The Origin of Bachata as you probably know both regarding the Music and the Dance are the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean.
Bachata originated in the El Cibao region and grew fastly from there to all over the country among the lower class citizents including the large poor areas of the capital Santo Domingo through Bars, Local Musicians and Radio Stations like La Guarachita. The name Bachata was given to the music in the early seventies as an contemptuous term for the lower class music and parties. Bachata is today a highly recognized and popular music genre and social dance.
The Music was in the late fifties and early sixties very semilar to the Puerto Rican Bolero from the fifties and then it over the following decades evolved into the faster, more characteristic and unique Bachata sound as we know it today - The Caribbean Bolero is a Cuban invention from the last quarter of 1800s and not semilar to the earlier Spanish Bolero.
Today you can find Bachata Music in many varying paces from the slow 'Bolero-pace' to the fast 'Salsa-pace': In the 60ies it was slow like a Bolero. In the 70-80ies it became faster and this sound and dynamic is what we today easily can recognize as the characteristic Bachata. In the 90ies the pace and dynamic reached its heights being very fast in general. In the 00es it became slower again and here in the 10ths we see a lot of romantic Bachata like we saw in the 60-70ies Bachata-Boleros together with mostly medio tempo paces and dynamics.
The first recording in the Dominican Republic (DR) with Bachata (Bachata-Bolero) was with Jose Manuel Calderon and the track 'Qué Será De Mi' recorded the 30 maj 1962 at the radio station "La Voz del Tropico" in Santo Domingo. I'm pretty sure it wasn't the first Bachata-Bolero played in The Dominican Republic but only the first recorded. It was a difficult time for poor musicians to get anything published anywhere without the right connections.
The first vinyl discs for promotion purpose in The Donimican Republic with "Qué Será De Mi" on one side and a waltz "Borracho De Amor" on the other side was printed in San Francisco, California and then re-printed and sold in thousands after the premiere in DR.
It was from that period the genre was formed even though the music was slower then (Bachata-Bolero) and the music was recorded with acustic guitars.
In 1986 the genre got a new era when Blas Duran started to record with an electric guitar and almost everybody followed that 'new' sound.
Summary: Bachata has evolved from the Puerto Rican Bolero (the Bolero is a Cuban invention) with influence from the Cuban Son and the Dominican Merengue and this also applies to the real dominican dance Bachata.
The evolution of the dance Bachata:
Bachata was in the beginning of the sixties danced as the slow Dominican Bolero in a close position only (it was actually Bolero they where dancing). On this Dominican Bolero steps the dance started to Evolve to the more dynamic music coming up, the first was adding a tap as a fourth step, then later also syncopated steps (steps in between the melody beats: 1,2,3,4) and footwork basically inspired from Cuban Son but most of it redesigned to Bachata. Turns also became more generally, first the Vuelta (full turn) and then the Enchufla (half turn) which are unique to Bachata and not similar to any other of the dances which inspired the dance Bachata, or similar to any other dance for that matter. The idea with the Enchufla was to be able to change position and thereby create more dynamic to fit the new dynamics and faster paces in the music and the creation of the Enchufla was based on the basic steps with the first step to the side and then the second step passing the guy and that also includes the Vuelta with a turning step to the side and then from there turned on the spot. Notice that the Bolero steps was danced without the Tap and it was danced turning slowly counter clockwise but this turning was taken out of the dance Bachata and then added these new dynamic turns Vuelta and Enchufla and also new positions to dance from e.g. the open position now having both the close, the semi close and the open dance positions. The bouncing way of dancing some dancers do while dancing is coming from the dance Merengue. Bachata was by this several decades long and still active evolutionary process carefully designed to fit the continuous evolving music and thereby is the dance Bachata the unique bodily expression of the music Bachata the same way all authentic social dances are evolved to fit any unique music genre. Notice that Bachata was as mentioned inspired by the dances Bolero, Son and Merengue but is NOT a fusion of these dances because most of the elements in Bachata are as described very unique evolved structures basically not similar to the inspirational dances, it's how evolution works.
In Bachata there is as mentioned a unique evolved basic dance structure which is used by all the experienced dancers, but the size of the steps, the angel of the steps, the footwork, the body movements together with the natural styling can varied because the dancers, opposite in e.g. Dance Sport are working to create their own unique and personal dance style. It's in general what social dance is about, being free to express oneselves the way one want according to the mood and the character of the music by using the common evolved and now fundamental dance structures in a stylish way.
Like all social dances Bachata also have had certain time periods for how the dance was danced: In the early years as mentioned Bachata was in general danced romantic with less turns, syncopated steps and footwork to that time period slower Bachata-Bolero music style. Then slowly there were evolved faster and more dynamic music including the replacement of the acoustic guitars to electric guitars in the second half of the eighties and on that the dance evolved further according to these changes becoming more dynamic adding more turns, syncopated steps and footwork. Today Bachata music are to be found in many paces, moods and dynamics. As a social dancer one has to adapt the dance to the track being played by using more or less of the elements to the dance which you in details can find described below. By learning all the dance elements you will be able to dance to any kind of the music Bachata.
The purpose with any social dance is to create the best physical connection while dancing to be able to have the optimal lead/follow interaction and thereby also obtain the best possible dance flow together. I call it the functionality of the dance. The longer a dance has been around the more the social dancers have been working on making all the basic dance elements the best possible and by this also obtain the best possible dance flow. Please don't underestimate all that work, it takes many years and without this common and well evolved dance structures we wont be able to feel the dance as intensely as the purpose is with this work (see also Musicality).
The authentic dance structures to Bachata:
Paso Basico (Basic Steps) Video: Danced in a "box"-structure side, side, forward, tap and side, side, backward, tap etc. and can include twisting feet and syncopations (taps between the beats), evolved from the Dominican Bolero steps. In Bolero we also have the walking/traveling steps (Pasealas) going back in several measures or fourth in several measures and then you have the right turn the couple turning together on the spot (Giro). There are no individual turns (Vueltas) in Bolero.
The Bolero steps are also used when Dominicans dance Son and the steps are originally a variation of the Cuban Danzón steps, a very popular music and dance genre all over the Caribbean many years ago also including The Dominican Republic before the popularity of Bolero and Son displaced Danzón. Dominicans dance Son in an old school Cuban fashion way, very charming!
Vuelta (Individual Full Turn) Video: A full turn starting with a step to the side and turning the body in the same direction at the same time and from there turned on the spot, a unique turn evolved to the dance Bachata. Can be done over one or two bars.
Enchufla (Couple Half Turn Changing positions) Video: A Lady inside turn moving forward on the 2nd step and then turn facing the dance partner from the 2nd to the 3rd step, the 1st step is to the side, also evolved unique to fit the structure of the Bachata basic steps.
Zapato/a (Footwork) Video: A part of the styling and playing with the syncopated rhythms in the music, some Cuban Son inspired and some newer made for the dance in accordance to the many syncopated rhythms in the music Bachata.
Movimiento (Movements and Styling) Video1, Video2: Natural soft African moves which can be danced with or without Bounce which is moving the body down in between the beats and up again on the beats by spring the legs a little, coming from the Dominican dance Merengue. Danced with homogeneous soft Arms, Hands, Hip and Torso movements with curved lines, women with a feminine attitude and men with a masculine attitude, NO straight lines in Arms and Fingers as in Dance Sport.
Figuras (Figures) Video: More dynamic ways to use the combinations of vueltas and enchuflas combined with variations of the basic steps or/and footwork.
Nueva Evolución (New evolutionary elements of today by expanding on the original basic elements above):
Vuelta Cubana: Individual Full Turn the way cubans do in Son.
Vuelta Opposite: An Individual Turn done the opposite way than usually starting e.g. on the right leg on the 1st step but then turned to the left (opposite as usual) on the 2nd step and finished on the 3rd step. There are different ways of doing the opposite turn, it can be done as a half turn (180 degrees) or as a full turn (360 degrees).
About Syncopations which are unique for Bachata and used to fit the many dynamic syncopations in the Bachata Music.
Ordinary Syncopations are steps coming between the beats and they are normaly coming between the 1st and 2nd beat and the 2nd and 3th beat dancing the Basic Steps as mentioned above by twisting the feet between the beats or tapping between the beats moving your legs inward. In the Kicking Steps they can be done between all the beats and in those you are moving the legs outward between the beats (kicking).
Significant Syncopations are steps between the beats also but where they are marked by an accent in the torso.
They appears as an extension of the tap between the tap and the following step e.g. if the tap is on the 4th beat the significant syncopation is coming between the 4th and 1st beat in the following Bar. Those are the one you also can se as "cha cha" steps going back and forth in the basic steps to the more dynamic music (Not semilar to the cha cha chá steps in the dance ChaChaChá). Some call what I call Significant Syncopations for double steps or triple steps.
About Footwork which here is defined as combinations with varied kind of steps, slides, kicks etc. also including syncopations. Footwork can be performed from one to several bars in the music and from relatively simple to very advanced.
Dance Connection: Open where the turns and footwork are done with 1 or 2 hand connection - Semi Close with the classic connection with the mans left hand and the women's right hand connected including the mans right hand behind the women's back and women's left hand on the mans shoulder, no torso contact - Close is the same as Semi Close or embracing with torso contact.
Musicality is about dancing to and with the music, it's about two very important issues: The first one is how the dance has evolved to and with the character of the music Bachata by the generations of social dancers in DR from it's start in the early sixties until today which have been a long evolutionary journey based on the Bolero and with the social dances Son and Merengue (which music genre also have affected the evolution of the music) as inspiration for the creation and the evolution of the dance elements, I call this for the evolutionary musicality (the unique corporal expression created on the specific musical genre). The second one is how you as a leader or follower in the dance Bachata interpret the specific track you are dancing to here and now regarding the mood, dynamic, pace, rhythms etc. using these elements evolved for the specific dance (the evolutionary musicality) which I then call the current musicality (the unique corporal expression of the specific mood and dynamics of the music track being played). Both are very important and both takes lots of experience in social dancing in general, first of all to be able to evolve on a dance together with and to the nature of the music and it's evolution and second to be able to dance Bachata of today using more or less of these evolved dance elements according to the specific track beeing played and how this track include syncopated rhythms, a specific mood, pace and instrumental dynamics etc.
Bachata the name: Please notice that these specific dance structures above is what define the dance Bachata, which name was given to the dance and the music during the early seventies and thereby also what one of course should expect if someone is using or advertising with the name Bachata.
In the Western World Salsa Dance Teachers have made up a serie of "new" dances: Bachata Modern, Bachata Sensual and Bachata Cabaret, but have they actually anything to do with Bachata?.. The answer is NO, but why is that?.. Because as mentioned above, the basic dance structures to any dance is what defines the dance and also makes the dance recognizable to those who know that specific dance! And none of those above mentioned dances use the original basic Bachata dance structures and they are not recognizable as Bachata for the Dominican population. The reality is that all the western dances are made by people with no detailed knowledge about the real dance Bachata then and nor did they bother to find out because what they wanted was basically just to profit on selling dance courses which they then called Bachata because they were danced to the music Bachata.
The first western dance occurred in Spain around 2002 when the music was more popular than ever and some dance teachers started to teach basic dance steps in a side to side motion. From those steps everything else added thereafter became then also a motion from side to side. First the Vuelta (the full turn) was made in the same sideways walking movement because this turn of course had to fit with the side to side steps to be able to keep the structure while dancing. But as most people know today the authentic Bachata Vuelta is turned on the spot because it is based on the real basic steps which is danced in a small square where the Vuelta should stay within without interrupting the flow of those basic steps when making the turn. Furthermore the Position Change we see in the the Western dances became a variation of the Vuelta walking forward instead of sideways to change position, where the Position Change in the real dance which like the real Vuelta also has its foundational structure in the basic steps and therefore ISN'T a variation of the Vuelta but are a traveling variation of the basic steps. The result of this is that in the real dance the lady is turning FACING the man during the position change and in the Western dances she is turning with her BACK to him which gives different connection-related dynamics compared with one another. I call this Position Change in the authentic dance for the Enchufla. Additional to this the Footwork they use in the Western dances are either taken directly from American Salsa or Tango and are not like in the authentic social dance inspired by the musical dynamics in Bachata. One can't just copy paste element from other dances which are danced to other musical genres to which the Footwork are made (se the section about musicality).
The western dance are therefore danced with a another basic dance structure than real Bachata and upon this structure the teachers have added dance elements and styling from several other known dances, the first one was American Salsa/X-body and this dance have got the label Bachata Modern today. The second was Tango given the label BachaTango (not danced anymore today as far as I know). And the third was Brazilian Zouk (a dance studio dance from Brazil) which was given the label Bachata Sensual. The styling in these western dances has its influences from Dance Sport while the styling in the authentic Bachata of course is based on natural related playful body-movements, a masculine expression for the man and a feminine for the lady.
So in this context talking about that the western dances IS Bachata or EVOLUTION of Bachata is PURE nonsense because they are NOT evolved from the basic dance structures of the original Bachata. Dancing these western dances to the music Bachata don't make them Bachata do it. They simply just brought the wrong toolbox to the task of dancing to the music Bachata, like if I was bringing the toolbox for the dance Bachata to the music Salsa. Then it would first of all just still be dancing Bachata and not Salsa, and it would also be a pretty bad interpretation of the music Salsa wouldn't it because all social dances are made to fit the music they are danced to (again please check the section about musicality above why that is). By now it must be pretty clear that there is a need for new labels for those completely different western dances. My suggestion is that we use the term 'Popchata'. Popchata should then be the MAIN LABEL for these "new" dances and then one could use the already EXISTING LABELS in use today for the SUB-dances but WITHOUT including the name Bachata to make this transition as easy as possible for everyone who already know those marketing labels. It basically means that under need the new main label 'Popchata' we have the dances Modern (mainly American Salsa/X-Body), BachaTango (mainly Tango), Sensual (mainly Brazilian Zouk), Cabaret (Competition/Show dance mainly consisting of Acrobatics and Gymnastics). Pop' then indicate it's popular dance forms in the Western World and the following "chata" give it the link to the music Bachata which they mostly are danced to. This would be much more fair to the Dominican population and their unique cultural dance. This way everyone by the name can recognize what actually IS Bachata and what is western dances based on another foundation fused with other already known dances in the western dance communities.
Another problem with Popchata is that many add theatre dance elements to the dance making it more and more artificial. The major question is: Is it good for the interaction between the sexes to make the dance more like a theatre play like what we see in Sport and Show dances which is all about the outer, the spot etc. or should we have a genuinely felt interaction on the social dance floor when we meet there and dance together?
Social dancing is around the feeling of the dances and thereby they are all about the inner, about how you and your dance partner connect and feel. Social dancing it's a delicate physical communication between the two, about how the leader best possible can arrange and improvise the interaction between them regarding the flow, the movements and the dynamic on a limited space on the dance floor and how the follower best possible can merge so they will become one movement, one feeling, one delicate affair, that's the true essence of social dancing, therefore we need to focus on what is going on in our social dance communities, why we socialize, why we dance and why we meet. Is it for socializing within dance or is it to show off within dance?
|Bachata: The authentic dance defined by it's unique and specific dance structures invented by the social dancers in The Dominican Republic which means the NAME Bachata = the authentic social dance.
|Popchata: Umbrella term for western dances without the authentic Bachata dance structures but with dance moves primarily taken from American Salsa and Brazilian Zouk danced to Pop Bachata music.
Whatever you are dancing romantic to a slow "Bolero" or to a medium or fast tempo alternating between close and open position dancing with more or less combinations of authentic turns and footwork the label is then Bachata because this is the accepted and used label of today by the population of The Dominican Republic who evolved the dance Bachata to fot the music Bachata.
However instructors teaching this authentic dance in the western world find it necessary with adjectives as "Authentic" or "Dominican" to make people and students understand what is taught at their courses.
Popchata is the main label and it covers different dances "invented" by Western Dance Studios and also taught by those. The Subgenres to Popchata you most frequently encountered are Modern and Sensual. A clear detailed description of what the labels cover should be included by the instructors themselves so people will have a clear idea of what it is they can expect of the teaching.
These dances are however all danced with the side to side steps, back and forth steps, side walking turns and forward walking turns as basic which are NOT the authentic structures. This include more or less X-body, Tango, Dance Sport, Brazilian Zouk, Pole and Contemporary dance elements.
|The Music: Bachata Bolero (the older slow genre) and Bachata Moderna (the sucesor with the electric guitar and in gererally faster and more dynamic, the sound from The Dominican Republic most common of today)
||The Music: Bachata Urbana (Bachata merged with R'n'B and Pop music is the sound from USA started in New York City, thereof the name 'Urban')
About the Author: Frank E has danced and analysed Authentic Bachata and Western dances called Bachata since 2003 - He has been equipped with video footage from the Dominican Republic dating back to 2000 and continuous forward - He has followed Bachata on YouTube from it's inception in 2005 and thereby reviewed thousands of dance videos with the authentic dance Bachata and the Western studio dances together with watching social dancers at many socials in DR and Wordwide - Frank E teach authentic Dominican Bachata, Dominican & Cuban Bolero, Dominican Merengue, Cuban Son and Cuban Casino ("Salsa") in DK - Frank E together with Helle Venters also organize Dance Holidays to The Dominican Republic.
Dance Documentary from Santo Domingo
Bachata Documentary with Luis Vargas
Dominican Bachata Music Playlist
Concert at the Ruins San Francisco, Zona Colonial
Social Dance at the Ruins San Francisco, Zona Colonial