Bolero was originally a dance that developed in late 18th century Spain. The slow tempo dance was performed as alone or with a partner, accompanied by song, castanets, guitars, and tambourines.
In 1883 Santiago, Cuba, José Pepe Sánchez composed the first bolero titled “Tristezas.” When it reached Cuba, bolero was influenced by Afro-Cuban music styles becoming distinct from the Spanish version; the formerly 3/4 rhythm evolved into 2/4 or 4/4, accompanied by claves and conga drums. The formerly slow, danceable love song became a bit energetic.31 The Cuban version spread to Mexico and other parts of Central America having more influence than the Spanish version. However, the dance gradually disappeared and the song aspect was emphasized.32 The bolero song tradition was greatly influenced by Cuban storytelling-songs of travels called trova. Boleros songs became extremely popular since the 1950s throughout Latin America.
The dance of the Cuban bolero did reach the U.S. in the form of ballroom dance, where European dance styles of Waltz and Foxtrot were combined with Rumba. The music is of the Cuban 4/4 time with basic steps similar to the Rumba (Slow-Quick-Quick).