Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The History of Bachata

Another dance that is frequently danced at Social nights around the globe along with Salsa is Bachata. A much more easier dance to pick up as compared to Salsa, most newcomers stepping into the social dance scene that wants to learn to dance could easily start doing the basic steps in Bachata as compared to Salsa. But have you ever wondered where it is from?

Bachata is a dance from the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean islands. Both the music and the dance have been influenced by Cuban Bolero, the Merengue (also of Dominican Republic origin), Salsa and Cumbia.

Bachata music has four beats per measure. In Bachata dancing, the dancer takes three steps to four beats of music. As with Salsa, the step timing is three steps and then a one-beat pause. The knees are flexed on the steps. Given its humble origins, the steps are flat footed.

The chasse basic is three steps in one direction (side-close-side-tap or touch) and the same pattern in the other direction. Nightclub dancers add a lift or hip motion on the tap/touch step. Bachata can be danced in open, semi-closed or closed position. Dance moves or step variety strongly depend on the music (such as the rhythms played by the different instruments), setting, mood, and interpretation. Unlike salsa, bachata dance does not usually include many turn patterns.

The dance originated from the Dominican Republic where the music also was born. The original, slow style in the '60s was danced only closed, like the bolero, often in a close embrace. The bachata basic steps moving within a small square (side, side, forward and side, side, back) are inspired from the bolero steps but is an evolved version of those including a tap and also syncopation (steps in between the beats) depending on the dynamics of the music being played. The hand placement will vary with the dancers position which can be very close to semi close to open.

The authentic dance is today danced in the Caribbean and all over the world, nowadays also faster in accordance to faster music, adding more footwork, simple turns and rhythmic free style moves and with alternate between close (romantic) and open position (more playful adding footwork, simple turns, rhythmic torso etc.). This dance is danced with soft hip movements and a tap or syncopation (1, 2, 3, tap/syncopation). It can be danced with or without bounce also (moving the body up on the beats and down again in between the beats by springs the legs a little).

Authentic bachata was created by the Dominican social dancers over decades (from around the beginning of the 1960s) for social dancing and is still evolving to this day. Notice that what is called authentic/Dominican bachata in the West is just called bachata in the Dominican Republic and by most Dominican immigrants. Authentic bachata is the original dance and therefore by some also called the traditional dance. Because of this, the name "traditional bachata" for the first not very old Western fusion dance is wrong and misleading, but still commonly used in the west.

At some point in the late 1990s, dancers and dance-schools in the western world began using a made-up basic step going side to side pattern instead of the box-steps, maybe as they considered it too complicated or due to a misunderstanding of the authentic steps. The basic steps of this pattern move side to side, changing direction after every tap. Characteristics of this "early" dance school dance is the close connection between partners, soft hip movements, tap with a small "pop" of the hip on the 4th step (1, 2, 3, tap/hip) and does not include many turns/figures. Most of the styling in this dance is from ballroom dance and show moves like dips are commonly used in the dance. This was the first new dance to bachata music that was popularized by dance schools outside the Dominican Republic.

 So there you have it,  Bachata and how it all begin all those years ago (not very long ago actually) and how it has grown over the years. In Malaysia, most Salsa social nights will also include Bachata in between salsa tunes as a sort of break to slow the pace down or to allow the dancers to have a change of style instead of repeating the same routines over and over again over salsa music.

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