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In partnering, the lead can decide whether to perform in open, semi-closed or closed position. Dance moves or step variety strongly depend on the music (such as the rhythms played by the different instruments), setting, mood, and interpretation. Unlike salsa, bachata dance does not usually include many turn patterns.
In the West, various dancers are known to copy moves and turn patterns from various couple dances, performing these combinations in the timing used in bachata dancing, thus creating a fusion dance.
The authentic dance from the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean is a basic dance sequence in a full 8-count moving within a square. Dancers in the Western world much later made up a basic step going from side to side, and also copied dance elements from other couple dances of various origins, Latin and non Latin alike. The basic dance sequence consists of three steps and then a tap step or various forms of step syncopation (such as the "double step"). Some dancers in the west accompany the tap with an exaggerated "pop” of the hips. Bachata can be danced on the 1st beat of the musical phrase, with the tap on the 4th beat, but dancing on the 2nd, 3rd or 4th beat is also common. The tap is done on the opposite foot of the last step, while the next step is taken on the same foot as the tap. The dance direction changes after the tap or fourth step.
The original, slow style in the '60s was danced only in closed position, like the bolero, often in close embrace. The bachata basic steps are done by moving within a small square (side, side and then tap your toes back and side, side, back) and is inspired from the bolero step but evolved to including a tap and also syncopation (steps in between the beats) depending on the dynamics of the music being played. The hand placement can vary according to the position of the dances, which can range from very close to open to completely open.
The authentic version is still danced today in the Caribbean and all over the world. It is increasingly danced to faster music, adding more footwork, simple turns and rhythmic free-styling and with alternation between close (romantic) and open position. Authentic bachata is danced with soft hip movements and a tap or syncopation (1, 2, 3, tap/syncopation). It can also be danced with or without bouncing (moving the body up on the beats and down again in between the beats by adding slight spring to ones legs). Authentic bachata was created by Dominican social dancers over the course of decades (starting around the beginning of the 1960s) and is still evolving to this day.
What is called authentic/Dominican bachata in the West is simply called bachata in the Dominican Republic and by most Dominican immigrants.
At some point in the late 1990s, dancers and dance-schools in the western world began using a side to side pattern instead of the box-steps. The basic steps of this pattern move side to side, changing direction after every tap. Characteristics of this "early" dance school dance is the close connection between partners, soft hip movements, tap with a small "pop" of the hip on the 4th step (1, 2, 3, tap/hip) and does not include many turns/figures. Most of the styling in this dance is from ballroom dance and show moves like dips are commonly used in the dance. This was the first new dance to bachata music that was popularized by dance schools outside the Dominican Republic.
Another dance was developed shortly after the "traditional" and this dance was called Bachatango. It is also a fusion dance from the West with short sequences of "western traditional" basic steps and then added different Tango steps danced like tango. The "pop" count is used to add elaborated sensuality and varied Latin ballroom dance styles and also include the characteristic kicks from tango. The turns are like in the "western traditional" dance. Although this dance has been used to dance to the music bachata, it has recently been used to dance to tango as well. Even though bachatango is unheard of in the Dominican Republic, bachata's country of origin, bachatango had a popular period with foreign instructors outside the Caribbean but today it is not seen much on the social dance floors.
A dance called modern or moderna was developed probably from around 2005 on the "western traditional" (first western fusion dance) dance basic elements. The basics are the same as the "western traditional" dance, but with added dance elements and styling from Salsa, tango and Ballroom. In this dance, couples typically move their torsos more and greatly exaggerate the hip pop (especially the women). The most direct fusion influence on the modern/moderna dance, comes from the adoption of salsa turn patterns; these, together with dips became the core of the dance.
Korke learned the basics of bachata in 1998, but with no more information than the basic step (four steps to the side) and the bachata music, he started developing his own dance style by understanding how the leader (traditionally a man) could lead the body of the follower (traditionally woman) to interpret the music. Bachata Sensual is an independent dance form with strict lead and follow principles. The dance is an interpretation of the music with mostly circular movements and body waves. When the music has stronger beats, however, the dance also uses isolations and dips.
Korke is the creator of the BachataStars competition, in which participants get a random song and show ability to improvise, while showing their dance skills and musicality.
Ballroom bachata is yet another dance also developed in the West, primarily for competition dance, with very extreme hip movements and lots of ballroom dance styling. It is used predominantly for ballroom competitions rather than social dancing. The basic step is based on "western traditional" dance.
There are other Western dances, pioneered and promoted by different teachers around the world, each with its own distinct flair. Whether these are considered completely different styles or simply variations of the main styles above is often argued by teachers and students alike.
- Sellers, Julie A. (19 September 2014). Bachata and Dominican Identity. McFarland. pp. 26–27. ISBN 978-1-4766-1638-4.
- Sowell, Gary (18 November 2014). Afro Latin Rhythm Romance Dance. AuthorHouse. pp. 61–2. ISBN 978-1-4969-5397-1.
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