What is the Bachata?

The Bachata originates from the Dominican Republic. It made its way around the globe, gaining influence from other Latin dances, like Salsa and Merengue, and from Western and European dance styles. Today it is considered a “fusion-style” dance and is not danced identically in any two places. However, its colorful roots are the foundation of every style and are mirrored in its always sensual motions. Bachata is a more intimate and close dance, with movements that are intentionally romantic with the person you dance with.

Bachata’s music is about bitterness, pain, a lost love, or unfaithfulness in a relationship. It was always very sad. The way it is danced reflects how couples let off steam: how do we cope? We cope through dancing. Deemed a favorite dance for many professional and recreational dancers, Bachata’s popularity cannot be denied.

The History of Bachata

Bachata dance developed with its accompanying music genre, also called Bachata. The first Bachata music recordings were created immediately after the 1961 assassination of Dominican Republic’s 31-year dictator, Rafael Trujillo, who had repressed the dance. Like the period it came from, Bachata music and dance often tell a tale of heartbreak and sadness.

In the 1970s, Bachata music was seldom broadcasted and was banned from high society venues. Bachateros appeared solely in bars and brothels, mostly in the poor, countryside neighborhoods. Thus, the music and dance were influenced by their surroundings: sex, desolation and corruption. The Dominican upper class considered it vulgar and crude. It wasn’t until the 1980s that Bachata took on a more dance-hall sound with increased tempos, punchier guitar notes, and call and response singing.

Bachata gained popularity as more radio stations caught on to the upbeat rhythm. By the 1990s, it modernized further and emerged internationally as a music and dance for Latin dance halls. Dancers and dance schools modified the box-step pattern to a side-to-side pattern. In 1992, Juan Luis Guerra won a Grammy for his Bachata Roja, which legitimized the genre and made it more widely acceptable.


How to Dance the Bachata

The authentic Bachata, from the Dominican Republic, is a box-step dance with a sequence of 8 counts. Western influence kept the same 8 counts, but altered the basic step with a side-to-side motion. The fusion-style of Bachata developed in the United States, Europe, and Australia combines any or all of the Traditional, Modern, Urban, Bachatango, and Bachaballroom styles.

Steps one through three are a step-together-step, followed by a tap on count four. Changing direction, dancers repeat the step-together-step for counts five thru seven, and tap on the eight count. The tap on the four and eight count can include a slight or exaggerated “pop” movement with the hips, depending on the dancer’s style. With each Bachata step, the dancer’s hips mimic a figure-eight design. It is important to keep knees slightly bent to ease the sway of the hips. When you dance Bachata, the music follows the same 8-count pattern and the rhythm accents every fourth count, which is a good indication of when to “pop.” The tap and pop indicate which direction the next steps will go.

As a partner dance, the leader decides whether to perform in an open, semi-closed or closed position. The leader communicates with “pushing and pulling” hand gestures. The performance variations depend on the music, venue, mood, and interpretation.