7 common mistakes beginners make in bachata

7 common mistakes that beginners make in bachata

Today, I’m going to list you the 7 common mistakes that beginners make in Bachata and what to do, to avoid them.

So, if you’re a beginner, that’s awesome but if you’re not, don’t leave too early, it might interest you as well. Indeed, even if you’re more advanced, I’m sure you know as a dancer we tend to keep bad habits. So, it might be helpful to have a look at those mistakes and ask yourself if you still do it or not.

On the other hand, if you’re a follower, I highly recommend you to read this article too :

7 common mistakes followers make in bachata.

Let’s go!

1. Forget to tap

Mistake by beginners in bachata : forget to tap

One of the common mistakes beginners make in bachata is forgetting to tap.

So, if you have started Bachata, you know it is taught and mostly danced on 8 counts starting on 1.

Be aware, in Dominican Republic bachata is not necessarily danced on 1, could be on 2, on 3… There’s no rules, depends on the feeling of the dancer, the instruments he/she listens to…

Let’s say, we dance on 1. So, you step on 1,2,3 and 5,6,7 and you tap on 4 and 8. As a result, you don’t put your weight on your foot on 4 and 8, it stays on the opposite leg. This is important to be aware of that because as you don’t put your weight on your foot when you tap, automatically after, you’re going to use the same foot to step.

To summarize, for followers and leaders about tapping and stepping with counts :

Tap Step
Follower On 4 with left foot
On 8 with right foot
On 5 with left foot
On 1 with right foot
LeaderOn 4 with right foot
On 8 with left foot
On 5 with right foot
On 1 with the left foot
How to tap and step with correct feet in bachata

Exercise :

Try to do your basic step as many times as you need until you won’t need to think how to step and tap.
Also, try to do it, in all directions (lateral, forward/backward, diagonal).
And then, try to do it with music.

2. Doing big steps, too wide

Mistake by beginners in bachata : doing big steps, too wide

Doing big steps is one of the common mistakes beginners make in bachata or other styles.

At the beginning, it’s fine to do big steps, when you’re starting to learn fundamentals. However, the sooner you’re aware of stepping too big and better it is. Because, trust me, it takes time to change bad habits!

Why is it important to not step too big? Simply because in Bachata, the key movement is the hips one. And if your steps are too big, you don’t have enough room to move your hips. Nevertheless, if you do small steps, and you bend your knees, you can actually move your hips bigger.

Furthermore, in case you have to step quickly because of the music, better to do small steps, otherwise, you might lose the timing.

And lastly, simply because sometimes, in class or social, we don’t have a lot of space to dance. So, you should be able to dance in a tiny square.

Exercise :

At home, try to do your basic step smaller than usual, move a bit more your hips (bend your knees).
And then, do the same with your partner at home, in class, socials.

3. Squeeze hands / Use thumbs

Mistake by beginners in bachata : squeezing hands

One of the typical mistakes beginners make in bachata or in another dance partner is squeezing hands.

Whether you’re a follower or a leader, don’t squeeze the hands of your partner. Even if you’re a bit tense, and it’s completely normal at the beginning, don’t put tension on the partner’s hands or any part of her/his body.

Don’t grab the body of your partner. That is to say, you just have to place your arms and hands, nice and soft on her/his body.

Don’t use thumbs either to grab your partner’s hands, don’t pinch. Because, the connection is done from fingers to fingers. And the hands of the dancers slide between them but they don’t hold each other.

Exercise :

Try to be aware of the way you connect with your hands and arms while you’re dancing with your partner.
Also, you can even ask to your partner, or your teacher how he feels about your way to connect. This feedback would help you to know if you need to change anything and eventually what to change.

4. Hips movement in basic step

Mistake for beginners in bachata : wrong hips movement

The basic step is one of the most difficult thing to master. Obviously, one of the common mistakes that beginners make in bachata. It takes a lot of time to do it perfectly.

The reason is because, most of the dancers don’t spend enough time at the beginning, to work on it, in class, at home, during social…

Traditional hips movement in basic step

The hips are supposed to move side to side (lateral movement). So, your hip goes to the opposite side you step (not the same side you step).

Practical example :

  • Follower : you step on 1 with your right foot, your hip goes to the left, you step on 2 with your left foot, hip goes to the right, …
  • Leader: you step on 1 with your left foot, your hip goes to the right, you step on 2 with your right foot, hip goes to the left, …

What about sensual basic? (mention for the followers) :

To clarify, your hips are doing an infinity shape, a circular movement. It follows the same principle as explained before. However, the hips move rather in a diagonal way in order to create this infinity shape.

Video from Marco and Sara, international bachata artists
It’s in Spanish but you can activate the subtitles 😉

Exercise :

Try to practice your basic step once a week without music first, slowly, stepping small, accentuating the hips movement (using the up/down movement of your knees).
I recommend you to practice both examples the traditional
one and the sensual basic one.
And then, practice with music.

5. Being off-time

Being off-time

Most of the time, beginners dancers have difficulties to :

  • find the one,
  • make the difference between 1 and 5,
  • step on the beat,
  • identify the breaks

As a result, they tend to finish off-time.

How to find the one and make the difference with the 5?

  • Try to identify the bongo, usually the one is little bit stronger than the 5
In that video, you can identify the one just after the bongo gets crazy 🙂
Bongo timing, in this video, counted from 1 to 4 (musicians counting)

Be aware musicians count on 4 while dancers generally count on 8.

  • Try to identify the second guitar (melody guitar)
You can hear the one, sometimes very clearly after a change in the melody of the guitar
  • The one starts usually after the energy goes down. Sometimes, when the singer, the melody starts but not always, could be just before or just after.

Here you have an amazing tool, made by DJ Pierre Henry, which might help you to identify the instruments using in bachata, and find the one/five!

Also, if you want to know more about musicality, I highly recommend you to check Alex Alberola’s classes, international bachata artist!

How to step on the beat?

Firstly, find the Bongo, the base of Bachata, and the Güira, listen to them individually, it will help you to step on the beat, to keep the rhythm.

How to identify the breaks?

When you can hear a sudden change in the music, breaks happen. It can be on 1 or on 5 and last 4 counts.

The problem is when it happens on 1. If you know the song, or if you just expect it, that’s fine. But, if it’s too late, you haven’t noticed it, you need to fix your timing to go back on 1. So, just do a simple, step tap, step tap and go back on 1.

Tip: Not every time, but mostly the breaks happen after a 9 bar phrase (basically after four 8 counts).

Example of music with Joe Veras, Intentalo tu, where after a 9 bar, you will find the break on 1 (during 4 counts) :

Joe Veras, Intentalo tu

Exercise :

Pick a song and try to identify the breaks, the change in the music and use the “step tap/step tap” to correct the timing. Once you’re comfortable with the breaks in the music, you can do a body roll, a stop. It will depend on the energy of the music.

6. Losing balance

Losing balance

Sometimes, beginners tend to lose balance easily, especially when they have to turn, or when they have to do a body roll.

Be aware, sometimes it could be :

  • the leader’s fault if he/she pushes you too forward/backward, so automatically you will be out of balance,
  • the follower’s fault, if he/she pushes or pulls the partner,
  • both,
  • lack of technique, wrong posture…

If it happens to you, try to identify :

  • when exactly, during a turn, a body roll…?
  • if it was because of you or because of your partner or both?
  • the exact cause and fix it. If it was during a turn, review your spin technique, your body roll technique.

In most cases, the balance problems come from a wrong posture.

You have to make sure your :

  • core is activated (abdominals are tense),
  • feet are in the right position, heels together and toes apart. The weight should be on the balls of your feet,
  • chest is open, pitch forward,
  • shoulders are back but relax,
  • back is engaged (squeeze your shoulder blades),
  • knees are bended (not too much, just enough, use the up/down motion),
  • head looking forward.

Exercise :

Try to practice your basic step respecting all these fundamentals of a good posture firstly without music, secondly with music and then with a partner.
You can focus your attention only on one part of the body, for example your feet first and then your core, shoulders…

7. Losing physical connection

Mistake by beginners in bachata : losing connection

When you’re a beginner, it’s a very common mistake to not be aware enough of the important points of connection between leaders and followers.

First of all, in the open position, your reference is the center of the chest of your partner. So, you have to look in the direction of your partner not on the sides, especially for the followers!

In close position, there are connection points you need to be aware of :

  • arms and hands,
  • stomach (diaphragm), could be the side of your body if you are in perpendicular position,
  • leg, for example doing a basic on the spot,
  • hip,
  • could be the head if you’re comfortable with your partner

Some examples when the follower facing back (back to chest position):

Back (shoulder blade)Front shoulder
Side of the leg or hand
Connection points between follower and leader in back to chest position (leader behind)

Exercise :

Be aware when you’re dancing with your partner of these connection points.
As a leader, do you invite the follower to reach these points?
As a follower, do you reach these points ? Do you keep the connection until the last moment?

Thanks for reading this article, I hope it helped you to be aware of the common mistakes that beginners make in bachata, to notice if you make some of them and most importantly how you can fix them!

See you soon!