The Origin is as you probably know regarding both the Music and the Dance, the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean, after saying originated in El Cibao region and grew there and in the poor areas of the capital Santo Domingo through Bars, Musicians and Radios like La Guarachita.
The Music was in the late fifties and early sixties very semilar to a Puerto Rican Bolero genre in the mid fifties (approximate) and then it over the following decades evolved into the faster, more characteristic and unique Bachata sound as we know today - The Caribbean Bolero is a Cuban invention from the last quarter of 1800s.
Today you can find Bachata Music in many varying paces from the slow 'Bolere-pace' to the fast 'Salsa-pace'.
The first known recording with Bachata was with Jose Manuel Calderon and the track 'Qué Será De Mi' the 30 maj 1962 and it was from that period the genre was formed even though the music in general was slower then (Bachata-Bolero) and the music was recorded with acustic guitars.
Summary: Bachata has evolved from the Caribbean Bolero (originally from Cuba) with influence from the Cuban Son and the Dominican Merengue and this also applies to the dance Bachata.
The evolution of the original 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. Sport Dance 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 evolved and now fundamental dance structure based on how the music evolved which is what makes it possible for all social dancers to dance together.
Like all social dances Bachata also have had certant time periods for how the dance was danced: In the early years as mentioned Bachata was in general danced more romantic with less turns, syncopated steps and footwork to that time period slower Bolero-Bachata 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 the dance evolved further according to these changes becoming more dynamic by adding more turns, syncopated steps and footwork. Today Bachata music are to be find in many different paces, moods and dynamics and as a social dancer one have to adapt the dance to the track being played by using more or less of the elements to the dance which you can find described below, and by learning all these original dance elements you will be able to dance to any kind of the music Bachata.
The purpose with the basic dance structure to any social dance is to create a good physical connection while dancing to be able to have the best lead/follow interaction and thereby 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 to obtain the best possible dance flow. Please don't underestimate all that work because without this common and well evolved dance structure we wont be able to fell the dance as intensely as it should be, because that's the purpose of social dancing (see also Musicality).
The original 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 steps (Paseala) going back in several measures or fourth in several measures and then you have the right turn turning together on the spot (Giro), there are none turns (vueltas or Enchuflas) in Bolero.
The Bolero steps are also used when Dominicans dance Son and both are 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.
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 Bachata.
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 Sport Dance.
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 and Casino ("Salsa").
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 on the 2nd step and finished on the 3rd step, typically done as a half turn but can also be done as a full turn, can also be done backwards as a half turn.
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).
About Footwork which are here defined as combinations with varied kind of steps, slides, kicks etc. also including syncopations.
The Kicking Steps are not Footwork by definition but a variation of the Basic Steps because they are repeated the same way (no real variation). You can find Footwork 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 seventies by the population in DR and thereby also what one of course should expect if someone is using or advertising with the name Bachata.
The Western Dance Studio Dances: Bachata Modern, Bachata Sensual and Bachata Cabaret are they actually Bachata? No they are NOT, but why is that? Because as mentioned above it's the basic dance structures to any dance which define the dance and make the dance recognizable to those who know that specific dance! And those above mentioned dances do not use the original basic Bachata dance structures. They are all made by Salsa Dance Studios in the Western World from the simple fact that they had no detailed knowledge about the real dance Bachata then and for some unknown reason didn't bother to find out. The Western Dances are not even real social dances by definition evolved and danced by the population itself as all real cultural social dances are, but just artificial made up Dance Studio Dances with the purpose to make money on dance courses to new popular music genres.
It all started in Spain around 2002 when the music was more popular than ever and then some Dance Studios saw a potential market for selling Bachata courses as well. But without doing the proper research about how the real social dance Bachata was danced in the Dominican Republic they somehow thought that the basic steps was danced in a side to side motion and therefore everything else in their dances were based on that side to side motion. First the Vuelta (the full turn) was made in this sideways walking movement because this turn of course had to fit with the side to side steps. 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/frame 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 based on the same ignorance about 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 completely different connections and dynamics compared with one another. I call this Position Change in the authentic dance for 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 just inspired by the Cuban Son and then made to fit the rest of the structure to the dance Bachata. One can't just copy paste element from another dance danced to another musical genre, then it won't suit the music to which it's now used (se the section about musicality).
The Western Dance Studio Dances are therefore danced with a completely CHANGED basic dance structure 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 (also a Dance Studio Dance), this western dance have 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 LambaZouk (also a Dance Studio Dance from Brazil) which was given the label Bachata Sensual. The styling in these Western dances has its influences from Ballroom Studio Dances/ Dance Sport Dances while the styling in the authentic dance of course is based on natural related playful body-movements.
So in this context talking about that the western dances IS Bachata or EVOLUTION of Bachata is PURE nonsense, first of all because they are NOT evolved from the basic structure of original Bachata. Using the name of the original dance, dancing these Studio Dances to the music Bachata don't make them Bachata that should be fairly obvious to anyone. 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 (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 very different Western Studio Dances which have nothing to do with the dance Bachata. My suggestion is that we use the term 'POPCHATA' (actually it would be more accurate to call it 'THE DOLLAR DANCE' because the purpose with these new dance was simple to make money on selling dance classes at that time when the music Bachata became extremely popular around the world - If they wanted to teach Bachata they could just have found out how Bachata actually was danced and then taught that, but they didn't bother). 'POPCHATA' should then be the MAIN LABEL for these "new" Studio Dances and then one could use the EXISTING LABELS already 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 ZoukLambada), 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, that would be much more fair to the Dominican population and their unique culture within music and dances. This way everyone by the name can recognize what actually IS Bachata and what is Western Dance Studio Dances based on a new and completely different foundation which is then fused with other already known dances in the western dance communities - Be sensible be real about what you do!
Another problem with Popchata is that many add theatre dance elements to the dance making it 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 dance together?
Social dance is about the inner, about how you and your dance partner feel, it's a none verbal delicate physical communication between the two, about how the leader best possible can arrange the interaction between them regarding the flow, the movements, the dynamic on a limited space on the dance floor and of course how the follower the best possible way 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, why we socialize, why we dance and why we meet, so our interaction not will be diluted by a superficial approach!
So the definition of Bachata is pretty clear, it's what the experienced social dancers are dancing in the Caribbean where many of the best and most dedicated Dominican dancers have been a part of the on going evolution of the dance from the sixties to present, which has resulted in the above defined dance elements and dance structures.
The modern labelling of the dances as I suggest it should be based on the dance elements included in the dances:
|Bachata: The authentic dance defined by it's unique and specific structures invented by social dancers in The Dominican Republic which means the NAME Bachata = the authentic social dance.
|Popchata: Umbrella term for western dance studio dances without the authentic Bachata dance structure = Studio Dances (NOT Bachata) danced to the music Bachata or the Pop R'n'B music styles = Western Popchata.
Whatever you are dancing romantic to a slow "Bolero" track or a medium or fast tempo alternating between close and open position dancing with more or less combinations of turns and footwork the label is Bachata because this is the accepted and used label of today by the population of the Dominican Republic, but ONLY if it's danced with the authentic basic elements to this social dance evolved from Dominican Bolero and inspired by Dominican Merengue and Cuban Son over decades along with and to fit to the music Bachata as we know it today and as described above.
However instructors teaching this dance in the west find it necessary with adjectives as Authentic or Dominican for people and students to 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 dance studio side to side steps, back and forth steps, side walking turns and forward walking turns as basic which are NOT the authentic structures, and then they include more or less X-body, Tango, Dance Sport/ Ballroom, ZoukLambada, HipHop, Pole and Contemporary dance elements in the dancing.
|The Music: Bachata Bolero (the older first genre) Y Bachata Moderna (the sucesor with the electric guitar and in gererally faster more dynamic, the sound from DR most common of today)
||The Music: Bachata Urbana (Bachata merged mostly with R'n'B, the sound from USA started in NY City thereof the name 'Urban')
About the Author: Frank E has danced and analysed Authentic Bachata and Western "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 dances at many many socials in DR and Wordwide - Frank E teach authentic Dominican Bachata, Dominican & Cuban Bolero, Dominican Merengue, Cuban Son, Cuban ChaChaChá and Cuban Casino ("Salsa") in DK.