The Magic Moves of Bachata Latin Dance: A Beginner’s Guide
Are you into bachata? Or have you never heard of it? Let’s learn more about the meaning, history, and development of the Latin dance craze sweeping the world: bachata!
What Is Bachata?
Bachata is widely known as a sensual dance that originated in the Dominican Republic. It actually started about 60 years ago, in the early 1960s. Today, it is wildly popular and danced across the globe in a variety of forms.
Bachata originated as a dance performed to express the feelings one has for their partner. Many proponents believe that the more smoothly the couple’s hips move in unison, the more deep are the feelings they have toward each other.
“Bachata is a beautiful dance, with many styles developing all over the world—traditional, urban, sensual, etc. Regardless of the style, the fundamental connection and feeling of the dance is absolutely unique to any other style of dance. There is something magical about the music that transcends language, culture, and time. Traveling to different parts of the world, it’s an amazing feeling to communicate universally through this style of dance.”
– Vanessa Nudd Chapman, co-founder of Bay area bachata group Como El Agua
Feel the rhythm of the bachata.
Visualize a group of artists up on stage under a romantic starry sky. Seven musicians—the requinto (lead guitar), segunda (rhythm guitar), electric guitar, guitar, bass guitar, bongos, and güira players—combine their instruments in an upbeat, enthusiastic rhythm. Suddenly, dancers come to life among the crowd, gyrating all around you on the dance floor, inspiring you to grab a partner and move those hips.
This is the magnetic power of bachata! The dance itself has basic first steps, consisting of 3 steps and a tap. First, you move your body toward the left for 4 beats, jutting out your hip with each lift of your feet, and tapping your foot to the ground on the 4th beat. The step goes “side-together-side-tap” and can be spiced up with a hip motion or a lift of the leg at the “tap” step. Then, you repeat these moves toward the right, ending the 4th beat again with a tap.
Your knees are kept slightly bent so you can sway your hips more easily. Your hip movement is the soul of the dance—it’s what brings the dance to life. You’ll notice as you practice that most of your movement is in the lower body, from your feet to your hips, while your upper body moves much less.
In contrast to salsa, this particular latin dance does not usually include complex turn patterns but this is changing as the dance evolves. The leading is done just like in most other social dances, with a “pushing and pulling” hand and arm communication.
A Brief History of Bachata
The first Dominican bachatas were recorded immediately after the death of Trujillo, a dictator who had imposed strict censorship in the Dominican Republic for 30 years. The genre mixed the Latin American bolero with Son’s African elements and troubadour singing.
Jose Manuel Calderon recorded the first song of this genre in 1962, which opened the floodgates for dozens of bachata artists to begin their careers and brought about the birth of the Dominican music industry, which was and is dominated by this music.
The Rise of Bachata
Surprisingly, the Dominican elite despised bachata music. They saw it as vulgar, crude, and musically rustic. In the 1970s, mainstream society in the region associated it with rural ignorance and crime, refusing to broadcast it on television or radio. However, by the early eighties, the popularity of bachata broke through the stiff restraints and its popularity surged. Radio stations began playing bachata, and bachateros started performing on television, too.
By the nineties, this distinct sound spread from its roots in Latin dance halls to the international music scene. The music itself began to evolve at this time; tempos increased, guitar playing became punchier, and call-and-response singing more prevalent. During this decade, the genre’s instrumentation went from the traditional Spanish guitar and maracas to the modern electric steel string guitar and guira.
Modern Bachata Today
Urban bachata styles further transformed the genre in the 21st century. These styles have become an international phenomenon. Currently, bachata is one of the most popular Latin music styles, even overtaking salsa and merengue in many Latin American dance halls.
Bachata, like salsa, is in 4/4 time but it has its own distinctive sound. In the early days, bachata was guitar music that was typically slow, sad and romantic. Nowadays, Bachata’s tempo is more upbeat and is incorporates electronic sounds. Popular current artists include Luis Vargas, Aventura, Prince Royce, Juan Luis Guerra, and Xtreme.
Bachata Dance Styles
Bachata is commonly known by many as a sensual dance. There are many distinct styles, each with their own flair, pioneered by teachers around the world.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, dancers began using a simpler side-to-side pattern instead of box steps. The basic steps of this pattern move side to side, changing direction after every tap. Ther style involves close connection between partners, soft hip movements, dips, and a tap with a small “pop” of the hip on the 4th step.
Original Dominican Bachata is danced throughout the Caribbean region. It is fast and incorporates footwork, turns, and rhythmic freestyle moves. It alternates between closed and open positions. This style is danced with soft hip movements and a tap with a small hip “pop” on the fourth beat.
Established in 2005, this style originated in Spain. The basics are the same as traditional bachata, but with added dance elements and styling from salsa, tango, ballroom, and other styles. There is an even newer modern urban style that incorporates hip-hop elements.
This fusion of bachata and tango, while not danced in the Dominican Republic, has become popular outside the Caribbean.
This is a theatrical dance style with strict follow and lead principles. Established in Spain, this sensual version is an interpretation of the music that incorporates mainly circular movements and body waves. When the music has stronger beats, isolations, and dips may be employed.
The ballroom-bachata fusion developed as a competitive dance rather than a social one. It features extreme hip movements and lots of Ballroom Dance styling. The basic step is based on traditional bachata.
Are you considering taking up bachata and joining in on some lessons? Here are some terms that will come in handy as you learn this fun Latin dance style and make your way across the dance floor.
|Individual full turn||Vuelta||bwell-tah|
|Couple changing positions||Enchufla||en-choo-flah|
|Movements and styling||Movimiento||moe-vee-mee-en-toh|
|New evolutionary elements||Nueva evolución||new-ay-vah ev-oh-loo-cee-ohn|
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