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Day 3 Reno Winter Bachata Festival

Day 3 Reno Winter Bachata Festival


Here we are day two of the Bachata festival and I would say one of the highlights of the festival is a talk given about the roots and evolution of Bachata as a music genre and dance style!!! The following is a summary of that lecture which was given by Adam Taub, who has traveled to the Dominican Republic (DR), studying the style in its original birthplace since 2009:
Dominican Bachata originated in the DR in the 1960s as a rural country dance performed by the poor. Adam visited the countryside mostly around Santo Domingo and some in Santiago (strong merengue tradition) in order to document it at the source. Joan Soriano, was one particular musician of several that Adam shadowed and interviewed during one of the trips. He said that Bachata is the feeling or release for a long day of work in the heat and harsh conditions of the ruraI life.
Later I asked him when he started noticing Bachata. He first noticed it in the late 90s when coaching inner city soccer. The El Salvadorian kids would talk about their relationships and the bachata music which was an expression of that joy or sadness.
Adam explained that Bachata music is all about expression and feeling. A feeling which is a very important part of the countryside life (in the DR). The people there learned how to dance by sitting in doorways listening to music watching others dance and finding their own style through those basic steps and traditions. Bachata music encompasses all ranges of emotion and feeling. Love, loss, conquest, sex, social themes….Spanish helps. “Its all about what the music gives you at the end of the day.”. said Adam, talking about Bachata music.
There was also a more technical dance-speak part of his presentation and here it is:
Ease of motion is important in the way they dance in the DR. This is not a performance based dance. The best dancers are in the rural countryside.
For those of us who don’t speak Spanish the guitar strum will often help to convey the meaning of the song.
The reality of Bachata in the DR is that there is no “one” basic step. This is a dance which passes through the families and their social networks. The box step is the origination of most basic steps with variations. Another basic move Adam observed was a reverse salsa step that incorporates side to side hip motion. The standard side basic that we are used to in the US is much more rare in the DR, could sometimes be used to travel across the dance floor. Much of the Bachata dance he observed used the hips and body with a swaying forward backward step to the basic rhythm. Typically the men and women moved with syncopation and/or triple steps. Can start on any beat… the DR they dance to the music more than a particular beat. It’s your own head feeling, you could even follow the bass line. It is not uncommon to do half a basic and then step on one.
“Your own rationalization of the music determines what beat you start on.” Adam stated.
In the videos Adam showed us we didn’t see people practicing a straight line set style. The hip movement can vary forward and back or in a boxy pattern. Typically you won’t see many turn patterns, more of a clockwise-counter clockwise rotation.
In the north of DR it is a Merengue Tipico influence. Here is salsa influenced turn patterns. From my own observations as I watched Adam Taub’s presentation, there is a lot of triple step, a lot of loose hips used to show the feeling. When referencing open and closed position, social relationships dictate how closely they dance.
What the lead does the follower does not always need to follow. Feet movements can be very subtle, ex hip movement on 4 & 1 but vary in use of triple step.
Finally Adam talked about where Bachata received its unique style and sound:
Biggest Influences, Bolero (was called Bolero Campesino in 60s). The name “Bachata” was put on the style to demean it somewhat as a poor country dance in the 70s. Earlier styles were danced in a closed position with a more simplistic step pattern. Merengue influenced the musicians because many bachata musicians also plays merengue. The rotations originated in Merengue & Mambo dance style. Palos is Afro-Dominican religious music that was used by Congolese and Haitian (similar to candombl√©?) religious beliefs. Dominican Son came over from Cuba (predominantly) and has been around since 1800s its very flowing and also uses a box step. Son may include complex step slide, heel toe in small fast rhythms. Dominican raeggaeton, another active but lesser influence is a more urban hip hop style known as Dimbo. Even though the style continues to develop there will always be a lot of respect for the original pattern.
And that is my synopsis. The reason I wanted to cover this is because part of traveling with an open mind is also knowing and understanding what is in the heart of the people you visit! Stay tuned for more updates from days 4 & 5 of the Bachata Festival.

About the author

English Teacher, Freelancer, Chocolate Entrepreneur and Traveler!!

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