In celebration of the new bachata class starting this Friday, today’s blog post will give you a brief introduction to the history of bachata, both as a music genre and as a dance!
Bachata music originated from the Dominican Republic in the early 20th century. Similar to salsa, bachata’s roots can be traced from Cuban boleros and Són music. Like many other street music styles, bachata was considered crude and vulgar by the upper social classes, but was extremely popular in the countryside and rural neighborhoods.
In the 1990s, bachata finally reached mainstream acceptance, and one of the critical moments came when musicians decided to switch from the acoustic guitar (one of the main instruments in bachata music)to electric guitar, changing the music’s sound signature drastically. This “New York Style” bachata became very popular, and is now well recognized throughout the world’s Latin clubs.
The subject of modern bachata music is almost always romantic, and oftentimes filled with tales of heartbreak and lost love. Originally, bachata music was named amargue, or “bitter music”, and reflected the sex/violence/crime of the musician’s surroundings. As the genre became more mainstream, the subjects of bachata music mellowed out, focusing more on its romantic elements.
Like bachata music, the dance came from Dominican Republic. The basic step is based on eight beats; the footwork involves three side steps, followed by a tap/hip movement on the 4th and 8th beat.
A very sensual dance, the original bachata (as danced in the Dominican Republic and in the rest of the Caribbean) does not involve many complex turn patterns. Instead, the main focus of the dance is on the male lead and communication. As the dance evolved, North American dancers began developing more and more complex patterns, adding intricate details to the dance.
Currently, there are two main styles of bachata:
Dominican bachata is characterized by the use of open positions, and musicality is mostly expressed through footwork patterns and directional changes. Hip movements are often characterized as “smooth”, while drastic.
A sharp contrast to Dominican bachata, modern bachata is mostly danced in closed position, and emphasizes on full body movements (upper body and hip movements). The hip movements are described as “sharp”.
What makes bachata a very fun dance is also its versatility – dancers often incorporate elements of other dances (tango, zouk, kizomba etc) into bachata, creating many fresh styles!