Why is there Bachata Styles ?
Which Bachata Styles do you dance?? Which Salsa Style do you dance?? That seems to be the question now in the dance floors. A few years back there was Salsa & Bachata (and of course other latino dances like: Merengue, Cumbia,etc…) But now there is Salsa on 1, on 2, LA Style, Miami Style, Cuban Style, New York Style, Colombia Style, Dominican Bachata, Urban Bachata, Traditional Bachata, Funky Bachata, Bachatango and more Bachata styles. We added to the mix Bachata Bolero & Rueda de Bachata….. What is all this?? Where is this coming from? Why is there no Merenge Urbano, Merengue Dominicano, Merengue Tangeado, Merengue Rock….??
Who’s right, who’s wrong?? Who’s teaching and dancing the “right way”?? Who knows the right Bachata Styles?
While there are some “wrong ways”, people teaching & dancing things that are incorrect, there are many “right ways”. We will kind of focus on Bachata Styles, but this applies to any dance.
Dance & Music is an alive entity that is ever evolving. And today with all the social media and internet, it evolves and spreads even faster. And when something spreads to many people, you are bound to have different versions of the same thing (hence styles), and when something also stays for a long time, it will also evolve, because humans also evolve. If we had the Gang-gang song for many years (wow, that’s a scary thought!!), we will end up with many different styles of that music and dance (I hope that never happens 🙂
So what creates all these bachata styles or any dance style?? I believe 4 factors:
- The amount of people doing this dance.
- The Culture & social factors
- Commercial interests.
- The Dancers
Let’s analyze these by parts.
The amount of people doing this dance
If you have a small group doing a dance, and in the same place, they will all end up doing a similar thing with some personal variations), because they all dance together and need to dance together. They have to share a similar code. But, if this amount grows, then you will start having different groups doing different things in different places. Then the other factors kick in. In this era, all the congresses around the world have influenced immensely dances like Salsa, Bachata & Kizomba, because those congresses brought dances to places where they were not so popular and made them grow rapidly, and also certain instructors & dancers, made their own styles widely popular, with them.
Social media and internet (Youtube, Vimeo…) also plays a big role in this, popularizing some music and dances…great example of what happened to Gang-Gang song.
The Culture and Social factors
So, What do we mean by cultural & Social influences?? The situation of a country, the culture of a place, the social relations between people, the physical abilities of a culture, these all influence the dances.
Why is there a Cuban Salsa Style?? Well, Cuba was isolated for a long time, so they developed their own style of dance, very unique.
Why is there a period of time where so many puertorican singers & musicians become more famous than many other Latino singers?? Well, Puertoricans could freely go back and forth between the island and USA, and in New York, there was a melting pot of artists that led to many great known names. Other Latinos, like Cubans, could hardly leave their country and didn’t have the means to share their music.
Why did Merengue become popular in the Dominican Republic, because a president use the music as a campaigning tool!. In the Dominican Republic it was promoted by Rafael Trujillo, the dictator from the 1930 to 1961, who turned it into the country’s national music and dance style.
Why did Bachata take longer to become popular?? Well it was unofficially banned because it was portrayed as a vulgar dance and from “the barrrios” music, so it was banned from radios and tv stations, so it took longer to be accepted.
How did Kizomba come to Europe?? Well, many africans from Angola and Cape Verd, moved to Portugal due to the similar language and little by little they started sharing their dances, and as the amount of people grow, they started traveling to other places in Europe and it became viral.
Of course, this is simplifying stories but you get the point.
Many societies nowadays have much more acceptance to sensual dances than years ago, so dances like Bachata and Kizomba can thrive.
This is a Big one and a lot of people don’t know, or don’t think of it. When there is money involved, well there is another way to see all of these dance styles (Bachata styles, Latino Styles, Salsa Styles, you name it) . It is a way to monetize on them. Read Ballroom, which is a great example of monetizing on dance. Why does ballroom have all these Latino dances?? They are using the names, but what they do sometimes is not what Latinos dance, and they don’t even use the same style of music, but it sells.
So, some of the Bachata styles or other dances style names that you see going around are marketing tools, or were born as a marketing tool. Some names of Bachata styles are self explanatory, like bachatango: you mix bachata and tango and you get that. But some are just commercial names (wont mention any) used to call what a particular dancer does. And Voila! a new style is born. Nothing wrong with that, mp3’s existed before the ipod, as long as the instructor tells the story how it is and doesn’t mislead the students.
When there is money involved there is also more fights about who is right or wrong, where there is no money involved (and no ego involved), no body cares. Interesting!
Really?? Well, were does a dance come from?? From the dancers!!! You may think it is obvious, but sometimes we forget that and look for historical reasons. But this is the biggest factor in dance evolution! and in creating styles, whether Bachata styles, Salsa Styles or other, this is a huge factor. Putting it simple, if you see a dance, danced by a terrible dancer, you will not like the dance , but if you see the same dance, dance by a great dancer, you want to do the same thing!!!! Whether it is style A, B or C!!!, you don’t care, you and others want to do that … and the spreading begins. But how did this dancer come to dance that dance?? (Im being a little redundant here)
- It can be that he/she belongs to a culture where this dance is popular and he/she grew up with it,
- he/she learned in a school and had ability to it,
- this dancer, saw this dance and felt in love with it, and went to master it, by watching and experimenting him/her self.
But his/her background will affect the way he/she dances it tremendously. In the evolution of Bachata music, Juan Luis Guerra played a big role (even though many of his Bachata are more Bolero like). He had the chance to study music at Berkley School of Music in Boston, MA, USA, which didn’t give him the gift in music that he has, but surely made his music style different. His lyrics are amazing poetry, mixed with popular expressions and lots of metaphoras. Well, he studied literature and philosophy, maybe than influenced him, and his dominican upbringing too, don’t you think? Same thing for groups like Aventura, who are really from New York and they took bachata in a different direction fusing it with R&B and hip&hop, which they probably grew up with more than other dominicans in the Dominican Republic.
With dance, is the same things, and sometimes the names of those who started a style are not even known but they inspired others who became more popular. And some times the same style starts in different parts of the world.
The ability of a dancer influences it greatly. If a dancer comes from hip/hop, he/she will add it to his/her style. If they know tango, they will mix it up. If someone has more ability to do lifts and tricks, they will end up in the dance too. If someone is more flashy, they will do more flashy figures or combinations.
So having all these factors come together and we have the styles: Bachata Styles, Salsa Styles…. And the fight begins. Why??
If you are in the bachata world, you have probably heard this controversy about the real dominican bachata, the real bachata. Well, if you go to the Dominican republic, and grab people over 45 years old, they will dance bachata very different than the young people, which is what they now call “real dominican bachata”. And one part of the country dances different than other parts….so what is “real”??? Some Dominicans dance real and some don’t’?? Maybe there is an evolution there too, don’t you think?? Compare these videos.
ALL of Us, specially instructors and those promoters that have bigger influence, have the responsibility of educating ourselves and transmitting to the students, as best as we know, were do things come from. Ego and/or money, some times gets in the way, because we want to own a style or a dance, or want the students to just do what we do, but it only hurts the students. These are all street dances, popular dances. Teach and show and share so that we can all dance with all, so that we can all share with all, so that we can all connect.
And next time you are on the dance floor, don’t ask: What Bachata Styles do you do??. Your first question should be:
Do you want to dance??
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