From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Before Boléro, Ravel had composed large scale ballets (such as Daphnis et Chloé, composed for the Ballets Russes 1909–1912), suites for the ballet (such as the second orchestral version of Ma Mère l'Oye, 1912), and one-movement dance pieces (such as La Valse, 1906-1920). Apart from such compositions intended for a staged dance performance, Ravel had demonstrated an interest in composing re-styled dances, from his earliest successes (the 1895 Menuet and the 1899 Pavane) to his more mature works like Le Tombeau de Couperin (which takes the format of a dance suite).
Boléro epitomises Ravel's preoccupation with restyling and reinventing dance movements. It was also one of the last pieces he composed before illness forced him into retirement: the two piano concertos and the Don Quichotte à Dulcinée song cycle were the only compositions that followed Boléro.
In popular culture
In the 1980 movie 10, the character played by Bo Derek asks "Did you ever do it to Ravel's Bolero?", a reference to the popular belief that the song, with its driving theme and steady repetition, plus building volume, is an especially good soundtrack for sexual intercourse. A four minute excerpt of the song is used during the subsequent sex scene. This increased sales of the song, which was still under copyright, by up to a factor of ten.