Honing Different Dance Skills Part III: Bachata

This is the third post in a series devoted to honing particular dance skills. As I explained in the first post on Kizomba, I have found that adding new dances to my repertoire always increases my abilities in the rest of the dances I do. This is because each dance has its own set of specific skills it specializes in more than the others. But each of these skills is still useful in every dance.

I have discussed kizomba and zouk previously. Today we cover bachata … first in general and then “traditional” and “sensual” where they diverge.

Bachata, general

Body sensitivity and isolations

Bachata is an excellent dance for working on the subtlety of your following. Leads are often extremely gentle and nuanced, which calls you to a higher level of following, particularly in your torso.

Torso flexibility and fluidity / smoothness (and body rolls)

Bachata and kizomba are both great dances for working on receptivity in your torso. Bachata is particularly good for enhancing the range of motion and fluidity of torso movement. The range of motion is simply greater than in kizomba. Because of htis, additional strength is required in bachata. The combination of enhanced range of motion, flexibility, and strength results in a much more fluid and responsive torso.

Romantic enagement

I think romance is a legit skill that can be learned and practiced. Bachata is often a very romantic dance – and while doing it you have the opportunity to explore different ways to express yourself romantically with your body.

You can play with your hand on your leaders shoulders, neck, and head, can trace your hand along the line of your leader’s back or arms, can work on different hand holds, and can experiment with the way that different ways of touching heads (on the side, titled, head on) feels. There is a lot of variety here and bachata can make you a pro at it.

Bachata, “traditional” or “Dominican”

Footwork

“Dominican bachata” is well-known as a dance for footwork. 

This is true – it’s a great dance for experimenting with your feet and the varying instruments and beats in the music. Dominican bachata has a lot of distinct musical riffs that are rich, fertile ground for play.

These songs are usually quite long… so knock yourself out.

Frame connectivity and footwork following

Dominican bachata, more so than perhaps any of the latin social dances, requires good frame connectivity.

This dance is often danced in open position. But it is still a led dance. For that reason, your frame needs to be well connected from your hands up through your lats, pecs and shoulders, and down into your torso. From there you send the signal to your feet, and you can (though you don’t necessarily have to) mirror or complement the footwork that your partner is doing. You will be pulled, pushed, and rotated in often complex patterns.

Dominican bachata is an excellent dance – perhaps the best of all the social latin dances – to work on sutbleties in the connection in your hands and frame.

(For more on frame connectivity, see TPF001: Frame Basics and TPF004: Advanced Frame Theory and Tips)

Bachata, sensual

There are a lot of kinds of movements relatively unique to sensual bachata. A lot of sensual bachata does come from zouk, as many will be quick to point out, but I also think it comes a lot from people just playing around with different body parts within the bachata rhythm (and sexually so). Bachata has traditionally been a relatively simple dance, so it is ripe for jazzing up with fancy moves.

Foot Sweeps

Sensual bachata is all about foot sweeps these days. What’s a foot sweep? It’s when the leader kicks the followers foot with their own foot to move it to a new position on the floor.

Great foot sweeps come from always being centered over a foot and having excellent balance on that single foot. A great frame and connection with your leader can always support you while the sweep is happening.

rib cage isolations; head isolations; shoulder isolations; ISOLATIONS

Sensual bachata isolates just about every body part that can be isolated.

Shoulders are grabbed and moved independently, arms are flung out to the side and expected to be handled gracefully; heads are rolled standing in place; rib movements are isolated; hips can be grabbed and moved with just one hand.

Stillness

A part of what all of these isolations mean is that the rest of the body needs to be still. Sensual bachata is great for this.

 

Unorthodox body positions

Sensual bachata has some moves in it these days that you can’t really find in any other dance. For example, a leader will often press a follower down to the floor, so that her butt touches her heels. The follower could be spun out of this, leapt out of this, or popped to standing, then body rolled out of this.

Sensual bachata is the only dance in which my torso has been bent over to be parallel with the floor, my arms pulled behind my back, and then whipped around spinning into a standing position. I was super suprised the first time I was led in this, and even more surprised that I managed to make it work.

So this makes sensual bachata really great for expanding the range of your body and kinds of leads you’ll follow.

Ladies styling

I find ladies styling in sensual bachata to be a bit narcissistic, which I find obnoxious. But if you want to learn how to flaunt your own body and moves, sensual bachata has plenty of material for you to work with.

 

So that’s it for my list of bachata specific skills. Obviously there are lots of other great things you can learn from bachata – but these are the ones least commonly found in other dances.

5 Comments, RSS

  1. […] Why? Because each dance has its own specific set of skills that it focuses on (eg, kizomba, zouk, bachata, salsa, west coast)…. and these skills are useful in all of the other dances, too. For […]

  2. […] partner dancing that we do today – whether it be salsa, or west coast, or bachata, or zouk – has emerged out of a long tradition of sexist behaviors. This is a simple fact of […]

  3. […] seeing, with the advent of youtube, the popularity of performance teams, and the rapid spread of sensual bachata, a decrease in the intimacy and quality of dancing and an increase in the flashiness of moves […]

  4. Peter March 14, 2017 @ 5:20 pm

    I enjoyed reading this article, you inspire me!

    I am very new to social dancing/bachata, started about 7 months back.

    In close hold, as a leader, i observed and experienced that there are followers with either too light a frame (basically the floating arms syndrome) or, too heavy or stiff a frame (i suspect they tense up/ squeeze the shoulder and pec muscles.

    I find that for the latter option, the lats are usually not engaged and the stiffness becomes a compensating factor for them to maintain what is seemingly a frame, which effectively prevents elbow from shifting too far back.

    I hope to gain some insights as to how to better lead a follower in the latter scenario. For the floating arm syndrome, i tend to have a greater drag and earlier prep in the lead which works helps a fair bit.

    Lastly i might add, as a leader i aspire to be better at leading. And since on the dancefloor, i won’t be able to do much to change the frame or lack of, of a follower, i want to see if i am able to back-follow/adapt to the pretty much fixed naure of such frames.

    • Stefani March 17, 2017 @ 11:18 am

      This is great! An incredibly insightful comment for someone dancing for just 7 months. Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂

      Unfortunately I have heard from most leaders that this is how women tend to break down across all dances – as either way too airy or far too heavy, even once they get to higher levels. This means that your seeking a solution now is wise… doesn’t seem like it’s going to go away any time soon (though as you march up the ranks I think you do find better and better quality connection).

      Your solution for the light follows seems quite good. I like that you’re thinking about the prep in the lead. For both the light and the heavier follows, you may wish to think about how YOUR frame communicates with theirs. Fine tuning the nuances of your body positioning and tweaking the muscles that you lead with might help you get a response from the ones that you want in your partner. I think you’re right that lats are often a problem. I wonder if you adopt a more ballroom-esque, that is, structured, frame with the arms and how they connect to the torso, you could get them to activate in that way more often. For followers who are tense or heavy, it may seem counterintuitive but the best answer i’ve come across (from pro leaders) is to lighten your lead. Some followers may be able to feel the lessening of your tension and relax into it. I personally remember being really confused about how ‘tense’ to be when starting to dance. But I always could feel a lead that was really gentle (consistently) and be able to relax myself more in response. Perhaps those won’t give you any solid solutions, but at least some ideas to think about? Keep me posted about what you find – I am interested in working this out more thoroughly myself 🙂

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*