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 Moves and Steps
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. The timing if called out sounds like “one, two, three, uh; one, two, three, uh.”
The walking basic is similar, with the dancers walking forward and back rather than side to side.
Styles of Bachata
Bachata is danced solo, in two-hand hold, open embrace and close embrace. In social parties and dances, the first three are quite common, while in night clubs, close embrace is the vogue.
Embellishments with the free foot on the fourth beat have become a defining feature of Bachata, especially in night club dancing.
The chasse basic in Bachata is three steps to the left or right and then three steps in the other direction. After the third step in the chasse, the dancer can tap or touch the free foot, raise the foot, wrap the foot around the partner’s leg or attempt a wide variety of embellishments.
The leg action is accompanied by a hip action to one side or a shake.
These embellishments are best understood by viewing the videos.
History and Classic Bachata
While Luis Segura is widely acclaimed as “the father of Bachata”, José Manuel Calderón is credited with recording the first Bachata songs on May 30th, 1962, in the studios of Radiotelevisión Dominicana (Borracho de amor and Condena).
These early recording will hardly be recognized as Bachata today. They were heavily influenced by Cuban Bolero such as Verdadero amor. Indeed, the music was not called Bachata. It was called Bolero Campesino. It was played using an acoustic guitar and was slower than the Bachata of today. Cuban Bolero is a Latin version of Blues replete with themes like deception and lost love. One of Calderón’s songs, Boracho de amor, even has a waltz rhythm.
In 1967, Calderón travelled to the US. When he returned to the Dominican Republic in 1972, he found that Bachata music had gained ill repute and had become associated with prostitution. Bachata had also become stigmatized and marginalized as music for the poorer classes. Only one nationwide radio station, Radio Guarachita, played the music.
Gradually, Bachata evolved in style and popularity, It burst on the international stage in 1992, when Juan Luis Guerra won a Grammy for his album Bachata Rosa. Suddenly Bachata regained its lost legitimacy. However, since the Calderón days, the music had become faster and incorporated electronic sounds.
Internationally, one of the most popular Bachata singles is Obsesion played by the Dominican group Aventura. Locally, popular Bachata performers are Antony Santos & Luis Vargas. Other notables include Raulin Rodriguez, Zacarias Ferreira, Frank Reyes, Monchy y Alexandra, Domenic Marte, Xtreme, Andy Andy, Leonardo Paniagua, Los Toros Band, and Joe Veras.