Bachata: The Latin nightclub’s slower side


The past two weeks I have been talking about Latin clubs and the social dances that can be done at these clubs. Obviously, salsa is the most common dance at Latin clubs, but I also mentioned the party dance: merengue. Now, throw in my personal favorite Latin dance: Bachata, and you will have the Latin social dance trifecta.

But first, how can you tell these three dances apart? How will you know which dance to do? It’s all in the music. Salsa music is very quick and bright with lots of trumpets, the music is suited well to lightning fast turns and footwork (listen to “Salseando” by Cuban Boys and Silvio Sisto). Merengue music is easy to recognize because of the drum beats that tell you the beat of your steps (listen to “Pegadito Suavecito” by Fito Blanko) Bachata music breaks these constructs of Latin music and is much slower with a deep bass. The music is much sexier and less frantic than salsa or merengue and often tells stories of heartbreak and romance (my personal favorite bachata song is “Te Extrano” by Xtreme).

Now that you know the music that sets each dance apart, how does the drastic difference in music affect the dance? Because of Bachata’s different music, the dance itself looks and feels different from salsa or merengue. When couples dance Bachata they are much closer to each other than salsa or merengue because the footwork is slower. It is not uncommon to see couples literally cheek-to-cheek with their upper bodies touching.

Bachata’s basic steps are side steps, but the feet drag along the floor with the knees bent, requiring movement in the hips, keeping the dance in the Latin genre. However, Bachata’s trademark is the “tap” with a hip accent after every third step.

When dancing bachata, the basic sequence is three steps (step out with the left foot, bring the feet together and step with your left foot again) traveling in one direction (in this example, it would be traveling to the left) and then the other direction. After stepping out the second time, the feet are brought together, but there is a “hit” or a “tap” in which the hip is lifted in quick accent. This accent is unique to bachata and sets it apart from the other Latin social dances.

Bachata originated in the Dominican Republic in the 1930s, and was considered a “crude dance” during the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. According to, Trujillo declared Merengue the official music of the Dominican Republic, shocking many Dominicans. Naturally, the locals continued to play their music and peasants played bachata (meaning “a raucous party”). The music was associated with loose morals and low class people into the 90s and just recently became a staple at Latin clubs nationwide.

–Courtesy of The Poly Post

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