With a popularity that almost belies its lower-class origins, Bachata has become a popular social dance and best-selling music genre. Fifty years ago in Dominican Republic – bachata’s home – the dance form was considered low-brow and vulgar. It was relegated to the barrios, among the brothels and bars, where it grew in popularity among people who were drawn to its themes of sadness, sex, and sin.
Bachata’s popularity continued to grow through to the 1980s when the more familiar elements characteristic of contemporary bachata music were introduced. The music gained more airplay and performers advanced from barrio brothels to dance halls, radio airplay, and television sound stages. By the early 1990s, Juan Luis Guerra’s award-winning song, Bachata Rosa cleared the way for the music to become widely acceptable, paving a path for such artists as Aventura, Monchy y Alexandra, Romeo Santos, Prince Royce, Xtreme, and Toby Love.
Today, bachata is ubiquitous among Latin dance clubs, where often an entire dance room is dedicated exclusively to the style. It can be sensual, romantic, traditional (Dominican), or fused with hip-hop, elements of swing, tango, salsa, zouk… and pretty much any other style you’d care to think of (although I have yet to see a bachata-waltz fusion).
Bachata is a dance in which connection is everything. For some salsa patterns, it is possible to get away with each partner (more or less) dancing their own part independently, neither leading nor following effectively. With bachata, the dance simply doesn’t work as a series of rote-executed turn patterns. As bachata is danced in most venues today, it is a playful dance with lots of connection communication occurring between the partners. It can take on some of the characteristics of many different styles, from Tango to Swing to Hip Hop, embodying a range of expressions, from the sensual connection of blues dancing (in the Swing idiom) to the rat-a-tat footwork of B-Boy (in the urban styles).
We’re going to spend a couple of weeks becoming familiar with the dance and some of its key elements – why don’t you join us?