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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"). 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 authentic bachata dance is the original way of dancing bachata, originating from the Dominican Republic where the music also was born. The original, slow style in the '60s was danced only closed, like the bolero, often in a close embrace. The bachata basic steps moving within a small square (side, side, forward and side, side, back) are inspired from the bolero steps but is an evolved version of those including a tap and also syncopation (steps in between the beats) depending on the dynamics of the music being played. The hand placement will vary with the dancers position which can be very close to semi close to open.
The authentic dance is today danced in the Caribbean and all over the world, nowadays also faster in accordance to faster music, adding more footwork, simple turns and rhythmic free style moves and with alternate between close (romantic) and open position (more playful adding footwork, simple turns, rhythmic torso etc.). This dance is danced with soft hip movements and a tap or syncopation (1, 2, 3, tap/syncopation). It can be danced with or without bounce also (moving the body up on the beats and down again in between the beats by springs the legs a little). Authentic bachata was created by the Dominican social dancers over decades (from around the beginning of the 1960s) for social dancing and is still evolving to this day.
Notice that what is called authentic/Dominican bachata in the West is just called bachata in the Dominican Republic and by most Dominican immigrants. Authentic bachata is the original dance and therefore by some also called the traditional dance. Because of this, the name "traditional bachata" for the first not very old Western fusion dance is wrong and misleading, but still commonly used in the west.
Western "traditional" (the first Western fusion dance)
At some point in the late 1990s, dancers and dance-schools in the western world began using a made up basic step going side to side pattern instead of the box-steps, maybe as they considered it too complicated or due to a misunderstanding of the authentic 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.
Modern/moderna (later new Western fusion dance)
A dance called modern or moderna was developed probably from around 2005 on the "western traditional" (first western fusion dance) dance basic elements. This dance is widely considered to have originated in Spain but as with all 'adaptations' of the dance this itself is widely debated. The basics are the same as the "western traditional" dance, but with added dance elements and styling from salsa, tango, zouk-lambada, ballroom etc. 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. There is also an even newer modern dance that incorporates zouk-lambada/lamba-zouk elements called 'sensual', this dance basically also has the same technical base as the modern/moderna dance, but incorporating pronounced body waves.
Bachatango (fusion of the later new Western dance with ballroom tango)
At the same time as the modern/moderna dance was developed there was also developed another dance 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.
Ballroom (even later ballroom dance)
Ballroom 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.