My ever ‘hilarious’ dance partner Johan has developed 3 little demos for how you do not want to (but how many people in fact do) dance bachata – including the electricuted hip look, the tapper and the marcher (need i say more…). All styles are easy to adopt… simply learn bachata on the dancefloor! (Watch video on Facebook)
Much of the beauty of bachata is in its simplicity. It is perfectly enthralling to watch, or better yet to dance a bachata where two people are hardly travelling, moving subtly together, where turns patterns are minimal and spins not present. Many of my favourite social bachatas have been as such.
When we start teaching our bachata students we tell them the steps are indeed easy to pick up. Three steps and a tap. Voila! But we then explain how the steps do not constitute the dance. They are but a foundation upon which the body movement that makes bachata ‘bachata’ is built.
There are so many reasons people don’t learn bachata. I have been assured it is the same with all dances, though I feel there is a particular attitude around bachata, which is seen as ‘the slow dance’, slow meaning ‘easy and do-able without classes’. Or if people do take classes, often they take just enough to be able to ‘do’ it socially. How many classes is enough? Is ‘doing bachata’ without the body movement really dancing bachata?
People feel pride in learning without instruction, in being able to say they ‘just picked it up’. Women who can follow can quickly pick up the steps, and with a good lead even follow the body movement. However such a culture of ‘learning on the dancefloor’ sees guys with bad technique leading girls into bad technique, fostering a culture of bachata marchers and tilting teapots.
There is also the ‘sleeze’ factor, with women uncomfortable to dance with numerous men in such a close hold. I wonder from where this discomfort stemmed – possibly from dancing bachata socially with guys with bad technique and posture, grinding unnecessarily.
The devaluing of bachata as a dance is embedded in its very history. However it is no longer considered a dance of the ‘lower classes’, but perhaps more a ‘lower class dance’ in the social heirarchy of latin dance styles, not afforded the time or energy given to learning other latin dances.
A friend so eloquently described her take on bachata: “I have seen bachata with tango, ballet, or moderna… it is like the shy younger cousin waiting to bloom for her time in the spotlight, mysterious, elusive and yet …naively sensual. Well that’s how I feel when I dance bachata anyway”. There are bachateros around the world evolving the ‘simple’ dance they know and love, adding new styling, redefining the boundaries of the constant left to right. As all other dance forms, bachata is an expression of personality, emotion, culture, tradition and globalisation. Those who do decide to take a class are usually incredibly and pleasantly surprised by how much there is to learn and play with beyond the 1,2,3,tap.
Why is it that you do or do not take (or have or have not taken) bachata classes? We invite you to share your opinions (in a constructive manner) and open up a friendly dialogue about the dance we love.
Written By Kari Bowling. Kari is a latin dance instructor at Latin Dance Nation, in Adelaide, South Australia. Kari is an avid and passionated Bachatera. You can find Kari at the studio, night clubs in Adelaide and Latin events in Australia
Photographs by Tim Bates, Adelaide