I love dancing bachata. From time to time in a salsa club they will play a bachata and it is a good way to slow down for a minute. To be honest, it is generally more fun to dance bachata than to watch it. It is slow, the steps are simple, and most dancers don’t incorporate many variations or turn patterns. The basic step is three parallel steps to the side and then a tap, and then you go back the other way (right, left, right, tap left; left, right, left, tap right). It is the slow dance of the latin club dancing world. While some folks lead in either the open (holding both hands) or closed holds (one arm around the follower’s back, the other holding her hand), I love it when bachata is lead with the knees.

Notice in this example how he is leading her with his right knee, and she keeps her upper body quite fluid, which actually allows him to guide even her upper body from the knee.

Bachata originates from the Dominican Republic. It was once considered “low class” by the upper classes in the DR kind of like country music has been viewed by many folks in the US. Many times the lyrics were fairly crass and mysogynistic, or dealt with issues specific to poor, rural Dominicans. It was thanks in part to Juan Luis Guerra, a Berklee-educated musician from the DR that bachata went into the mainstream. He incorporated pop elements into bachata, creating many beautiful romantic ballads that appealed to a broader audience. If you want to learn more about the history of bachata, I highly recommend reading Bachata: A Social History of Dominican Popular Music by Deborah Pacini Hernandez.

Bachata Fusion

Today, groups like Aventura have taken bachata even further, incorporating R&B and Reggaeton into it. It is not uncommon to hear bachata in a salsa club from time to time, and I personally enjoy listening to the music. Being a romantic myself, I am a sucker for the “new wave” style, favoring artists such as Juan Luis Guerra, Aventura, and Monchy y Alexandra.

I found a nice little bachata documentary on YouTube by Troy and Jorjet (of Latin Motions, and salsa dancers that I admire quite a bit) where they went to a Dominican barbershop in New Orleans. The female dancer in the video is Jorjet, who dances with some of the men in the barbershop. The first dance (with the guy in red) actually incorporates a lot of salsa footwork, and some hip hop. Notice how he does a little moonwalk thing and then drops down, b-boy style. The second man has a more traditional style, and he incorporates a little leg lift that some people do. I love it when people dance in everyday spaces, such as the rueda video I put up and Boris Willis’ site.

I am going to leave you with one of my favorite songs of all time, Como Abeja al Panal (Like a Bee to Honey) by Juan Luis Guerra. It is a beautiful song with lovely vocals and touching lyrics, and the best part of it all is that it starts out as a bachata and then becomes a cha cha, thereby fusing two of my very favorite dance and musical styles.