Salsa > Where to learn the traditional style Bachata?

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by BBCrazyLegs, Aug 30, 2009.

  1. BBCrazyLegs

    BBCrazyLegs New Member

    Hi guys

    I'm trying to plan a 3 month trip to somewhere either in the Caribbean or central america (thinking Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico or Costa Rica).
    The idea is one to learn the Spanish language, but also but learn Bachata, more specific I want to learn the Traditional Style Bachata.

    Does anyone have any knowledge/input of where I should go? (Doesn't have to be one of the four places I mentioned).

    I'll be very greatfull for any input you might have.

    kind regards
  2. Joy In Motion

    Joy In Motion Active Member

    Bachata was born in the Dominican Republic, so I would recommend starting there. I'm not sure how you define traditional style, but you might want to check out the book Bachata: A Social History of a Dominican Popular Music, by Deborah Pacini Hernandez. The only book in English on the subject to my knowledge.

    Bachata - both the music and the dance - are very different now. More commercialized and greatly influenced by merengue, pop, and even hip hop. I am not sure exactly where the more traditional form is being taught or danced, but I would be interested to find out as well. It is a very beautiful dance.

    If you are learning bachata in the United States, I would focus on teachers who emphasis footwork over turns. Turns are borrowed from merengue and salsa (and before that borrowed from swing) and put into bachata, but traditionally bachata is more about footwork, quality of movement (including the hips), and partner connection.

    Please share with us what you learn! I wish more people were interested in bachata.
  3. j_alexandra

    j_alexandra Well-Known Member

    Upper Manhattan, specifically Washington Heights. I realize that's not hardly the Caribbean, but if it's bachata from the DR you want, there are lots of Domos and clubs north of 168th St. Good food, too. And you'll hear/speak a lot of Spanish; spend 3 months in Washington Heights, you'll get quite an education.

    OK, this recommendation was partly tongue-in-cheek. But there's great music uptown.
  4. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Joy's post is actually quite excellent and quite correct. Along w/ the book, watch the film "Luis Vargas, The Bachata Story". And, yes, Joy, would that more persons danced it, as well (miss you, girl).
  5. Joy In Motion

    Joy In Motion Active Member

    I found out about that film last year and meant to check it out but never did... Thanks for the reminder. I can't wait to see it.

    Miss you too, Angel! I always get asked where I learned to dance, so the mark you left on my dancing is never too far from my mind. Ahh, memories...
  6. BBCrazyLegs

    BBCrazyLegs New Member

    Hey guys

    Thanks for you input... I'm definitely gonna take a closer look at both the book and the movie.!
    I actually just returned from a bachata festival in Warsaw, Poland. Oh I learned so much down there! And got a little more insight in the different bachata styles, Dominican style, tranditional style, bachatango etc... And now I just wonna learn them all!
    So right now my plan is about a month in cuba (found a place where they teach the traditional style) where I will be focusing on body movements. Also about a month in the dominican republic where I will be focusing on footwork (I've learned that is the way of the dominican style). I'll properly have a few weeks in Costa Rica (mainly because it is said to be the paradis of the world).
    To finish of the trip, joining the bachata festival in Reno, USA.... But the trip is still on the drawing board. So any inputs/comments are appreciated!
  7. Joy In Motion

    Joy In Motion Active Member

    Where are you from, BBCrazyLegs?

    A month in Cuba?! I'm jealous. I am planning a trip to Cuba right after Christmas, but only for ten days :(. I'm curious about the place you found there for studying traditional bachata. I know one of the styles that bachata developed from was the Cuban bolero...

    Definitely interested in hearing about your trip when you return!
  8. Light Sleeper

    Light Sleeper New Member

    Interesting thread, I would be interested to get hold of the Luis Vargas film - any idea of availability (UK)? - internet not giving any clues.

    Also jealous of Cuba trip! Let us know how you get on, hope the classes are good.
  9. Joy In Motion

    Joy In Motion Active Member

    Amazon sells the Spanish-language version, and it looks like they may have the English version available to watch on-demand. Barnes & Noble seems to have it as well. I'm assuming these guys ship to the UK...

    While we're discussing bachata, I am curious about something I read while researching the history of the music. While Juan Luis Guerra is credited by some sources as popularizing bachata in 1990/1 with his Bachata Rosa CD, there are quite a few sources (who seem to have a better grasp of the history and the music) who insist that the so-called bachata songs on that CD did not really belong to the genre because of musical features such as instrumentation as well as the lyrics. They say these are actually baladas that were just labeled as bachata by Juan Luis Guerra and other "outsiders." When I read Deborah Pacini Hernandez's book recently, however, I was surprised to find this debate was not even mentioned. Her writing and experiences assume that these songs do in fact belong to the bachata and brought the genre to the attention of the world...

    Anyone have any thoughts, experiences, recollections?
  10. salsasydney

    salsasydney New Member

    Hi there,

    I am a former dance teacher who lived in the Dominican Republic for 1 1/2 years and before that in New York City for 5 years, so I have danced a lot of bachata! In the DR you won't find bachata classes (well - maybe in tourist places, I wouldn't know about those), you just learn it by dancing, which I think is the best way. There is no talk about different styles of bachata there like "traditional." There is basically one basic step that you can do in place, backward and forward, or side to side, and a couple of turns. Most of the focus is on hip motion - it's your body movement that lets people know if you know what you're doing or not. Dance classes that teach footwork and turns are basically a US invention, so I guess it's not what you mean by "traditional."

    As far as where to go, the music as we know it grew up in the capital city, Santo Domingo, among rural migrants. Many of these came from the northwestern border region, which is where a lot of rural bachata - what you might call "traditional" - is still played. However, bachata is danced all over the country so you won't have any trouble finding where to go. A lot of Dominicans still consider the places where one goes to dance bachata (whether in NYC or the DR) pretty disreputable, though I never had any problems.

    As far as Juan Luis Guerra, he is a composer of popular music with conservatory training, not a traditional musician. However, he has taken a lot of inspiration from Dominican musical styles, like bachata on the album mentioned. He added his own kind of instrumentation and vocals, along with "cleaned-up" lyrics, in order to make bachata more acceptable to the middle classes. I guess I would say it's his own interpretation of bachata - it's just different than other people's bachata.

    Good luck and have fun!
  11. salsasydney

    salsasydney New Member

    oh by the way, if they are teaching "traditional bachata" in Cuba I guess it's basically an attempt to make money. Bachata is definitely Dominican and, although it's true that bolero was one of the precursors to the style, since they've been playing bolero in the DR for about 100 years I guess any connection with Cuban dance is pretty distant. If you're going to Cuba for other reasons (like to study Cuban dance) then sure, take a bachata class while you're at it, but I wouldn't go specifically for that reason.

    Also, the film about Luis Vargas is called "Santo Domingo Blues" and you can order it on Amazon.
  12. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Both of those statements ,have a large ring of truth.. however, developing an " idea " from a concept, is what dance is all about.. the problem therein lies, with NOT maintaining its core principles .( It happened with Intern. Latin, to a great degree ) . And it also has re shaped most Smooth and Rhythm dances...( in some instances, not for the better).
    As to learning by " watching ", not everyone, by any standards, will ever be in the position of having a " front row " seat with the natives !

    Just one more comment.. teaching "techn". . in and of itself, was designed to improve and facilitate the added variety that pervades all genres, among other foundational issues.

    As a former teacher, I feel sure you would agree with that ?
  13. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    bachata's so nice in the club different from what's taught in a ballroom setting. i'd love to learn more about it. will have to keep an eye out in my area...

    is it being so incredibly close at times during the dance a "traditional" thing? it's surely not a ballroom thing...
  14. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Yep.. same way as the older Cubans dance Mambo/Salsa, and the Domin. dance Merg. ( I teach this "style " in my salsa classes )
  15. salsasydney

    salsasydney New Member

    I seem to be having trouble with "reply" - I think I tried to post this twice already!!

    Anyway, yes, I do agree with you. Let me specify that I was only responding to this particular question - about how to learn bachata in the Caribbean, and how to learn "traditional" bachata rather than a professional or studio style. That's why I suggested learning in a "traditional" rather than studio setting. Of course, taking formal lessons is a great option, and often necessary, for those who are not on the East Coast or in the Caribbean! And teaching can help some to learn faster (although fast may not always be desirable).

    I do think that students should keep in mind that the rules being taught were invented to facilitate teaching, rather than coming from the cultural context. The other day I saw a teacher say that bachata was different from salsa in that the man "always" starts on his right foot - something that definitely is not true, or even considered, in a Dominican night club. I think it's good for students to feel a little freer in their dancing, not tied down by rules. Of course this varies from teacher to teacher. :)

    Anyway, I'd love to hear about other peoples' experiences with studio bachata classes.
  16. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Agreed. I love the traditional style, and teach it and dance it in my "BR" classes. And, yes, the intermittent closeness is just a part of most latin dancing. Amers can't quite get past the closeness thing in many instances of life, not just dancing.
  17. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    when bachata goes into that closeness, i've never experienced another dance like that -- the way the two bodies move rhythmically together is amazing, like cuban mambo in a way but connected at the center.

    it's such a great feeling. ballroomers who put their noses up at bachata simply don't know that there is another dimension to it...but probly you're right, Angel...that kind of closeness with someone they may have just met might be enough to send most americans running for the hills. *grin*
  18. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Yes. I tend to teach most (when called for) latin in that manner. Of course, I make the distinction between dancing at the socials in studio, nad dancing the same thing at a comp. The students love it. Glad you discovered it. You're right... it's a completely new dimension.
  19. j_alexandra

    j_alexandra Well-Known Member

    This was wonderful info; now, I'm inspired to grab one of the guys in my group class who does bachata and get him to teach me... Sounds like a fun dance.

    And welcome to DF, salsasydney!
  20. Light Sleeper

    Light Sleeper New Member

    Super thread, guys. Enjoyed reading all contributions.

    Thanks, Joy, for the tip re the DVD - but it's region 1. Have duly added it to my eBay searches though in case a Region 2 copy becomes available :) And as SalsaSydney says, it does appear to be called "Santo Domingo Blues".

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