Bachata has an interesting history. It originated in The Dominican Republic. It is a mélange of many different influences, Spanish European influences, indigenous Taino and even sub-Saharan African influences. This is accounted for by the diversity of the Dominican Republic population. Bachata has many influences musically. Many of the rhythms are influenced by Bolero, Cubano, Mexican and Puerto Rican rhythmic styles. Bachata lyrics are almost always about romance or heartbreak.
The dance actually was born of the music in the Dominican Republic during the 1960’s. Dictatorship in the Dominican Republic found the dance to be too low of an art form and held back the music and dance for decades. Dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo banned the dance and music completely. The music and dance were born in brothels and was the reason it was considered lower morality. Even after Trujillo’s reign ended, it was still frowned on by most of the Dominican Republican society with the exception of the lower classes.
Rafael Leonidas Trujillo was assassinated on May 30, 1961. This led to years of social crisis following his death. Bachata, banned by Trujillo, really got a footing because of the social aspects of Dominican Republic society. Laden with class conflict and US interventionism post Trujillo, the poverty and the problems of society gave a strong rise to a music genre and an associated dance that had been previously forbidden. It was street music and dance found in brothels and impoverished areas.
Today Bachata is widely accepted and has even spun off into a line dance. There are three main forms of Bachata: Dominican Bachata, Bachata Moderna, and the traditional style Bachata.
Dominican Bachata is the purest form and stays close to its origins. Dominican Bachata is less structured with more free form moves in the dance. Born from social unrest and poverty, it is a style that finally has left its imprint on the world of dance. It has morphed into variations, but its popularity continues to rise among Latin and Hispanic countries world-wide. Caminito is one of the basics of Bachata. It starts with a cuddle hold where both dancers face in the same direction and move forward.
Bachata Moderna or modern style Bachata is the newest of the Bachata dances. It is influenced more by Tango and Bolero. Considered a proper dance today, it is gaining popularity world-wide. Since 2009, Bachata Moderna took its influence from Dominican Bachata but added more turn patterns. The side-to-side dance patterns of Dominican Bachata were replaced with more freestyle moves to add to the ease of the modern version. Caminito is still fundamental in Bachata Moderna. They start with Caminito but move more freely adding other influences and steps.
The traditional style Bachata is popular world-wide. It has less emphasis on turn patterns but maintains the traditional hip movement on the fourth beat. It remains simplified so that it is easily learned and accessible to everyone. Not as complicated as Bachata Moderna and keeping many of the dance steps from the original Dominican Bachata, it is an easier Bachata dance to learn. It is a great introduction to more complex forms of Bachata. Traditional Bachata is perfect for beginners.
Bachata music had its own trouble with the Trujillo regime but managed to survive and today thrive. The music is laden with heavy guitar which gives it it’s signature sound. Today, there are many Latino musicians still creating and recording Bachata music, solidifying Bachata music and therefore, Bachata dance.
Bachata dance continues to grow. There are large Bachata festivals annually. The San Francisco Bachata Festival and the Toronto Bachata Competition are two of the most well-known Bachata festivals and competitions. Bachata doesn’t have to be for competitions but is easily learned and available to anyone who loves to dance. Traditional Bachata is the easiest to learn and anyone can learn the dance steps. Once you have mastered the Traditional Bachata, moving to the more complex Bachata Moderna is only a dance step away.