How to dance bachata – All you need to know
If you have just discovered this amazing couple dance called bachata, you know how much is so contagious to everyone with its sensual rhythms, dance steps and above all with its romantic lyrics.
You probably have a lot of questions in mind. And one of the most important: “How to dance bachata?”.
I was in the same situation when I first started to dance bachata. So that’s why I decided to write this article to help you and give you all the information you need to know to get started and guide you to know “How to dance bachata“. So stay until the end, I might give you some useful tips. And don’t worry, Bachata is probably one of the easiest couple dance to learn! You will get it 😉
1) What’s Bachata ?
– Bachata meaning and origin
Etymologically, the word bachata is an African word but was known in the Dominican Republic in the ‘60s. It means “party” or “reunion“, where people used to play and listen to popular music in the field.
Her roots are Bolero, Cuban son, Merengue, Guaracha…
– Bachata history in very few words
Originally, it was not as popular as it is right now. It was not very appreciated by high-level society. It began to be a way of gathering with people (play music, having fun, or expressing your pain, sorrow, joy…).
Bachata started to be popular in the ’80s being heard on radio stations (Juan Luis Guerra, Anthony Santos, Franck Reyes…) and reaching people of all social classes.
You probably have heard this hit track “Obsesión” from the band Aventura (in 2002). It was a world record for sales worldwide, becoming an ambassador of bachata internationally. This band, Aventura, marked the path to follow for many other groups and artists, who were aware of the projection that bachata could have on the dance floors and dance halls and help bachata to the place where we are today.
This part is just a tiny extract of what bachata history is in reality because this is not the point of this article 🙂! But if you want to know more about it in detail from the '60s to now, this is here!
– Bachata: a partner dance
Bachata is a partner dance. In other words, you need a leader and a follower. Traditionally, it has always been male and female. Nowadays, everything is changing and more females are dancing as leaders and some males as followers too. So getting to the point, it really doesn’t ́t matter the gender. You just have to choose what role you feel more comfortable with (leading or following).
2) How is it danced?
– Bachata basic step
Be aware, bachata originally was often taught between family and friends but not like the way we now teach it around the world with a proper structure.
The common Bachata basic step taught in school is composed of 4 steps usually side to side. In Dominican or traditional style, the basic step is more used in a square pattern.
In this article, I’ll take about the basic step side to side:
|Follower||Feet closed, start with right foot going to the right||– First step: open the right leg and step with the right foot|
– 2nd step: close your legs together bringing the left foot
– 3rd step: open the right leg and step the right foot
– 4th step: bring the left leg and tap with your left foot
|Leader||Feet closed, start with left foot going to the left||– First step: open the left leg and step with the left foot|
– 2nd step: close your legs together bringing the right foot
– 3rd step: open the left leg and step the left foot
– 4th step: bring the right leg and tap with your right foot
To realize the basic step side to side, you repeat the sequence on the other side.
This is below the bachata basic step for the leader (full 8 counts), starting to the left. For the follower, this is exactly the same starting to the right and finishing to the left.
During your basic step, your hips are supposed to move side to side (lateral movement) and in the opposite way you step.
I’m not gonna go into detail about the hip movement because it shouldn’t be your priority if you start dancing bachata. If you want to know more about it, you can read this article and go to the “Hips movement in basic step” part.
Plus, be aware that there are a lot of variations of the hips movement in the basic step depending on what style you dance. Let’s say to simplify, the “side to side/opposite hips movement” is the most common and used.
Also, the tap is often accompanied by a slight “pop” of the hips. (I said slight pop, be careful about the videos you can see with an exaggerated hip movement on the tap 😉) . I didn’t do it in the video above to not confuse you too much for the beginning 🙂
– Timing and counting
Musically speaking, Bachata is a 4/4 time rhythm with 4 principle beats to every measure.
If we talk about the dance, bachata is a basic dance sequence of full 8 counts. It means you step on 1,2,3 and you tap on 4 then, you step on 5,6,7 and you tap on 8.
|Follower||Starting with the right foot, stepping 1,2,3 to the right|
Continuing to the left, starting with the left foot, stepping 5,6,7
|Tap On 4 with left foot|
Tap on 8 with right foot
|Leader||Starting with the left foot, stepping 1,2,3 to the left|
Continuing to the right, starting with the right foot, stepping 5,6,7
|Tap On 4 with right foot|
Tap on 8 with left foot
Finally, be aware, bachata is not necessarily danced on 1. It can be danced to different timings: on 2, on 3…
As well as if it’s danced to one particular instrument instead. But, to be able to dance with any dancer in any country, it’s usually taught on 1.
– Holding positions to dance bachata with a partner
Generally in Bachata, there are two main positions for holding your partner:
- open position
- closed position
You can have additional positions depending on the style you dance but let’s keep it simple to start:
- Open position, partners have space between them, as they make contact only through their hands.
Keep your arms loose and relaxed. The leaders offer his two hands facing up and the follower will gently place her hands over his (palm facing down). Don’t grab with your thumbs. Both your and your partners’ elbows should be bent at your sides, which will put your bodies about a foot or two apart.
- Closed position, is more intimate, as it involves an arm draped across the lady’s back and slight-to-strong contact between the two partners’ bodies
The leader will wrap his right arm around the follower’s torso so that his right palm is resting roughly in the middle of her back. The follower will drape her left arm over his, resting her left hand near his right shoulder.
Then the leader with his left arm (called also “leading arm”), will hold her right hand out to the side at about shoulder or chest height, keeping both elbows bent. Don’t interlock fingers – your hands should be held palm-on-palm, with the back of your both hand facing out.
If you want to go deeper, don’t hesitate to read my article about the 7 common mistakes that beginners make in bachata!
3) Different bachata styles
There are 3 main categories in bachata and other additional styles:
– Traditional Bachata:
The original from Dominican Republic. Example of artists: Junior y Carolina
– Modern Bachata:
Bachata basic with salsa patterns. Example of artists: Ataca y La Alemana
– Sensual Bachata:
Modern Bachata with sensual variations, isolations, body waves. It’s a fusion of different styles of Traditional and modern bachata with zouk, hip hop, west coast swing influences. Example of artists: Korke y Judith, creators of Sensual Bachata
– Other styles:
Derived from Modern and Sensual Bachata:
with Tango influence such as Bachatango. Nowadays, this style tends to disappear. Example of artists: Basi y Deisy
or with Hip-Hop influence named for example Fusion Bachata, Urban Bachata, Street Bachata… Example of artists: Abdel y Lety (bachata flow)
4) Bachata Music and singers
You can mainly find 3 kinds of bachata music:
– Traditional music:
From Dominican Republic, very characteristic sound with the requinto guitar and the rest of the instruments, you find in Bachata (guira, bongo, bass, second guitar)
Ex: Anthony Santos, Luis Vargas, Raulín Rodriguez, Frank Reyes, Yoskar Sarante, Kiko Rodriguez
– Commercial bachatas:
Inspired by the group Aventura who created a new style of bachata music mixing bachata with other styles, rock, pop… The sound of this kind of bachata is much more actual because of these other styles and also the other instruments sometimes on top of the traditional ones (like piano, saxophone, synthesizers)
Ex : Romeo santos, Prince Royce, Grupo Extra, Dani J…
Many remixers and producers started using a few years ago the covers with the vocals and guitar or piano of popular songs (not bachata) and adding some samples of bachata instruments to make them sound like bachata. Most of them were lacking in quality but it helped to grow the interest of bachata worldwide.
Nowadays, many DJs and producers have started to create great quality productions from zero with real instruments and collaborating with famous bachata singers. This kind of remix is called Cover. With that, the quality of bachata remixes and now productions have been growing a lot since then.
Dj Khalid, Dj Tronky, El Tiguere, Dj Dimension, Dj Alejandro, Dj Manuel Citro
5) How to dance bachata for beginners – Guide steps by steps
1) First step
– Master the basic step, repeat it alone, many times, counting in your head or out loud without music
2) Second step
– Practice the basic step in any direction (side to side, forward/backward, diagonal, on the spot)
3) Third step
– Listen to bachata music and count in your head or out loud without dancing to get familiarize with the rhythm.
– And then, start dancing an entire song doing the basic step: side to side forward/backward, diagonal and on the spot).
4) Fourth step
– Find a partner to practice with
- Do the basic side to side together, first in open position explained above, in any directions (side-to side, backwoard/forward, diagonal and on the spot).
- Then try the same in closed position.
And your first lesson is done!
If you’re ready to start bachata, I would recommend reading our article “How to start dancing bachata for beginners” If you want to go further we have a FREE TRAINING that you can download to master your basic step and get more information about bachata, it’s here
And finally, we are currently creating a full training to learn how to dance bachata from zero, if you’d like to helps us to create this amazing training please fill this form.
I hope I answered all the questions you might have to start dancing bachata. If I have forgotten some, don’t hesitate to write your question in the comment, I would love to help!
With love Aurelie