hide behind the barriers and emerge into the ring enticing the bull to charge them from opposite sides. This is the first stage, “the lancing third”, and the matador’s first confrontation with the bull using the cape; he performs a series of passes and has observed the behavior and quirks of the bull. In the next stage, “the third of banderillas”, each of the three banderilleros attempted to plant two banderillas wreathed in colored paper,  (sharp barbed sticks) into the bull’s shoulders as he gallops past. The bull is hurt and surprised and these anger and agitate, but further weaken, the bull, which was already tired.


Marbella Matadore 2The matador used his cape to attract the bull in a series of passes which serve the dual purpose of wearing the animal down even more for the kill and producing the apparent beautiful display. There are a number of distinct styles of passes with the cape, for instance, the Verónica is a pass in which the matador slowly swings the cape away from the charging bull while keeping his feet in the same position


Marbella Matadore 1Every time he performs one of these beautiful movements, in which grace and courage are equally present, a deep shout comes from the crowd, Ole!! The shaping and use of the cape in this atmosphere was exactly how I imagined it to be only better as one mistake and he would be in some serious trouble. Something you don’t want to get wrong when in the ring with a bull. The girls I have danced with are a little more forgiving on the dance floor.


Marbella Matadore 3In the final stage, “the third of death”, the matador re-entered the ring alone with a small red cape (muleta). It is a common misconception that the color red is supposed to anger the bull, but bulls in fact are colorblind and haven’t even seen a cape before! The cape is also thought to be red to mask the bull’s blood, although this is now just a matter of tradition. Thinking to myself the bull’s death is evidently not going to be very exciting and this is the moment when someone ought to have the decency to come in with a humane killer. But the ceremony has to be played out to the end. A handkerchief waves from the presidential box, the trumpets sound as if something tremendous is going to happen, and out steps the matador from behind a barrier with his muleta and his sword. The time for sacrifice has arrived. A final series of passes known as the faena in which the matador, using the muleta, attempts to maneuver the bull into a position to stab it between the shoulder blades and through the aorta or heart. By this stage the bull just wants water and out of the ring, he scrapes the hot sand with one foot and drops his muzzle, snuffling. The Toro stands a few yards off, holding the sword concealed in the muleta, He taunts the bull daring him to charge once more, the moment has come, the “moment of truth” His head goes down, his body sags, he looks as if he is sick. Thick blood pours from his mouth. Slowly, very quietly, he sinks to his knees and stays like that as if in prayer. Suddenly he falls over dead. Olé.

The matador bows like an actor! Rather confronting to say the least.


On one of the other contests during the day one of the young toreros did make a few errors whilst capping and the bull managed clip him a couple of times. It was interesting to see how most of the crowd had turned against him after making such mistakes it wasn’t just me. I also later found out that when ordered to perform the kill, if the toreros cannot finish the bull with in three goes they can face jail time.

The main matador apparently performed particularly well and the crowd petition the president to award the matador an ear of the bull by waving white handkerchiefs, this was granted on this occasion of which he ended up throwing it into the crowd at the end only to be caught by a little kid! Not your average take home souvenir.

So I did mentioned that it would probably be my first and last time seeing or supporting a bullfight as I do feel it was very cruel to the animals and at times the bulls were out numbered and stabbed with the banderillas before the matador even commenced the shapes, capping and the challenging part that I wanted to see. I can defiantly see why people are against bullfighting but I am grateful to have seen one and been part of the experience.


Marbella Matadore 8


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Damian Whitewood

Professional Dancer

Damian Whitewood

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