During this pandemic where dance floors have been closed, I have found in Dominican bachata a great and very convenient ally to keep myself dancing, staying rhythmically active and connected to Latin music. I did the salsa dancing thing at home, too, but bachata beat it. It was, amongst other things, an issue of space. We social dancers need a frigging dance floor for all those salsa movements and turns, regardless what style you dance. Dominican bachata is a different story, and it has emerged as the big winner in my quest for a corona-times dance relief, as it has been successfully tested in all the crucial settings: living room, kitchen, office, bedroom and… the shower!
Why is Dominican bachata so useful for a social dancer living through The Rona? Before I go into details, I would like to first clarify that when I talk about social dancing, what you have to visualize is partner dancing holding hands. With that in mind, let’s dive into the 4 advantages of going Dominican in 2021. In this blog, I’ll be showcasing videos of my friends Anthony & Carla, who have finally launched their online Dominican Bachata school.
1. FREEDOM: in an era of repressions and suppressions of all sorts (justified, imagined, fair and unfair), Dominican bachata is a social dance form that stands out for the fact that it can be perfectly danced on your own. It’s free. Solo-dancing bachata is not some sort of oh-well-I-don’t-have-a-partner solution, but rather a very normal way of expressing the dance itself. What’s more, people are encouraged to learn on their own first, before they try partner dancing. There are lots of really cool videos on YouTube showcasing individual Dominican Bachata dancers literally having a blast on their own, like this one of Carla Torres, below.
2. MORE FREEDOM: I’m expanding on the theme of Bachata freedom because I want to present it now in contrast to salsa dancing, which as we know, is the most popular choice in the international Latin dance scene. Here's the thing, leading and following in salsa are very defined roles with very specific sets of steps and techniques. However, while there’s also leading and following in Dominican Bachata requiring proper connection and communication, the dance doesn’t present leader and follower differences in footwork to the extend that salsa does. Both learn pretty much the same steps. Therefore, if you’re learning Bachata from your home isolation, you’ll be fine if you don’t have a partner. This is huge. Try to imagine yourself learning salsa turning figures on your own. Are you done? That looked crazy, right? Well, you won’t look zombiesque learning Dominican Bachata from home (and allow me to emphatically insist on fact that it’s got to be the Dominican style, por favor). See below!
3. MORE STEPS, LESS TURNS: Bachateros are way less dependent on a partner because their dance focuses more on footwork, not turns. Dominican bachata’s footwork simply makes you smile and want to replicate it. I can’t think of something more contagious than a Bachata line dance. Through footwork patterns, the Dominican bachata dance properly connects with its music, because the different rhythmic sections of a song (derecho, majao, mambo) invite for a corresponding type of footwork. Check out our friends spicing up a workshop with a footwork display and line dance!
4. BACHATA HIPS DON’T LIE: finally, I want to take a moment to acknowledge this achievement of Dominican bachata, a dance that seemingly has it all: footwork, figures and hip movement. You won’t see bachateros using their upper body much, but the hips definitely get to shine! This is a differentiating trait between salsa and bachata. In Dominican bachata, hips are central to the dance experience and have a beautiful logic. Same as with footwork, hip movements keep a close connection with rhythmic sections of the bachata song.
I've felt especially motivated to tell you about the cool advantages of Dominican Bachata dancing, not only because I truly love this dance form, but also because this pandemic is going last several more months and it's important to have practical, handy options for preserving our dancing passion. My good bachata instructor friends Anthony and Carla, whom I brought to Vancouver in 2019, have finally launched their online Bachata school and I want to encourage you to sign up for their comprehensive 10-lesson beginner’s course that by now you’ve probably figured you can take without a partner. Click here to visit their page.
I also want to give a shout-out to all the other instructors I have taken lessons from (personally and online): Rodolfo Montaño, Edwin Ferreras, Adam Taub, Martha Rodríguez, Julie Girard, Junior & Carolina, as well as those featured in online events organized by Marce la Bachatera. There are many other outstanding bachata instructors that I hope to learn from in the future.
On a final note, I want to seriously (and joyously too) encourage you to seek bachata learning as a cultural manifestation. That is, learn the authentic Caribbean style. I will write a follow-up blog about my journey as a bachata dancer who started, like so many of us, from what I describe as a place of genuine ignorance, and I will compare that to how it feels today. In the meantime, keep dancing and stay safe!
note: for my articles on Cuban Casino dance, please visit the blog section of www.casinotradicional.com
Copyright © 2021 Julio Montero