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What is Bachata? | Waldo y Jacqui

Sunday, May 05, 2024

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What is Bachata?

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Welcome to our latest blog post where we dive deep into the vibrant world of Bachata, a dance that captures the heart and soul of the Caribbean. Hosted by Waldo y Jacqui, experts in Latin dance, this post will guide you through the rich history, styles, and musicality of Bachata, ensuring you understand every facet of this beloved social dance.

But what is social dance?

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Social dance is a reflection of the society, both political and cultural, of a country in a given era or time which can have some transformations depending on the region, place, or country.

For exemplo what is sensual bachata? Sensual bachata is a dance. Well, rather, it is a style of European Academy social dance that has nothing to do with the traditional popular bachata of the Dominican Republic, and sensual bachata is not an evolution, sensual bachata is a fusion of different styles and dance genres like traditional bachata, zouk, Kizomba, salsa, y more.

Sensual bachata and traditional bachata are different styles so one does not harm the other based on dance rules but in the end, traditional bachata is the mother of all bachata dance styles.

Latin social dances?

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Popular or traditional dance; It is regional of a country, it is usually born in the streets and represents the culture and history of a country, both political and social, in the case of bachata, like other Latin American dance genres, belongs to the genre of Latin social dances.

Ballroom dancing?

These are dances that are born in academies (dance schools) and are usually more popular in European countries. In many cases, ballroom dances are modifications of Latin dances, such as the cha cha cha, the rumba, samba, paso doble, etc (there are 10 ballroom dances that are categorized as sports) Outside of those 10, the rest are practically social

Sensual bachata (born in a school) is created under terms of ballroom dance which is based on academic dance techniques representing aesthetics and elegance.

Sensual bachata is a fusion of several dance genres such as Dominican bachata, zouk, Kizomba, salsa, and others.

Sensual bachata has brought an incredible stir to the social dance world and it is no wonder since it stands out for its sensuality, skill, and elegance.

Many dancers do not take sensual bachata as bachata, however sensual bachata is based on dance rules 👉 if it is more of a bachata style since it complies with the rules of a social dance,

So Dominicans or lovers of Dominican bachata should not worry, since Dominican bachata will always be respected, valued, and classified as the mother of all styles that may exist in the world of bachata.

​Korke and Judith, two excellent dancers, were founders and they always assume that sensual bachata was not born to devalue traditional popular bachata, it was born due to the little information they had about Dominican bachata, and thanks to this this incredible style was born. bachata

The Origins of Bachata

Bachata originated in the Dominican Republic and is now popular worldwide, though it varies slightly in form from place to place.

The fundamental steps involve three movements with a Cuban hip action, culminating in a tap that includes a hip movement on the fourth beat. Dancers should keep their knees slightly bent to facilitate easier swaying of the hips, which are crucial to the dance's essence. Typically, the dance involves mainly lower body movements up to the hips, with minimal upper body motion.

During a dance, partners may choose between open or closed positions. The variety of dance steps performed largely depends on the music's rhythm, the setting, the mood, and the dancers' interpretation. Bachata generally features simpler turn patterns than Salsa, though these are increasingly incorporated as the style develops. Like many social dances, Bachata uses a "push and pull" technique in arm and hand movements, which is most effective when the bulk of the movement is concentrated in the lower body, particularly the hips and feet.

Bachata is commonly known by many as a very sensual dance. To most it may seem that way, however, that is not what it is intended to be taken as. Bachata is a dance, done by a person with another, to express the feelings one has for a specific other. It is believed by most, that the more smoothly and more frequently the hips are used and moved, the more feelings the individual has for the other.

With this in mind, bachata started as a kind of "mating call"; being chosen to dance bachata with someone indicated a selection as a potential partner, and dancing twice with the same person effectively "sealed the deal."

The traditional dance style from the Dominican Republic features an 8-count sequence that is performed within a square pattern. Western dancers later simplified this pattern to an 8-count side-to-side motion. Both styles involve three standard steps followed by a tap step. This tap often includes a hip "pop" and may incorporate syncopations—steps between beats, some resembling cha-cha-cha steps, and others quite distinct.

Bachata music features a distinct rhythm accent on every fourth count, typically when dancers perform the tap step and hip pop, known as dancing bachata to the music (because the first step after the hip pop aligns with the 1st beat of the next measure). However, bachata can also be danced to different timings, especially if it aligns with a specific instrument. The tap or 'pop' is executed in the opposite direction to the previous step, and the subsequent step follows the direction of the tap or pop, changing the direction of the dance after the fourth step.

All about Bachata music

The earliest bachata originated in the countryside of the Dominican Republic in the first half of the 20th century. Jose Manuel Calderon recorded the first Bachata song, “Borracho de amor” in 1962.

The genre combined the pan-Latin American bolero style with African influences from Son and incorporated the widespread troubadour singing tradition of Latin America.

Historically, Bachata music was often dismissed by the Dominican elite, linking it to rural poverty and criminality. Up until the 1980s, Bachata was even considered too coarse and unsophisticated for broadcast on Dominican television or radio.

In the 1990s, the genre underwent a significant transformation, moving from the traditional nylon-stringed Spanish guitar and maracas to the electric steel string and güira used in Modern Bachata.In the 21st century, the genre further developed with the rise of Urban Bachata styles, introduced by groups such as Monchy y Alexandra and Aventura. These contemporary forms of Bachata have gained international popularity, making it one of the most beloved styles of Latin music today, surpassing even salsa and merengue in many Latin American dance venues.


A standard Bachata band consists of seven instruments: Requinto (lead guitar), Segunda (rhythm guitar), an electric guitar, another guitar, bass guitar, bongos, and güira. The Segunda is particularly important for providing syncopation in the music. Bachata bands generally play a traditional bolero style, characterized by the lead guitar’s use of arpeggiated repetitive chords, a hallmark of Bachata music.

However, when shifting to a merengue-based Bachata, the percussionist swaps the bongos for a Tambora drum. Historically, during the 1960s and 1970s, maracas were favored over the güira. The transition in the 1980s from maracas to the more adaptable güira coincided with Bachata's evolution towards a more dance-centric genre.

Music history

The first recordings of Dominican bachata took place shortly after Trujillo's death, ending his 30-year dictatorship characterized by censorship. José Manuel Calderón is recognized for producing the first bachata singles, "Borracho de amor" and "Que será de mi (Condena)," released as 45 rpm records in 1961. Following the fall of Trujillo's regime, a wave of new talent emerged, including Rodobaldo Duartes, Rafael Encarnacion, Ramoncito Cabrera El Chivo Sin Ley, Corey Perro, Antonio Gómez Sacero, Luis Segura, Louis Loizides, Eladio Romero Santos, Ramón Cordero, and others. This influx marked the development of the Dominican music industry and the ascendance of bachata during the 1960s.

At that time, bachata music, with its distinct Dominican essence, was considered a variation of the bolero genre. The name "bachata," originally denoting an informal rural gathering, was not commonly associated with the music until it was used derogatorily by those who wanted to demean it. The elite of Dominican society viewed bachata as a reflection of cultural degradation, leading to a concerted effort to stigmatize the music negatively.

The 1970s were challenging times for bachata. Rarely featured on radio, television, or in print, the genre was confined to low-status venues like bars and brothels in impoverished neighborhoods.

Influenced by themes of sex, despair, and crime, bachata music mirrored the harsh realities of its settings, further reinforcing the stigma of being the music of the slums. Despite this marginalization, bachata continued to enjoy widespread popularity, even outselling the more publicly favored orchestral merengue. Prominent artists from this period include Marino Perez and Leonardo Paniagua.

By the early 1980s, the rising popularity of bachata was undeniable. The demand led to increased radio play and television performances for bachata artists, who started to adopt a more vibrant dance-hall style with faster tempos, more dynamic guitar work, and prevalent call-and-response singing.

Bachata-style merengues, particularly guitar merengues, became a significant component of the genre's evolution. Blas Durán was notably the first artist to use an electric guitar in his 1987 hit song, "Mujeres hembras."

The 1990s saw a modernization of bachata, propelled by new talents like Luis Vargas and Antony Santos, who infused their music with bachata merengues. These artists reached unprecedented levels of fame, laying the groundwork for Bachata's entry into commercial pop music and international markets.

Juan Luis Guerra's 1992 Grammy-winning album "Bachata Rosa" played a crucial role in legitimizing the genre globally, despite its songs not featuring the traditional bachata sound.

By the early 21st century, the bachata group Aventura, led by Anthony "Romeo" Santos, brought innovative changes to the genre, achieving significant commercial success and influencing the international music scene. Following the disbandment of Aventura, as Henry Santos pursued a solo career, the genre continued to evolve.

Alongside traditional bachata, a fusion genre developed in Western countries such as the USA, combining bachata rhythms with elements from Hip Hop, R&B, pop, and techno. This new style gained traction, particularly with artists like Prince Royce, Xtreme, and Toby Love, and saw former Aventura member Romeo Santos releasing successful albums in this fusion style. The influence of bachata even reached mainstream artists like Drake, who incorporated bachata-inspired dance moves in his music video "Hotline Bling."

Bachata Dance Styles

Bachata Original/Dominican Bachata

The original style of Bachata dance originates from the Dominican Republic, where the music itself was born. Dating back to the 1950s, this early style was primarily danced in a closed position, similar to the Bolero. The basic steps of Bachata involve movement within a small square, mirroring Bolero but with distinct differences, such as syncopations based on the dancer's mood and the music's character. Hand placement varies from very close to semi-open, depending on the dance's intimacy.

Today, Original Dominican Bachata is danced throughout the Caribbean, adapted to quicker music with additional footwork, turns, and rhythmic movements, shifting between close (romantic) and open (playful) positions. This style features gentle hip movements and a characteristic hip "pop" on the fourth beat. It's a dynamic dance that can be performed with or without a bounce, reflecting its evolution from its late fifties origins as a social dance.

Traditional Bachata

By the late 1980s or early 1990s, dance schools in the West began using a simpler side-to-side pattern instead of the traditional box steps, likely due to misinterpretations of the original movements. This style fosters a close connection between partners, with subtle hip movements and a gentle "pop" on the fourth step. Influenced heavily by ballroom dance techniques, this was the first so-called Fusion Style of Bachata, incorporating Western dance elements.

Modern Bachata (Bachata Moderna)

Emerging around 2005 and debated to have originated in Spain, Modern Bachata integrates elements from Salsa, Tango, Zouk-lambada, and Ballroom dancing. Dancers in this style typically use more pronounced upper torso movements and exaggerated hip actions, heavily influenced by salsa turn patterns. There is also a newer Urban Style that includes elements of Hip-hop but maintains the technical base of Modern Bachata.

Bachatango/Bachata Tango

This Western fusion style combines traditional Bachata steps with Tango movements. The sensual "pop" count enhances its elaborate Latin dance styles, predominantly influenced by Tango. Though not recognized in Bachata's homeland, the Dominican Republic, Bachatango has gained popularity among dance instructors outside the Caribbean.

Bachata Sensual

Popularized in Spain, Bachata Sensual blends dance and theatrical elements with precise follow-and-lead dynamics. This style interprets the music through fluid circular movements and body waves, utilizing isolations and dips when the music intensifies.

Ballroom Bachata

Developed for competitive dancing in the West, this style features extreme hip movements and extensive Ballroom dance styling. Primarily used in dance competitions, it adheres to the traditional Bachata steps but is stylized for performance rather than social dancing.

Other Bachata Styles

Numerous other Bachata styles have been developed in the West, each introduced and popularized by different dance instructors globally. These styles vary significantly in technique and presentation, and whether they are viewed as entirely new styles or merely variations of existing ones is often a topic of debate among dance educators and students.


Bachata, with its rich tapestry of movements and styles, stands as a vibrant expression of culture, emotion, and history. Originating from the Dominican Republic, it has evolved into a global phenomenon, capturing hearts with its rhythm and sensuality. From the traditional steps of the Dominican countryside to the innovative twists of Modern and Sensual Bachata, the dance continues to evolve, driven by creativity and passion.

Waldo y Jacqui have demonstrated that whether through the rhythmic intimacy of Traditional Bachata or the aesthetic elegance of Sensual Bachata, this dance form embodies more than just movements—it represents a dialogue between dancers, a story told through every step and sway. As instructors and enthusiasts, our aim is not just to teach the steps but to impart the spirit of Bachata, encouraging dancers to explore its depth and diversity.

In this journey through the world of Bachata, we find that it is more than a dance; it is a cultural artifact, reflecting the evolution of its people and times. It challenges us to connect, not only with the music and the steps but with the very essence of our humanity. As we continue to dance, learn, and teach, Bachata remains a beautiful, ever-evolving art form that speaks universally—inviting everyone, everywhere, to step onto the dance floor and be moved by its rhythm.

​We invite you to join us at SalsaKnox Dance Company, where the story of Bachata continues to unfold, through classes, workshops, and vibrant dance events. Let’s keep the spirit of Bachata alive, celebrating its legacy and its future, one step at a time.

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Empower Your Dance Career...

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...in 16 weeks and turn your passion for dance into a thriving profession.

Why Choose This Program?

The world of Latin dance is evolving, and There's a Growing Demand for Salsa Instructors.