Bachata originated in the 1960s, over 50 years ago in the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is generally considered as an exception in terms of its dance culture. Unlike countries in the world having a nationwide dance culture, the Dominican Republic maintains their Bachata dance culture up to the modern days. Bachata began as a form of music. The dance, however, was not acceptable as it was created in brothels and bars and a few other socially tabooed places. From 1930–61, a popular dance form Merengue was held up by the Trujillo Government and the dictator opined that Bachata had low standards and would not be capable to strengthen the country. Consequently, it was censored. After Trujillo’s reign, Bachata was first recorded in 1961 by Jose Manuel Calderon. However, the then upper class still looked down upon it. In the 1980s, tables turned to a level where the dancers started performing Bachata on the television. The first few stars who dominated the scene were Luis Vargas and Anthony Santos in the 1990s. Gradually, it got worldwide recognition and the Bachata dance is now practiced and taught in many countries of the world.
A series of steps are involved in the basic footwork of Bachata which is associated to generate a back and forth movement. It follows a tempo of 120 beats per minute and 4/4 music. There are three simple steps in combination with four beats of music. One should start by making a gliding movement with right foot on counts of 1, 2, and 3. One should touch the left toe beside the right foot on the fourth count. Apparently, one has to tap the left toe in place making an upward jerk with the left hip. Similar movement is then performed from the right foot. Some dancers may add a few turns or pull their partner closer to enhance the dance steps. In most of the cases, it is the male that leads the female in the dance.
The musical form of Bachata was first embraced by the servants who would play it after returning home from a hard day at work. Everyday items that were commonly found in the backyard including garbage cans and fences were used by the dancers to create music. Later, a particular configuration of instruments became essential for Bachata. These include 1–2 guitars, maracas or guira and bongos. Gradually, the commercial potential of using the electric guitar in Bachata was established. Today, an electric guitar is used for the Bachata dance making it much easier to groove than the earlier styles.
There are distinct styles of performing Bachata. They are:
- Dominican Style: This is the original style of Bachata. Initially, the dance closed like a Bolero. However later, small steps were added in both closed and open position. These developments depended upon the dancer’s mood and the character of music. This style involves soft hip movements and a small pop on the fourth beat. It can be danced with or without a bounce.
- Traditional Style: It was the first non-Caribbean style developed in US and Europe. Its peculiar characteristic was close connection with the partner. The basic steps include moving side–to–side or on the spot with soft hip movements and a small pop on the fourth beat.
- Modern Style: Also known as the Bachata Moderna, it is another unique style that originated in Europe. Its basic steps involve side–to–side motion, not only moving left–to–right but also to different directions. The style adds basic Tango steps keeping the pop or hip movement on the fourth count.
- Ballroom or BachaBallroom Style: It has extreme hip movements and is hence, developed in US/Europe for competition dances only.
Bachata is a pair dance and is now danced all around the world. There is no specific costume for the Bachata dancers. People usually wear casual clothes. Rufty skirts are recommended for females as it shows the movements of the body. Males can wear anything. For the shoes, females can wear either flats or heels so that they can comfortably dance for an hour. It should be ensured that they have an ankle strap so that they do not slip or turn. Sneakers, however, are not recommended.
Patterns that emerge in Bachata are an expression of love and relationships with women. Most of the Bachata songs focus on the pain of losing a woman, which both men and women experience. Hence, the Bachata expresses no sense of solidarity with women or portrays any kind of social prejudice. In Bachata, women are often the aggressors and men are the victims. Bachata symbolically explores the unresolved tensions between the owner and property, the aggressor and victim, voice and silence, freedom and control and order and chaos.