Bachata is a style of dance that accompanies the music of the same name. It has origins in the Dominican Republic – but is now played and danced to around the world. Bachata may now be as, or even more, popular than salsa. Fusions of bachata and other styles of dance/music are also gradually emerging. The best known, so far, is probably bachatango – although many salsa dancers sometimes seem to dance bachata more like basalsa or salchata than anything resembling true Domincan bachata (in look or feel).

Some Latin American Spanish dictionaries define bachata as fun and merriment. In the Dominican Republic, however, bachata refers to (often impromptu) get-togethers that include food and music. The guitar-based music of these parties and how the people dance (gradually) became to be known as bachata.

The bachata style of music was originally called “bolero campesino” and was played mainly by rural musicians – who were often looked upon and referred to as bachatero. Bachata musicians took their inspiration from a number of music genres. Perhaps the most influential was the Cuban bolero; others include Mexican rancheros and corridos, Dominican merengue and meregua, Cuban son, guaracha and guajira, Colombian-Ecuadorian vals campesino and pasillo, and Puerto Rican plena and jibaro.

The distinctive sound of a bachata band comes from five core instruments: lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, guira, and bongo. Bachata songs are often romantic. The inspiration for the music are generally topics that have to do with the emotions of love – ranging from lost love and being deceived by love. It correlates very well to the blues as most of the songs deal with heavy emotions. The original term used to name the genre was amargue (“bitterness,” or “bitter music”) since tales of heartbreak and sadness were especially prevalent. But not all bachata music is sad. Over time, the tempo and type of lyrics have changed. Although some (still) consider bachata to be “dirty” (or associated with alcohol, violence, sex, and the like), the music and dance can be quite beautiful and appropriate for any social setting.

The way bachata is danced outside the Dominican Republic is often quite different from how it is danced in the Caribbean. The common urban, European, “moderno” style of bachata is danced to a four-step beat with a walking Cuban hip motion (usually to the side), and a unique (hip) “pop”. The dance may be performed in either or both “open” position and/or “closed” position – depending on the setting, speed of the music, and the mood, skill, or comfort of the partners.

The basic dance footwork is to a full 8-count in a side-to-side motion – although, traditionally, it was a back and forth motion or a “box” pattern (with NO partner turns).

The bongo of bachata music has a slight accent in rhythm at every fourth count, which dancers usually acknowledge with a foot tap or hip “pop”. The tap or “pop” will always be done in the opposite direction of the last step, while the next step will be taken on the same direction of the tap or pop. Some people will also dance to the bass guitar or incorporate the rhythms of the guira or bachata guitar during instrumentals between the singing.

It is also very common for the rhythm of the music to change every 4 or 8 measures and then return to the original rhythm. Since lyrics do not always fit neatly into this pattern, occasionally the rhythm change will not happen until the 9th measure. If so, it will have a corresponding 9-measure set somewhere later in the song to restore the balance.

Basic step
The most basic pattern is stepping to the beat of the bongo: 1, 2, 3, then tap with no weight, change direction and step with foot that just tapped 5, 6, 7 and tap. Repeat. The dance direction may be in place, to the side, or forward and back, or in a circle. More often than not, the direction and foot used will change after every 4th count. The dance usually starts with the male stepping left, with Cuban hip motion, and the female stepping right also with Cuban hip motion.

It is also possible to dance to other instruments and rhythms. Footwork timing syncopation variations are also increasingly popular.

Dance Variations

Modern Bachata (Nueva bachata) is the new version of the traditional bachata brought about through the younger generation of bachata dancers. This style incorporates more free style moves. This involves intricate footwork: enchufles, lock steps, guapachas, slides, etc. The female, along with the male, will incorporate the footwork with a difference being in her isolated hip movements within the Cuban hip motion.

Rueda de Bachata is inspired by Cuban Rueda de Casino. A group of couples dance basic Bachata in a circle while a leader calls out set moves executed in unison by the whole group, often with partner changes. Originated in the Dominican Republic.

Bachata Tango (Bachatango) is a style of dance incorporating Tango styling. It is characterized by embellished kicks, dips, turns and long pauses generally used in Tango as well as other popular Latin Dances. This dance is performed in a very close position with fewer elaborated foot styling than Bachata due it’s focus being more on sensuality. It focuses on overextended Cuban hip motion. The basic steps are the same 8-count as Bachata only that it produces a side to side motion, while occasionally moving back and forth. The “pop” count will be used to add elaborated sensuality and varied Latin dance styles. Although this dance has been used to dance to Bachata, it has evolved to being used to dance to Tango as well. It should be noted that ‘Bachatango’ is a foreign introduction and is unheard of in the Dominican Republic – Bachata’s country of origin.

History Of Bachata
Jose Manuel Calderon has been credited with the recording of the first Bachata single – Borracho de amor. This song is quite romantic and is closer to bolero. Although bolero remains the most significant influence, the two genres are quite distinguishable. The various phases Bachata went through are listed below:

Bachata Bolero: This phase can be characterized by slow tempo, emotional style and romantic words.

Cabaret Bachata: Bachata musicians began to perform in cabarets and this led to its social rejection; this kind of music was essentially rough.

Sexual Double Entendre Bachata: During the 1980s, the Bachata music began to include songs and lyrics that implied sexual meanings. Consequently, the infamous Bachata became a further target of criticism.

Techno Bachata: Certain liberal middle-class musicians showed interest in Bachata and manipulated it such that their songs reflected more of Bolero than Bachata. Juan Luis Guerra is a musician of this time who became increasingly popular in Latin America as well as the United States and Europe.

Frontier Bachata: Luis Vargas, Anthony Santos and Raulin Rodriguez conquered Bachata in the early 1990s; they included as much Merengue as Bachata in their collection.

Romantic Bachata: Anthony Santos pioneered this form of Bachata where there began to be a transformation into simpler and more romantic Bachata. Joe Veras was another popular Bachatero who increased Bachata’s pace towards romanticism.

Vallenato and Bachata: In the late 1990s, Bachata began to involve more middle-class musicians who attended school and studied other genres formally. Martires de León introduced the strategy of recording Colombian Vallenatos as Bachatas; Luis Vargas followed this style. This made Bachata acceptable to a wider audience.

The New York School: Aventura, a Dominican group, uses sound effects along with R&B influenced vocals which has attracted international audiences far and wide.

Classic Dominican: Joan Soriano is widely acknowledged as El Duque de la Bachata. A practitioner of palo and gaga, Joan blends Afro-Dominican sacred traditions with bachata, imparting his music with down to earth spirit and dance-ability. Joan preserves bachata’s roots and expands on them. He is a rare combination of new and authentic.

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