Why I don’t dance bachata anymore (or, the real problems with sensual bachata)

First things first: many people could read this post and say, HEY I SAW YOU OUT LAST WEEK.

Yes! I still like to dance bachata. But I now do it once in a while instead of every other day, so this is a pretty big change for me.

Second, I wish to be clear that bachata remains both my favorite Afro-Latin music and my favorite Afro-Latin dance (well, mambo may be tied for first these days). From the spiciest traditional to the slowest and most lyrical remix, I enjoy it all. I have a deep love for this dance that I feel, at it’s best, is romantic, is playful, is relaxing, is exciting, is intimate, and is respectful all at the same time.

Unfortunately, I find that bachata is rarely at it’s best, or near it, for me any more.

I think that this has a lot to do with rapid growth in the community, and how this growth has happened.

This rapid growth is associated with several things: the proliferation of congresses and congress culture, the sensationalization of bachata in youtube videos, a focus on performance, and the rise and proliferation of sensual bachata. I do not mean to say that sensual bachata is entirely to blame for this – nor the instructors of sensualism – as it and they are not. But there’s a lot here that’s complexly interwoven. The growth of congresses and performance parts of the culture, for example, are very much related to the rise of sensual bachata.

People often complain about the appropriation of sensual bachata and the like. I think there are merits to both sides of the argument, and I won’t go into them here. I want to be clear that I don’t disparage sensual bachata in and of itself. I enjoy the movements, when executed well. When inclusive with a range of other styles and skillsets, sensual bachata moves can be a really great way to be musical and express different emotions in a dance.

That being said, this post is about the culture of bachata, how it has changed, and why I’m starting to lose interest in it. Here’s what has happened:

Sexualization

First, there are the movements. Plain and simple – they are often sexual. Of course they do not have to be executed in a sexual way, or one does not have to choose to do the more sexual variants – but they often are. To be clear, I don’t mind sexy moves. And I certainly don’t mind mutually desired intimacy. The leaders I dance with would be happy to attest to both of those things.

Yet sexy has a time and a place. During Pablo Alboran’s Perdoname (this is arguably one of the sweetest and most romantic bachata songs) I was once led in a move that required me to squat down to the ground and then stand up ass first with my leader standing behind me. Like, what?

What’s more, popular couples must look a particularly sexy way in order to be popular. Think of all the famous couples you know of. Are any of them not sexy, or do any of them not sexualize their dancing and their videos? (You could make similar arguments of salsa zouk and kizomba [though not swing] – but I would argue that bachata has accelerated its demand for sexiness in recent years).

The leaders in the scene are not necesarily to blame. Sex sells. It’s just unfortunate that it’s such a predominant component of selling bachata these days. Watching famous sensual bachata videos online is simultaneously for me super boring and pretty off putting. Yeah, I get it, you’re going to do a body roll and do one of those dramatic hand gestures and look at your leader like you want to eat him. I know.

-Objectification

While we’re talking about sex – and I will throughout the entirety of this post – let’s talk about the way women’s bodies are used.

Consider perhaps that move that  I discussed above, in which I had to ass stand up in front of my leader, while he just stood there and watched.

Consider perhaps dipping a woman and staring at her tits while she can’t see you do it.

Consider perhaps going to a workshop by Andrea and Silvia, in which the workshop is basically objectifying sex joke after objectifying sex joke.

-Self-aggrandizement

The current bachata culture is one of self-aggrandizement if I’ve ever seen one. Obviously, of course, as an instructor or a couple trying to make it in the bachata scene, you have to promote yourself. I respect the effort this takes immensely. I really do.

Nevertheless, I find the atmosphere that competitions bring to bachata in general to be kind of toxic. It encourages people to focus on building up their image before building up the quality of their dancing. People often begin training to perform without being good social dancers, develop egos about their dancing without having social dancing skills, and walk around like male peacocks – proud of their flashy feathers but having more awkward movement because of them.

Focus on appearances over communication

Bachata looks pretty cool to a lot of people. This is certainly the case for sensual bachata, though performance teams and couples typically integrate more “traditional” music and dance into the second half of their performances. (There was a video I tried to link to to demonstrate why I put traditional in air quotes but it appears to have been taken down, perhaps in light of all of the disparaging comments it elicited in terms of how much it deviated from true traditions.)

When dancers compete as a couple or join a performance team – which a huge number of people interested in bachata do – they often focus on the way a dance looks or the moves it has as opposed to how it feels. I wrote about this problem for performance teams at great length in this blog post, so I won’t belabor the point too much here. I will say this: the majority of “famous” bachata leaders I have danced with are atrociously rough. The thing is, with all the focus on looking and being cool, often the literal best parts of a dance (connection, communication) are left in the dust.

-Party atmosphere

I readily acknowledge that  all dance scenes have parties. Lots of parties. But I would argue that there’s something particularly party-centric about bachata today.

This has to do with growth of the scene, for one.

I also think it has to do with the fact that the new bachata crowd – the sensual crowd – is by and large a fair bit younger than other dance crowds.

The youthful, kind of reckless enthusiasm of bachata parties feels a lot like a frat house to me. This was always the case, but now that the scene has grown so much, and become so young, it’s simply multiplied. I wish to be clear that we find egregious drunkenness and after parties in all the scenes. But bachata dancers like to party so much they organize enormous pre- and after- parties even months before the event. In fact, I think this is a pretty big draw of bachata. Many people enjoy it simply for the burgeoning congress culture of going to a new city and being super lit all weekend. This is fine, I guess, I’m just not into it, and too old (emotionally) to be bothered.

-Inconsiderate crowd

The other night I was at a bachata social. I stood by the wall a lot and watched. I found myself growing increasingly agitated and disappointed by what I was seeing.

Elbows were flying, leaders were leading big moves without looking behind themselves, people were walking through the dancefloor disrupting various couples’ dances without seeming to care in the slightest.

Of course – again – you can find this in any dance scene, and especially if you go to the more clubby venues or congresses.

But I will say that I think that more experienced dancers tend to develop a more considerate ethos. Sensual bachata has simply brought in an influx of people who haven’t been around that long, so they don’t know better.  I also think that people who are drawn to the more party-oriented or sex-chasing components of this developing scene have a bit less consideration than those who join dance for different reasons. There is a small difference between bachata and other dances in this regard (people are self-absorbed everywhere), but I think the difference is real.

More disrespectful men

Unfortunately, I think the image of bachata nowadays and the potential for physical intimacy, sensuality, and sexuality of it all draws more men who are interested in specifically sexual connection and hooking up  than some of the other dances.

Of course – we find this in all dance communities. And if it’s done respectfully (not altogether often, at least in my experience), I’m cool with it. I have plenty of my own experience experimenting with it. But I find that the more intimate dances, and the more sensual they become over time, the more people it attracts who are in it for the sensuality alone.

The proportion of men in the bachata scene who have obnoxiously propositioned me (out of the blue, without any understanding or seeming care for who I am as a person, with their own pleasure or conquest in mind), is a fair bit higher than in, say, salsa, or swing.

-Lack of clear understanding of  boundaries, or willingness to communicate about them

Given that sensual bachata is a more intimate and sensual dance, I think it causes many people, and particularly men, to presume that they can initiate more intimate contact without any real grounds on which to do so.

In other words, many people think that just because someone is having  a sexy dance with them, that they can take sexual liberties with this person.

I cannot remember the last time I went to a bachata event and was not kissed on the lips, entirely uninvited, by at least one leader. I cannot remember. It’s a regular occurrence, and often more than one guy a night.

-Less active communication and playfulness from leaders

In a culture in which people are a bit more moves-oriented than others, in terms of its emphasis on competitions and performance teams, it’s sort of a given that there will be less freedom and flexibility in terms of which moves are executed.

I do not mean to disparage bacahta specifically (or sensual bachata) in this regard (though I will say traditional bachata often has a playfulness that sensual bachata does not).

Instead, I would like to elevate other dances that I think do the creative-communicating bit better than bachata: lambada is pretty good at it; salsa can be extraordinary at it (if you find the right dancers); west coast swing is almost always extraordinary at it.

I have found over time that I thrive off of this sort of communication. I find it intellectually stimulating. I find it emotionally compelling. I find it fun. I find that I get to be listened to and heard, and danced with rather than danced at.  I call people who lead and follow in this style “co-creators.” A very small number of leaders find ways to actively invite this kind of communication. But the number who do compared to other dances is vanishingly small, enough so that, I find I experience much better intimacy (of the emotional, intellectual, personal, sort) in other dances.

What this all means

This doesn’t mean much. I know very well that I am just talking quietly into the void. Bachata will be what bachata will be, whether I protest certain elements of it or not. I think that over time some of these hiccups will settle themselves, others may need some work, and others will probably be the same for a long time.

I have also written a post about sexism in dance communities. This applies to bachata and to other communities as well, and I think it’s highly relevant to discussions like this one.

All of which is to say, these are the reasons I’m not really into bachata much these days. It’s a shame, because I love the dance. Fortunately, the London salseros have picked up the slack, and then some.

I would, as always, be eminently excited by and grateful for your thoughts.

 

117 Comments, RSS

  1. Vickie May 18, 2017 @ 5:21 pm

    I completely agree with your assessment of the bachata scene. Especially since having moved to Barcelona, Spain, I no longer feel like dancing bachata everyday as they primarily like sensual bachata. The problem is that they don’t really even dance to the music but instead complete a series of poses in which the lead maneuvers the follow into overtly sensual puppet-like moves while he observes. I am so not interested in the form of “dance”. It’s disheartening because I love Bachata!

    • Stefani May 18, 2017 @ 5:28 pm

      I feel you Vickie <3 <3 <3

    • Stacey May 23, 2017 @ 9:39 pm

      OMG!!! You literally took the words right out of my friend’s and I’s mouths!!! The dance scene in NY in general has been plagued by all of this and obnoxious egos that takes the joy away from my hobby. What used to be a release to me, causes cringe at the thought of going and dealing with all that! Let’s not mention the animosity amongst the dancers and the need to feel and believe that they are better than the others. #GetOverYourselves I truly enjoyed your post and feel IMMENSELY relieved that we (my friend and I) are not the only ones who feel like this!

    • Jason May 24, 2017 @ 7:41 pm

      I was introduced to bachata several years ago and was mesmerized by it. The woman who introduced it to me was intoxicatingly hypnotizing in her fluidity. We danced other styles before doing Latin together, so I was accustomed to as you put it—co-creating— with her. Her Latin was so much stronger than mine, it was almost as if she back lead which wasn’t at all a problem. The respect I had for her completely prevented me from being lost in the desire by the dancer, this dance brought out in her 🙂 To that point I didn’t realize a dance could be THAT sensual!

      I saw all that to say, that point of what a persons catalyst for dancing largely dictates the type of dancer they will become; because it’s a reflection of the person they are!

      It’s takes time to learn that the connectiveness of this and other dances that suggest it, don’t mean a connection outside of those moments; especially if you’re a “romantic” single looking to rebuild and heal from past relational heartshreds.

      Each community has to educate itself and those who visit on the language they are about to engage in.

      I wholehearted agree that bachata def accentuates the sex in sexy. At times it’s actually off putting truth me told. It’s insulting when the females who are already physical standouts, where rights wurh writing in their asses that spell out what is all to clearly seen. Like he captain obvious really, wiggle, juicy etc etc on your behind at that point is distracting. The guys as you said have little art but to exploit the butt (pun clearly intended…)

      Not that I’m ANYWHERE near approximating your level but I don’t enjoy that community. I luv the dance when danced with women who don’t present in such a singular stereotype.

      Regardless of the community, I hope the dancers motivated by the art and the healing community bring, will rise to its tops and set a standard that allows both men and women to enjoy all the benefits of dancing “with” one another and if the stars align and both see the signs, feel safe to continue their conversation off the floor as they see fit 🙂

  2. Robert Rice May 18, 2017 @ 5:23 pm

    Why call bachata and also mambo “afro-latin”? They are pure latin dance and music. I am not educated on the exact history of bachata, but Salsa dance and music has african, taino indian, spanish, and European influences that came together in Latin America. Salsa is a mix of these things. It is not a mixture of African and Latin elements because the Latin elements themselves are a mixture. Even the Son Clave is pure Latin American. The clave sticks and 6/8 rhythm came from Africa but the Son Clave rhythm is a Cuban development. Sometimes the dance has more or less African or European influences. i.e. people like to mix a lot of Orisha movements into their dancing now days are exhibiting a more afro style or Afro-Cuban style (Orishas are danced a little different in Cuba than in West Africa). Others like to focus on multiple turn patterns using ballet technique. Proper use of “afro-latin” might be used to describe Neo-Kizomba or Urban Kiz. Because there you are mixing an African dance Kizomba with tango technique and other Latin dance movements.

    • Remie May 19, 2017 @ 9:25 am

      Robert, I feel you completely missed the point on this article.

    • Mi May 19, 2017 @ 1:05 pm

      … Because they are.
      You just admitted you’re not educated on the exact history but claim it isn’t. Do that, and you’ll learn so as well.

      Kiozmba is actually just “Afro” (as it is Angolan) and not Afro-Latin, it just happens to be danced in the Latin dance scene.

      • Julio May 20, 2017 @ 9:03 pm

        Thanx for educating Robert but I thinking if he really wanted to be educated rather than launch into an uninformed diatribe he would have actually educated himself on the topic which he chose to speak on. In the final analysis. as someone said above, he missed the point of the article by focusing a non essential part of its narrative ….I mean totally missed it

    • T May 20, 2017 @ 7:05 pm

      The fact that you’re hung up on the racial origins out of all the good points this article had should have been another aspect of this article… racism on the dance floor. I’m not implying that you are but your comments made me think how the Latin community continues to shun & not acknowledge their African descent only Indigenous to the point it has become obvious and has made the dance floor less enjoyable as well.

      • Julio May 20, 2017 @ 9:07 pm

        You are sooooo right about that. But as u said that is for another – and much longer- article that I doubt many are brave enough to even acknowledge mucj less write about!

    • dancer June 6, 2017 @ 1:46 pm

      Dear Robert,

      I see what you mean.
      You showed the point, which people mix, because of the lack of knowledge about the history of these dances Salsa, Bachata. They are the products of latin american culture and must be protected, as well as the dances from africa.
      People who create the dance events e.g. in europa (because I am in Europe) call everything danced with similar names to attract people (advertising the well sounding words) and most people get a superficial knowledge about the dances.

      I appreciate your comment.
      Cheers from Vienna

  3. Rose May 18, 2017 @ 5:36 pm

    Yes thank you for your comment about Andrea and Silvia’s workshops! I went to one and those objectifying jokes were really disturbing – partly because of what was said and partly because no one else appeared to be bothered.

  4. Arien May 18, 2017 @ 5:41 pm

    Hi –

    I enjoyed your article and have already flagged a few others of interest (great hyperlinking :)) that I’ll want to read soon as well. I’ve been to London a few times (I’m based in Los Angeles) and just generally speaking the scene in the UK and Europe seems to be a lot more sensual than it is in the states for sure, so I would take that into consideration. I think your initial description of bachata at its best is certainly something to always aspire toward: romantic, playful, relaxing, exciting, intimate, and respectful. I’ll be in London again for a few nights this summer, would love any dance recommendations you have on places to check out. Cheers!

  5. GA May 18, 2017 @ 6:04 pm

    Yes!!! I agree with this so much. I also am exhausted by the endless stream of pop songs remixed as Bachata with the EXACT SAME BASSLINE. It’s not fun. It’s not interesting.

    • Guile May 19, 2017 @ 1:48 am

      you mean like 90% of kizomba music?

      • Marie May 19, 2017 @ 5:47 pm

        U obviously only listen to Kizomba music played in clubs… Original Kizomba music is not based on remix…

  6. Romeo May 18, 2017 @ 6:31 pm

    Bachata it’s a sensual dance, but Some people need
    To know more about the culture and tradition and more practice to mastermind it.
    Salsa it’s African Cuban rhythms.

  7. Nicole May 18, 2017 @ 7:09 pm

    I feel like the people that SHOULD be reading this article, would NOT be reading this article. lol I love dancing sensual bachata because of the leads I was with, who did note the musicality of it. I have not been to enough bachata events that even bordered with what you were saying (being kissed? really??), granted I only have been to two. I think it was appropriate timing for me to read this and take note! So thank you!

  8. Pasquale May 18, 2017 @ 7:26 pm

    Thank you so much for your observations. You are not sending this to the void. Your spelling out in detail what I had as a somewhat unclear feeling I find very useful. I’ll heavily rely on it as input for a Kizomba introduction I’ll be hosting pretty soon, as that dance is probably even more looked at as sexual, not just sensual.

    • La Chanica May 20, 2017 @ 12:57 am

      Please, send me the link to your kizomba article when its done!

  9. Juan May 18, 2017 @ 7:37 pm

    Very nice article.
    I must say that I like your article and that it also is not just from a ladies perspective but from a leaders and man’s perspective as well. It is sad that yes, the dance has become more like dirty dancing than fun dancing, some of the music is not fun, and the disrespect goes both ways. It is sad that people don’t undertand the subtleties of good leading or good following and the endorphins that a good co-creative dance does for a person. I hope that it does level out, because, otherwise there will be nothing of interest left of the lovely music and the wonderful possibilities of the dance, Juan.

  10. monica martinez May 18, 2017 @ 8:10 pm

    well whatever anybody is got to say about bachata. good or bad. ylu have to know what to feel. when your dancing. so if you lost that feeling , thanks fir shareing. must run through your blood. you know.

  11. ANKESH KHEMANI May 18, 2017 @ 8:16 pm

    Oh my god. I have been feeling the same way watching the bachata trend these days. There’s no playfulness, only erotica.

  12. DturPato May 18, 2017 @ 8:16 pm

    Interesting read, thank u, appreciate your thoughts, and sharing. I would have to add that in general bachata is interpreted in the US as a sensual-even sexual dance, when in DR sensuality is not on the minds of every Dominican who might actually be dancing with their mom, aunt, cousin, sister. Bachata is like merengue-at the core of everyday life and its history can tell you a lot about dominicans in general. Some dance anthropologists have actually gone to identify this particular view by Westerners of Caribbean dances and Caribbean bodies as always being typified as “sensual, sexual” in conjunction with racist legacies from colonialism. In bringing this up—I agree with you on this emphasis that now is being put on couples or that couples adopt to look more sexy-sensual when dancing bachata and it works to disway me from going to bachata events, primariy because I wish I could go to a bachata event , enjoy myself and not have a guy say to me that I indeed need to be more sensual–when clearly the songs isn[t calling for it n I am not looking at my dance partner as the man of my dreams etc. I just want to dance and I do not want to have to fit my dominican bachata into what now people interpret as the “right way to” ” bachata-sensual.” Also because I personally like Dominican bachata more, and because as a Dominican woman I do not like my culture always being correlated, interpreted as sexual. I personally believe that it creates a “type of” bachata (create—as in I am referring to it as new dance here where bachata is a base, but where other dance styles, along with people interpretations of these dance styles is mixed in—and this can have both positive and negative critics depending on who is observing who is dancing, and one[s own person dance philosophy), a “sensual” bachata that I can appreciate it at times, but it is so far from Dominican bachata that sometimes, if you were to turn off the music, I will not recognize that what a couple is dancing in front of me is indeed bachata. I also think that although most individuals know Bachata comes from the Dominican Republic, not many take the time to learn more—learn more its roots, the regional differences that exist(i.e. how bachata is danced in Barahona versus en el cibao is diff), heavy emphasis on footwork, the role improvisation plays (yes there are basic steps, but you are supposed to come up with your own footwork, you are supposed to display musicality in your feet and hips). Thanks so much for your observations–I can identify with many of the points you made.

    • Zahira May 19, 2017 @ 8:22 pm

      Thanks for the background on bachata. However, I do believe the author is specifically referring to “sensual-bachata” not traditional. I also don’t see why you refer to it as “Dominican bachata”? In this case all bachata including the “sensual”, “urban”, “traditional” is Dominican.

    • Julio May 20, 2017 @ 9:16 pm

      You are on point abouy wesywrm sexualization of all things Caribbean. The exact same observation can be made of the western – North American in particular – view of reggae and soca where sex or anything close is likely the furthest thing on mind of the Caribbean male dancing to these while the typical North American sees this as an excuse to “dry hump” and totally missing the most essential component of these dances which is “the feeling “.

  13. V May 18, 2017 @ 8:49 pm

    I agree with you, very well written. In fact, I have an incredibly difficult time holding students or dancers on my teams because I teach leading and following and respect. So many people very obviously walk in wanting to learn hot sexy trick moves and win over a lady or man and never return to my classes a second time. In a small town scene it unfortunately happens in both bachata and salsa classes. But I have a few amazing students that truly love the dance and the music and keep my hopes for the dance scene.

  14. Ruëben Rivera May 18, 2017 @ 8:59 pm

    Very well written and with still so much respect for the overall Bachata dance and music culture. I wish more individuals would take time to respectfully articulate their differences in the dance world. It would help close a gap and spread more admiration and respect for why people choose to dance music a certain way.

  15. Cesar May 18, 2017 @ 8:59 pm

    I think you have a point, but Kizomba groups is worse.

    • Stefani May 18, 2017 @ 10:09 pm

      I hear, but I do not have personal experience from which to talk about it

      • Cesar May 20, 2017 @ 12:45 pm

        The Dj´s changing the ballads and adding bachata beat are changing the way people teach and dance, but nothing more fun than dance Grupo extra song for example 🙂

    • Ryan May 19, 2017 @ 10:43 am

      That may well be true, but it really depends on whether they are actually dancing kizomba or not. There’s a lot of ‘fake’ kizomba out there and even entire communities that dance messed up versions with horrible music, bringing shame to the term kizomba. Miseducation is the culprit here. The real kizomba is beautiful, non-sleazy, and worth investigating.
      Respectfully,
      R

    • John martin May 20, 2017 @ 6:49 pm

      I started dancing salsa in 1999 at the age of 50 and coming From a background of ballroom in my teen years I found the freedom of expression amazing. Then bachata was introduced sometime later and even then I believed the sexual overtones were present and I decided to exclude myself from the dance as I was generally a lot older than my partners and felt the way it was a bit inappropriate. So when Kizomba was levered into the dance classes and congressesI protested that it was not latino and danced salsa to the music as a protest. It was suggested to me that necause of the Portuguese link with Angola it was justified as being Latino! Wtf? Dance is a business and to keep dancers interest the promoters believe any simplistic vaguely Latin dance is acceptable! It’s not! Tango is too complicated to introduce into the salsa scene hence a truly Latino dance is excluded! Salsa music and dance are incredible with dance skills whereas Bachata and more so Kizomba are musical sex games with I suggest no skills required just partner agreement to see it up!

  16. Stephan May 18, 2017 @ 9:44 pm

    Absolutely agree with this article.

    I am a not very skilled Bachata dancer. I love the origin of the dance with maybe a bit of sensual, but all you see now is waving waving body rolls with the male just standing there and as you mentioned all over the place with elbows. Where is all the beautiful stepping like Dominican?

    All it is about in todays time is sex and making sex moves. Then you have an even bigger disgrace, Bachata Nuevo. Who the hell did invent that? That you cannot even call bachata. That is a huge insult to the real inventors of Bachata / the Dominicans who created a beautiful dance, but now is being basically raped by those popular dancers / performers.

    I still want to get better myself with Bachata, but not the fuckin on the dancefloor bachata.

    It can be so beautiful, but it is now being abused heavily. Sorry for some harsch words I used in my comment, but sometimes it makes me angry.

  17. Liz May 18, 2017 @ 10:39 pm

    Hey there! I totally agree with you. I started salsa/bachata in LA and now am in St.Louis. The respect factor I experienced in LA in salsa and bachata, and both in Montreal, are so much better than STL. I agree that you can feel sexy and dance sensually with leads while still having innocent fun and showing respect for each other. I have a few leads in mind who are playfully fun and respectful, whom I love very much.

    Thanks for the read and putting my same thoughts onto the page.

    <3

  18. GRACE Badillo May 18, 2017 @ 10:57 pm

    I teach on this subject all the time. I agree with mist of this but it’s ultimately the instructors fault for teaching this trash and degrading women and men in the process.

  19. melissa shank May 18, 2017 @ 11:02 pm

    I just want to say that I completely agree with you. I’ve been dancing in various dance venues for a little over seven years and I have seen the same thing happened. I have lost much interest in going out dancing anymore because of it. Especially with guys thinking they can take Liberties that they have not been invited to do so just because the dance has gotten more focused on being sensual or at least it has In my area

  20. Gray May 18, 2017 @ 11:22 pm

    Lol. I just have laught! This is what happens when people that know nothing about bachata, and learned how to dance “sensual” bachata, think they are expert on the subject.

    “Sensual” bachata came about from people that are salsa, mambo dancers and just incorporated their moves into bachata.

    Sexualitation? Sweetie, bachata from its creation was a sexual dance, not a sensual dance. Besides the lyrics, and Dominicans (poor Dominicanas) identifying with the sentiment, bachata was only danced in whore houses. A man that was in pain because of love, used to go to a Whore house, drink and drown in his sorrows while looking for consolation through the music and a prostitute. Just as Merengue was for the low class people, so was bachata. In fact, real bachata (classic bachata) and certain merengues are not played nor danced by the Hight class Dominicans.

    I grew up dancing bachata, and at that time bachata was already accepted as normal music and was being danced not so close together.

    lol. Men use women in a sexual way, objectifying women because of the way women are supposed to move and so forth. Only non-Dominicans dance that way. And that’s because they’re taught that that’s the way you dance bachata. You go to DR and you will see that wether it is bachata or merengue, if you don’t know the person, if you are just friends they will dance decently. Only if you like the person, or you are in a relationship with the person, they would dance in a sexual way.

    And women use bachata or merengue to flirt with the men they like. If they are in a club, and they see a guy they like, they will use bachata to get close to the guy. Just like guys do it too. As a matter of fact, bachata, more than merengue now, is used to seduce and/or find out, through dancing, if the person is into you.

    But you learned this “sensual” bachata, and like salsa, now there are congresses where people get together to dance. This is not wrong, especially when people just want to dance a music and have fun without having to flirt or please the other person in a “sensual” way. I dance bachata all the time because I like it, and I dislike when the woman start doing all these moves and dancing certain way.

    Remember, you set the pace. Just like merengue, you don’t have to dance bachata grinding, unless, of course, you like the person and you’re trying to let him know.

    If you dance with a Dominican, and you start grinding, he will think you like him. That’s why, when you dance bachata and merengue, you keep your distance. This shows the man that you just want to dance.

    • Stefani May 18, 2017 @ 11:43 pm

      “Sweetie”? Please, speak to me more demeaningly. Also, “sexualitation” is not a word.

      • Cristian May 19, 2017 @ 2:29 am

        The man has a point. A pity you can’t see beyond misspellings to get the message. I guess the reply bothers you because it’s not the expected “I agree with you”

        • Pete May 19, 2017 @ 2:25 pm

          ^This.

        • Meagan May 19, 2017 @ 10:31 pm

          Hey Sweety, you know what I love? A man who talks down to a woman while acting like he’s being nice! You know what else I love? A man who supports the first guy by saying the woman is only bothered because he doesn’t agree with her! OMG so supportive in creating an open dialogue!

          Try acting like a gentleman, use her name, and see if you get a better response from a woman who you disagree-with. Don’t be a jack-wagon.

          Stefani, thank you for starting a conversation regarding safe spaces without insulting anyone. It speaks volumes to who you are as a dancer.
          Best, M

    • Vilma May 19, 2017 @ 3:01 am

      Pretty tired of white people thinking they know what our culture is about and then ranting on how they don’t like how other (mainly white people) live parts of our culture. Then she proceeds to correct the spelling of a guy who is probably bilingual (like me) although he made a point that she failed to address… ugh.

      • Vlad May 19, 2017 @ 5:59 am

        I’m pretty tired of people saying “white people” as an insult, especially when they know literally NOTHING about the individual they are insulting. So Vilma, what do you know about Stefani? While you consider that, maybe put your own bigotry in the back sea for a minute or two. Also, at what point in the article about the dance scene did Stefani even vaguely comment on Dominican culture? And finally, much like in dance, if you’re looking for a sincere, extended response in conversation it’s probably best to enter the relationship with respect and humility rather than a cocky attitude know-it-all attitude.

        Let me leave you with an old axiom which you might want to consider taking to heart…
        “Better to be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

        • Manuel May 19, 2017 @ 4:01 pm

          Sure it doesn’t apply to “white people”. It applies to every other person who has pretty much no clue about the actual culture behind bachata. That being said, the vast majority of “white people” belong to the latter.

          However, what I find curious is that you see it as an insult. Why exactly would that be an insult?

          The whole point here is that you don’t see many “black people” (or rather those who understand they could dance bachata with family members without feeling awkward) doing on the dancefloor what the OP condemns (rightfully so).

          Funny story: before coming to Europe I never considered my dancing as sensual, yet by “white people’s” standards I kinda had to agree. Then “sensual bachata” came in and I was like: wait, if bachata is already sensual, what does that make this new wave? Sensual sensual bachata?! Sexual bachata?!

          Sure bachata is about connection just like any other Afro-Caribbean dance. But it doesn’t mean that connection has to be sexual or seduction-oriented.
          –> If I’m not attracted to a woman there’s no way in hell I’ll dance this close and with such sexual moves, etc. I can dance bachata with my mum for god’s sake !

          Now, I think that was roughly Gray’s point if I’m not mistaken.

          Anyways, way to bring a culture down to dust… smh

          • Julio May 20, 2017 @ 9:27 pm

            Manuel u directly set things straight. And again I will draw on ur points and ascribe it to all othe forms if afro Caribbean music and dance like reggae soca zouk kompa etc.

      • Zahira May 19, 2017 @ 8:35 pm

        Vilma- clearly, you are missing the point of the article. In no way was the Dominican culture attacked with her words. The author is merely making observations on how bachata is evolving into many other sub-categories of music, and she’s articulating her response to these new developments. Her experiences are relate-able to women of any background. Look around you, have you not noticed how diverse the dance scene is?

      • Meagan May 19, 2017 @ 10:40 pm

        Hey Vilma, just to push back a bit…kissing someone without their consent is actually sexual assault (by legal definition) so to say “she doesn’t understand the culture” kinda misses the point of, well, her saying she does not want to be assaulted on a dance floor. While I do think their are plenty of people who don’t understand the culture…I also think there are a lot of men who just don’t understand how to be respectful towards women period, not just women who dance.

        PS: I’ve personally never experienced what she’s talking about while dancing in NYC, but if I guy did try to kiss me during a dance (and I wasn’t already his partner) I’d probably slug him. Be a gentleman! Ask a lady out before you mac on her! Or at least buy her a drink!

    • Hector May 19, 2017 @ 7:23 am

      Wow, you hit the right keys. Anyone who learned bachata with a Dominican root background instructor, or a predominantly traditional bachata social, knows those ethic rules (like in Salsa, Swing, etc.). I know there are bad apples out there that will not miss the chance to take advantage of girls that see this type of bad behavior as part of the dance. We all are responsible for settings the limits and help to preserve it.

  21. AR May 18, 2017 @ 11:26 pm

    I find your post pretty disheartening, because you’re probably not the only follower (or leader) leaving the scene because of these or some of these reasons.

    The biggest problem the Bachata scene is facing right now is the explosion in popularity of Bachata Sensual while the teachers are not yet properly trained in it. I’ve seen many ‘traditional’ Bachata teachers all of a sudden starting to offer sensual classes, because the demand was there. They learn some moves from shows or YouTube and try to teach those without the proper context. And yes, that can really mess up the scene.

    I’ve been learning Bachata Sensual for almost two years now and the most important thing my teacher and all of the great teachers I’ve taken classes from have taught me is ‘respect the lady’! The leader’s job is to make sure the lady has fun, has room to breathe and stylize, and generally feels at ease.

    Now, I have to say, I don’t have exactly the same feeling about the scene as you do. I don’t really see the ‘party atmosphere’. At the parties (and congresses) I’ve been to, everybody seems to drink cola or water. And yes, the onlookers can be annoying sometimes, standing too much on the dancefloor, or the dancers make their moves too big, but that is unfortunately a symptom of a growing scene with an influx of new students.

    What a lot of these people need is just decent teachers and mentors, who can show them what’s right and what’s wrong. Teaching them that sensual is about respect, and is only part of a greater spectrum of Bachata.

    I hope your bachata scene continues evolving, and reaches a new, more mature point soon!

    P.s.: Andreas and Silvia are not my favorite teachers either, but I’ve never had a workshop as you describe it. Luckily there are also teachers like Luis and Andrea or Pablo and Raquel, where you can see and feel the love and respect and passion.

  22. William M Hall Jr May 19, 2017 @ 12:31 am

    Important thoughts sincerely and thoughtfully expressed. I agree with Grace Badillo. Instructors and to a lesser extent promoters are responsible for the ethical climate/atmosphere. Dance should never be sexual, but it is sensual and beautiful. Sexual dance should be limited to bars which are known to promote the stimulation of male(primarily) purient interest, commonly called “titty bars”.
    Bachata is not a “sexual” dance, but it is sensual and beautiful when danced properly/ethically/beautifully.
    We need more instructors and promoters to take clear stands articulating what is ethical and what is not. Failure to do so will destroy Bachata’s beauty, creativity and joy.
    Who wants “sex” with no romance, no foreplay, no love. Only barbarians. Kudos for your voice for a return to the beauty which is in the dance bachata and the other dances of Latin America which we have come to enjoy and love.

  23. Shyan May 19, 2017 @ 2:01 am

    I’m truly sorry that you’ve had to experience what you did while dancing bachata. It’s a real shame. I feel that these kinds of incidents increase the level of prejudice many women have towards men generally. And it becomes increasingly difficult for guys like me to convince women on the dance floor that we’re not “them”. These days I avoid bachata and just stick to mambo because I often don’t feel like going through that process. In any case, I hope we get to dance one day 🙂

  24. Wil May 19, 2017 @ 3:17 am

    BS. Sounds like your looking for a dance floor safe space. You might as well give up dancing. I suggest you look into the history of Bachata dance. You will realize that it was mostly danced in the underclass scenes, cabaretes, and bordellos. Where women were objectified. Im not saying it’s ok, but Bachata was the conduit of release from what was socially acceptable. It was the forbidden taboo freedom that people seeked; and it so happened to be expressed in the form of dance. If you’re so sensitive to the nature of the dance then you might as well give up other things that require a bit of rebellion. I’m not going to apologize for other people’s behavior on the dance floor
    That’s on them. But there is “defensive” dancing. You should practice some of that if you have such an issue with people on the dance floor. I am a strictly traditional Bachata dancer. Respectful on the dance floor, and I have an issue with a post that paints a negative picture of Bachata. Dance in general should never be portrayed with such negativity. I hope people don’t read into your message and opt out from the dance just because of your skewed point of view. A catchy title doesn’t make something true. I hope your experience with Bachata changes and you re-evaluate your sentiment. If it doesnt, it’s your lost. Most people will have a great experience.

  25. marge gabbert May 19, 2017 @ 3:25 am

    Excellent article!!!

  26. Mike May 19, 2017 @ 3:42 am

    Yes, as if dancing was not about love, sex or show off. /s

    Why do other animals dance?

    I find that people that don’t accept this fact is because they have a partner already (which you will find surprising how most stop going social dance or dance with their partner and leave) , they are ugly (everyone been sexual with hot girls but not with her or all guys are creepy and you dont want to get sexual), dont know how to dance bachata (better say you dont like it rather than admit you dont know how to do it).

    • Jen May 19, 2017 @ 10:42 am

      Thanks for proving her point, Mike. *wink*

  27. MiMi E Salazar May 19, 2017 @ 3:46 am

    Thank you so much for this article, I am a hardcore salsa dancer and love love to dance, I remember when Bachata was that pure Delicious song “quisiera ser un pez en tu pecera” that beautiful Beat of raw Dominican Flavor. Everything you mentioned in your article pushed me away from it. Specially the drunk guys trying to lead you to a cirque de soleil contortionist and they stink of alcohol.

  28. FrustratedMale May 19, 2017 @ 4:35 am

    How well she describes everything except the part that women play in promoting this culture she claims she is so against…..of course the excuse will be that they have to do it because the men ask for it…..Not true.

  29. ALVIN May 19, 2017 @ 5:35 am

    I definitelu agree with all you had shared about bachata nowadays. Its more about the sensuality. Ive seen so many “Popular” bachata dancers and instructors…who I admitted are hella good looking and sexy, but if you really watch their techniques ….many are overrated. Sad so many newbies fall into their trap, eventually manipulated into dishing out $$$$, hoping to be like them. Performing and social dancing are two different things. Though Ive performed before…I found the greatest satisfaction and acknowledgement of my progression and evolution as a dancer from social dancing with skilled dancers in technique and dance etiquette. Fortunately, I been able to see thru some of the bullshit instructors/dancers out there…and found a handful of legit experienced and knowledgeable dancers both locally and internationally known…who shaped me into the dancer I am today after 6 years of dancing. To be the best compliment I can get from some I danced with is the biggest smile,starry eyes, a hug, and a thank you….and the feeling is mutual…further saying how much fun they had and wanting another dance later. It should be more fun than sexy. I actually enjoy dominican style more nowadays more than sensual 😉

  30. Vlad May 19, 2017 @ 5:38 am

    “I cannot remember the last time I went to a bachata event and was not kissed on the lips, entirely uninvited, by at least one leader. I cannot remember. It’s a regular occurrence, and often more than one guy a night.”

    Wow. This is beyond disappointing to learn of. I accept that guys are pigs, but this is sad.

    Gentlemen (and with this new realization I am using that term even more loosely than usual), I hope you understand that if you act like a disrespectful pig within a social dance scene you are then a major cause of the women in that scene adopting a distrustful attitude to all the men within that scene. This distrust not only creates a cloud of negativity, it also diminishes the level of dance that can be achieved, because a follow’s trust is imperative for you to embrace and flourish in your role as a lead. So stop! There will be plenty of time for fucking later; holster your cock and your disrespect until you’re off the dance floor! If you continue to treat women with disrespect on the bachata/salsa/kizomba/zouk/etc dance floor you will ruin that environment for everyone until it becomes indistinguishable from the negative and anti-social environment of the bar scene in virtually any major city.

    Ladies, I encourage you to voice your objections to disrespectful behavior, though I would caution you from being overly-sensitive and acting like a total bitch every time you perceive yourself to be offended because a guy glances in your direction. However, if there is an obvious crossing of a personal comfort zone or barrier speak up and make that boundary clear. If that lead continues to cross that boundary, then you know three things: 1) he does not respect you; 2) he does not respect your boundaries; & 3) If you continue to dance with him he will continue to disrespect both you and your boundaries.

  31. Luz May 19, 2017 @ 6:35 am

    Hi Stefani,

    Thank you very much for writing this! As a latina in Australia and a salsa/bachata/zouk-lover, I struggle with the sexualisation of the dance and the expectation there is to follow moves I don’t want to and too often I just pretend not to know the step.

    I do acknowledge that the origins of the dance are sexual (as quite expIicit in some lyrics), and that women often sexualise the dance too, it’s not just the guys. However, I find the attitude in comments above (along the lines of: ‘if you’re not happy to dance extra sexy with me, then don’t dance bachata at all’) frustrating.

    I’m shocked to hear you have guys kissing you every dance night! I have found leads, on the whole, generally respectful. One particularly unpleasant lead would slap my butt various times throughout the dance. Maybe the only thing is ‘defensive dancing’…

    This year I have been a little more distant from the dance scene, partly due to the superficiality/sexualisation of a beautiful dance is sad to be amongst.

    Thanks again for your reflections! It’s nice to know others are thinking about this!

  32. Alejandro Peca May 19, 2017 @ 9:28 am

    Well written. Yet I guess all these traits of the scene have been ‘always’ in the dance scenes – they are just now more conspicuosly seen in the Bachata -and as I heard, in the U Kizz scene.
    The contradiction is but this: clearly more pool-alike moves have been created for the partner work, which alienate older dancers, while at the same time it has contributed to make the scene bigger altogether.
    As a side note: I would not overtly criticize the ‘sexualization’ of the dance (after having my reggaeton phase 11 years ago 😂) For two reasons, freedom of consenting adults, and the concept is too vague.
    Personally, what bothers me the most is rather the deterioration of the core idea of social dance: leading/following. Some moves taught are rather show moves and not enough brain power has been put into solving lead/follow techniques. Little coreographic moves are sold which cannot be dance freely with others, unless the went together to the same workshop.
    And on the top these new young dancers don’t even realize that, quite probably because their teachers cannot teach what they don’t know.
    Lets see how it will look like in 5 years from. I’m quite optimistic.

  33. Andrew Singleton May 19, 2017 @ 10:02 am

    Impressive writing.

  34. Julia May 19, 2017 @ 10:47 am

    You focused on very important topic for me… sensuality contra sexuality. I feel very bad in some position leaders try to do me. From the other hand bachata is such warm and nice dance. I relax after very fast salsa 🙂 it depends a lot of leaders if treat and look at you with respect I don’ t mind to do some position more. But after few steps woman know if foud this right leader and can DANCE for dance not for his ego. Wrong leader make me dance more like man and is like a fight for dignity. I hope self conscious of dancers grow up and they mature do dance sensual kinds.

  35. Emeka May 19, 2017 @ 11:26 am

    Thanks strong word and advice for those who have ears.. You said it all..

  36. Dominik May 19, 2017 @ 11:33 am

    that feeling explain everything: I feel as a object or subject for my dance partner

  37. Liz May 19, 2017 @ 11:43 am

    Yes, I totally agree. I’ve pretty much given up dancing bachata for the same reasons. I thought maybe it was just the Sydney scene, but clearly it’s much more widespread. Thanks for the article and for putting it out there.

  38. Liviu May 19, 2017 @ 11:46 am

    Hi there,

    I am a guy dancing with pleasure socially salsa, cha-cha, bachata & kizomba.

    I personally believe it all boils down to one single thing: why is the guy/girl dancing? Is it because he/she enjoys dancing, is it for recognition, is it for finding a relationship or simply “to score”, etc.?
    If you ask around and then dig down inside the community you will probably find a lot of them just want to find a partner / relationship / social interaction. And this is a need (a basic human need) that us humans, as social creatures, have and will continue to have for a looong time.
    In order to get this need fulfilled they have found that dancing works rather easy: you get physical contact, you get interaction … without having to put an effort (ask out, talk, get to know the other one, etc.).
    So, if there are guys and gals (social dancers, instructors, performers) searching for anything else other than love and respect for dancing => voila, we have deviations like the ones we see today 🙂

    I would not condemn the community, the people doing what they do or how they do it: just think that they have unsatisfied needs, maybe loneliness and use dance as a way to deal with their struggles (consciously or not).

    On the other hand, if you love dancing and respect the traditions you should try to share that passion with all those with whom you dance. You might leave a happy mark on some 🙂

  39. Michal May 19, 2017 @ 12:13 pm

    Pablo Alboran’s Perdoname is bachata song ? Really?
    Or you had on your mind it’s bachata cover (remix) ???????????????????????????\
    😀

  40. Sta May 19, 2017 @ 2:20 pm

    ThAnKYOu for this post, I can really identify with loving the music and enjoying dancing but being uncomfortable with the sensualisation (= sexualisation) of it all. I struggle with this as I often feel it goes against my beliefs, but at the same time am reluctant to give it up and “throw the baby out with the bath water”. Nice to know others (who undoubtedly dance better than me!) have similar thoughts.

  41. Dave May 19, 2017 @ 3:44 pm

    What an eloquent and excellent post.
    I can remember Bachata first coming onto the UK dance scene and causing a slight stir with its closer embrace than many other dances. SInce then it appears to have competed with Kizomba (albeit heavily stylized variations of both) to take the crown of most sensual dance form.
    Unfortunately this does lead itself to attracting men with potentially unwelcome agendas to the dance scene and many dancers leaving just as quickly.
    I did notice the comment that this doesn’t occur in the “Swing” scene, but can state that from the Blues side it is a problem that is becoming increasingly apparent with many teachers oblivious to the fact no dance actually requires inner thighs to be welded together whilst carrying out various gyrations and god forbid pelvic thrusting (Daggering being the exception – to pelvic thrusting anyway)
    Sexualisation of dance seems to be used to get bums through the doors – unfortunately in many cases that’s precisely what’s coming in.

  42. Mark May 19, 2017 @ 3:53 pm

    I think your observations of Bachata are spot on. As a man who massively enjoys Salsa and Jive dancing, because I find it both challenging and lots of fun (as an enthusiastic novice), for me watching most Bachata in clubs is incredibly boring. What attracts me to the vibrancy and enjoyment of dancing the more energetic and inclusive dances of Salsa and Jive, often seem to be completely missing from Bachata. This removal of the fun and challenging interaction of Cuban Salsa or Jive from Bachata, leaves me feeling less connected, even though Bachata is supposedly the more sensual dance style.
    I also get a little frustrated by just how much time during an event advertised as a Salsa event/night is taken over by Bachata. The proliferation of Bachata music during a Salsa night means you have far less opportunity to dance and consolidate your Salsa skills, whilst having to watch, with greatest respect, mostl, very poor Bachata dancers taking their opportunity to do little more than grind against a woman. Yes, those who have built up their dance skills, can and do look very good whilst dancing to Bachata, but I just don’t see the same skill level on the Bachata dancefloor as I see on the Salsa dancefloors. Perhaps my own preference for Cuban Salsa is colouring my perception? But as a man watching Bachata, I’ve not seen anyone dance Bachata so well that I’ve thought, wow, I must learn how to do that. I have been both enthused and motivated by good Salsa dancers to learn and continue to try and learn Salsa. Take away the natural fun and laughter from the dancing style, and it loses everything that makes it attractive to me. It removes that cooperative enjoyable interaction that really makes a couple connect on the dancefloor.

    • Alexander Mott May 19, 2017 @ 6:21 pm

      You’re completely right about Blues being over serialized at the moment, in my opinion mostly due to the emergence of Blues Fusion; a dance that was meant for people to combine different styles of dance they know into a beautifully interwoven lead/follow connection that allows for heavy amounts of self expression and breaking of rules. However, it has become so sexual with people coming in and thinking there are no rules so they can do whatever they want, that i don’t enjoy it much anymore and i believe traditional blues scenes are paying the price with a degradation of quality of dance due to the influence Blues Fusion is having on it.

  43. Tim May 19, 2017 @ 4:06 pm

    Good article, and I relate. But as with everything I do, I do not let others hinder My happiness… I find the Right Congress (f.e. Bangkok Salsa Fiesta, Shanghai Kizomba Festival), limit partners…and of course adjust style per follower. Yes, its not only the follower…My Leg gets raped, My ass gets groped…and sometimes groped elsewhere…even got bitten once (But apologized at least). Its all worth that One Dance…unexpectedly puts You on that golden cloud to eternal bliss…

  44. Chris May 19, 2017 @ 4:13 pm

    I’m glad you brought up the harassment on the dance floor. It’s definitely a dialogue everybody needs to see and participate in to change the behavior.

    However, I disagree with you about blaming sensual bachata. Blaming the dance for “encouraging” guys to touch a girl inappropriately is the same as stating a girl “asked for it” by wearing a sexy outfit. It doesn’t matter how sexy the dance is, it is the guys fault if he crosses a line and disrespects the girl.

    • Stefani May 19, 2017 @ 7:24 pm

      No, I didn’t say the dance encouraged it. I said that people who are into that sort of thing are drawn to the dance

  45. Fausto Stubbs May 19, 2017 @ 5:02 pm

    I came from DR where the Bachata came front and is not the music, are the people that dance this music with the wrong intentions. Yo have a headache and take a couple of Tylenol and make you feel better, now take the whole bottle and will kill you. The Bachata is the same, who teach me to dance it was my aunt, I believe me, I do not want to have any sexual dance with her. And yes, I have dance sexually way Bachata, as the same way I did with disco music, lambada, merengue, salsa and recently with reggaeton. I repeat, is bot the music, are the dancers.

  46. Mel Fe May 19, 2017 @ 5:25 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly. Like any form of sexiness turned sexual harassment, there should be some room for consent. It is quite mild in comparison with your “ass up” incident, but I hate when men grab my wrists and MAKE ME CLAP MY HANDS like a toddler. Or they grab my wrists and shake them to make my breasts shake. It’s incredibly derogatory in my view and gives me an icky feeling. I once told a dance partner “no” and he cursed me out and threatened violence….to me and then my boyfriend. Scary times when we have so little say over who can touch our bodies and how. Your commentary is extremely valuable. I hope communities of respectful dancers will find their places to gather even as things trend more sexual.

  47. Marie May 19, 2017 @ 5:51 pm

    I agree with this article. I stopped dancing Batchata because of all these points listed here. It’s a shame because i like the music.

  48. Leo Nambo May 19, 2017 @ 6:06 pm

    I just have one thing to say to the author!!! Your article was posted yesterday an it has already stirred a conversation on Facebook within our bachata dance community here in Northern California (Sacramento, Davis, San Francisco). So your words did not go onto empty space and many people share many point within this article. Than you for bring up a conversation that many of us have been trying to bring but just didn’t know how to start!

  49. Julian May 19, 2017 @ 6:22 pm

    I’ve been dancing salsa for a while and have started to get into bachata, partly because of the different way it works, the change of pace and rhythm, and (like with cha-cha and merengue) so I can keep on dancing when those tracks get dropped into a social dance evening. We can’t avoid that these Latin dances all come from a macho culture with quite rigid roles, particularly the “tradition” of men leading, women following. (Though I’d advocate a regular evening when you reverse those roles and see how it goes!)

    Along with that, however, is the need for respect, for the men to be gentlemen and to lead with care, consideration and empathy. And as a “led” dance it needs structure and control. I suspect “sensual” bachata is taking its influence from the pop/dance video culture which, in some forms, also objectifies women.

    How to deal with it? Get the word out that groping and grinding is unacceptable. Walk away from a leader who tries it on, and tell him why. Recalling your earlier post (Subconcious Sexism), think about limits and engage with leaders to get those limits across to them. Leaders need to learn that some moves aren’t acceptable ever, and some are OK only with people they know and understand. (I don’t do dips, for example, because I personally don’t like the implication… also because I’m likely to drop my follower. Never a good idea!) But don’t stop dancing, let’s reclaim the dance for the dancers.

  50. ralphael May 19, 2017 @ 6:45 pm

    Who posted this?
    I want to meet her and have an actual real bachata dance with her full of consideration, communication (eyes & body), no objectification, but with playfulness like the traditional bachata.
    Hit me up on my email Hermosa, and let’s have a real dance together.
    abasabe11@yahoo.com

  51. Stephanie May 20, 2017 @ 12:20 am

    Thank you for writing this Stefani!

    Thank you for putting into words some of the problems I’ve been feeling about bachata recently.

    I started following some bachata accounts on instagram and almost everything they post is very similar and what upsets me must is the gaze of the camera/lead/viewer/audience is so objectifying of the female body!

  52. Anne May 20, 2017 @ 12:33 am

    Omg yes.

    Thank you for so eloquently and rationally covering these points.

    Salsa (usually) feels so joyful and light… it’s colourful and happy… but bachata feels icky. You can make salsa feel icky but it takes more effort… and well, it’s easy to avoid those leads 🙂

    For ages I thought it was just me- that I just couldn’t relax and “connect” and “let go” properly… but the longer I dance the ickier bachata seems… It feels like people are looking for more than dance in bachata rooms…

    The whole “connection” thing has to be accompanied by something – technique (which takes time and training and experience), respect, fun, joy, a sense of humour maybe? – to be “just dance”… else it easily tends towards ick.

  53. Kelly May 20, 2017 @ 6:22 am

    This is so true and I’m glad I’m not the only one who sees it. I love bachata but the more it evolves the less I want to go out and dance it.

  54. daniel May 20, 2017 @ 8:49 am

    Hay Stefani!

    my name is Daniel and im a bachata Dancer\Instructor in Israel and i do acknowledge the things you pointed out that are wrong with the scene.

    I do try and teach my students to listen to their partner and enjoy the musicality and the dance it self but i must say must of them dont pay attention to these things even after i point them out.

    but still , my club and the team of instructors we try to take out that sexual thinking and explain about sensuality and sexy moves like you said.

    i guess i just would like you to know that there are people(and lots of them) that see what you see and try to make a difference.

    i link down below my 2 bachata performances i would like to hear your opinion about them.

    thank you for sharing your thoughts ill pass this post on.

    Dont Ever Stop Dancing! 🙂

    1st
    https://www.facebook.com/M.TLNT/videos/vb.1499232147/10205668825868804/?type=3&theater

    2nd
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-UqzgVZKKY

  55. Lorrie May 20, 2017 @ 1:27 pm

    I enjoy sensual bachata but too many men make it sexual bachata. They wont get future dances with me. I am new in the dance world but not young in years and I just want good dances. Happily I live in an area where if a certain venue has the type of crowd you are talking about…I can just find another.

    • Stefani May 20, 2017 @ 6:01 pm

      Good for you Lorrie! Stick to your guns and don’t settle for less than you deserve 🙂

  56. Mike May 20, 2017 @ 5:53 pm

    If you don’t like dancing with men then dance with your grandmother. Men dance because it attracts women, simple and plain. If you dont like it, dont dance with a man and dance with a woman instead since you all seem to want the same thing. Problem solved.

    • Stefani May 20, 2017 @ 6:00 pm

      lol. many women dance because they want to dance with men, too. but, as in life, we mostly prefer to dance with men who respect us. since you don’t appear to, i can’t imagine me or any woman feeling cared for or well connected with you in a dance

      • Mike May 21, 2017 @ 4:14 pm

        You don’t know me, do you? You’re assuming, and incorrectly. Any partner I’ve had could tell you otherwise.

        Here’s the real problem with you, Stefani, you think there is some actually line between “sensual” and “sexual”. The fact is that there isnt, you’re only referring to what YOU specifically are comfortable with, and want everyone to dance exactly like your preference. Do you see the problem with that?

        Secondly, men are called the lead for a reason. we run the show. if your personal preferences dont fit with the scene anymore then i’m sorry. take care.

        • Duna May 21, 2017 @ 9:08 pm

          Stefani I admire you for writing these posts knowing that you open yourself up to this kind of bullshit. I am openmouthed reading some of these comments. Seriously WHAT YEAR IS IT

        • Michael May 22, 2017 @ 10:49 pm

          @Mike, actually there is a line between “sensual” and “sexual”. We could watch a video clip and I can point out the “sensual” moves vs the “sexual” moves. Stefani is simply objecting to what is “over the top”, and what I personally consider “vulgar”. Sensual Bachata in my opinion is responsible for converting the scene to a hunting ground, men wanting to get laid. In my local clubs I can point them out easily. They come every weekend, dance only sensual Bachata, and mostly praying on the “young” ones, those with very little experience and easily impressed.
          Do you not consider that sticking your thigh between her legs and grinding away for 10-20 seconds is “over the top”…? Or how about sticking her ass in your groin, and grinding in circular motions for 10-20 seconds way too much…? If you find nothing wrong with this, then so be it, and I won’t judge you, but I personally disagree vehemently with it, as it degrades the dance, turning it into a vehicle for getting laid, rather than enjoying the dance for the sake and pleasure of dancing…
          Don’t get me wrong, I am no monk, I do like the girls, but I always put the dance first, and what comes after second. I respect dancing. I go dancing because it feels good. I don’t go dancing to pick-up ladies.There’s a difference.

          • Mike May 23, 2017 @ 3:22 pm

            You sound like you’re 80 years old, and your definition may not fit with someone else’s. Try to understand that.

  57. MariaBella B. May 20, 2017 @ 11:42 pm

    Hi Stefani,
    I just wondering why you choose a Asian Lady in the cover of this article of yours? Why not choose black, Latina, white woman or maybe your own photo? I would appreciate your explanation. Thank’s Bella

  58. Freddy Castillo Barry May 21, 2017 @ 12:40 am

    Bachata sensual dance is not bachata dance but a fraud dance and scam dance…….

  59. […] great post describing very well what I experienced (though regarding a different dance style) here, from the perspective of a woman, if you’d like some corroboration of these […]

  60. L May 21, 2017 @ 10:19 am

    It’s interesting that in the whole article I cannot find a single instance of you mentioning actually making the dancer aware of your objections. Not even in the section on willingness to communicate. Are they supposed to read your mind (hint: people are bad at that)? Or are they supposed to read about it in this article afterwards? How are they supposed to know if nobody tells them? Especially if, as you complain, this is often people who are new to the dance? Also, why do you dance with people you don’t like to dance with?

    • Jomayra May 23, 2017 @ 10:01 pm

      Seriously dude? Under what other context would any of those things be ok?

  61. Brandon May 21, 2017 @ 2:50 pm

    So, i’ve kind of been on both sides of the sexualized bachate issue. I’ve was once that guy who did the unwelcome sensualized bachata. I don’t anymore. I don’t find it appropriate in public. So I dance ‘clean’ bachata. However, the last few years I notice at dances many ladies/girls seem to want the sensual version. It’s not just males who instigate it. I’ve had numerous dances, and have many all the time where ladies just seem to want to get a bit ‘too’ close,’ if one may, that one can see the disappointment when one doesn’t reciprocate. So, it cuts both ways. I think especially newer dancers men or women think bachata = sensual bachata. They seemingly can’t imagine it as nonsensual/grindind, so when one doesn’t they think ‘oh he’s wierd or ‘he/she doesn’t ‘know’ bachata.’ and I have to agree I’ve seen youtube clips of bachata and even salsa from Spain and they strike me as so showy, like so juvenile and competitive. It seems like a competition. I often wonder whether that’s the culture there. I doubt so. I know people from Spain who’re some of the smartest humble people possible. But those videos seem quite juvenile. But in general I do agree and I’ve mentioned it before, there seems to be a widespread conflation of bachata with sexualized grinding. I have no problem with ‘grinding.’ Love it, in a more appropriate environment.

  62. cindy May 22, 2017 @ 5:22 pm

    Everything is about sex these days. It’s just another trick of the devil.

  63. Cindy May 22, 2017 @ 7:27 pm

    I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, where I’ve been dancing salsa, bachata, etc. for ~14+ years. The local salsa/bachata dance scene has become much more focussed on performance, competition, & attending congresses over the past few years, which has had its pro & con effects on the current social dance scene. While it has generally raised the skills of dancers & injected some much needed life into the local scene, it has also had many of the negative influences you’ve mentioned in this article. I’ve posted your article on Fb in the hopes it will be a catalyst for discussion in our community. Thank you!

  64. JAS May 22, 2017 @ 8:34 pm

    We share personal experiences to educate and bring awareness to our communities. Thank you Stefani, for sharing this with us! I for one love all styles of Dance. I have been an instructor for over 15 years and have seen the changes in the community. I believe that there is a solution for every issue. Starting with the Instructors, Promoters, and ending with the dancers themselves. We can change the stigma of Sensuality being misinterpreted by Sexuality. We all have an important role in our communities. Not only the dance community but the one you live in as well. Here we have a personal experience of ONE dancer who feels like her dance community is being taken away from her. On the other hand, you have ONE dancer who is taking action to change this. She is not blaming anyone or saying that is true for every female dancer in any dance scene. Nor is she saying that it is sensual bachata the one to blame. This just happened to be an unfortunate situation that occurred in the bachata sensual event/s that she attended. I want to end with this, be kind to one another and respect your community!

  65. Michael May 22, 2017 @ 10:29 pm

    Well said..!!! The “ass” first move is simply a strip join type move, and really, honestly, just doesn’t belong in a “social” dance setting. I’ve been out of the dance for 11 years, and just recently have come back on the scene, only to be horrified at what I’m discovering. I’m strictly a Salsa dancer, and whilst I appreciate Bachata, the sensual variant is simply much too “vulgar” for a social setting, composed of complete strangers.
    Unfortunately, you said, sex does sell, and the younger generation are easily impressed, and badly influenced. And sadly they end behaving very much like “sheep”.
    I’ve been ranting and raving about the vulgarity of it ever since I’ve returned to the scene, but I am told quite ceremoniously that “it’s just a dance”. Sadly, it would seem, quite a lot of girls/women have no problems at being groped, fondled, touched up, and sexed-up by men as long as they have a socially accepted, albeit benign way out, by simply saying “it’s just a dance”.
    Some ladies have told me they don’t accept certain moves, or too much intimacy, but since I’ve returned to the scene, I’ve not seen any lady actively “refuse” or “reject” anything. Lets face it, you can not know what the man will do until you’re actually dancing with him, right? I suppose you could watch dancers beforehand, but how many ladies actually spend the time doing recon? Most ladies are too eager to dance as much as possible, not a song wasted, not a minute lost.,,
    Where I am, in Romania, I am seeing a trend, that of ladies learning Bachata and Kizomba first, and maybe Salsa second, which make sense, since Bachata is simpler than Salsa, and also romantic. I find it quite amusing when the ladies sing along, truly living the moment, immersing themselves in the Bachata song/dance, as if they are experiencing a “fairy” tale moment…all that’s missing is some knight in shining armor bursting through the doors, riding a white horse, to whisk them away to live happily ever after… 🙂 pardon my sarcasm, but it’s just so bloody wrong…sooooooooooooooooo infantile…and not to mention that this sing along can happen several times in one night, night after night, week after week…
    I watch from the sidelines, and remember teaching about “personal space”, the importance of respecting your partner, and putting dance first, but in this day and age, that has very little importance, people care more about screwing anything that moves, and that’s that. You can dress it up any way you like, but that’s the ugly truth, and it applies to both sexes.
    Frankly, I dread the idea of having a girlfriend and her dancing sensual Bachata. I know I couldn’t take it. I would be perfectly fine if there was no “vulgarity” involved, but as it stands, I simply can not comprehend how one can be so “intimate” with a dance partner, whilst your real life partner is watching…
    In the meantime, I’ll be sticking to my trusty old Salsa, and maybe, just maybe, a little Dominican Bachata… M.

    • Stefani May 23, 2017 @ 1:34 pm

      I really like your point about the women singing along. You don’t see this much in London, but it is very popular in France. And I think you are right that there’s a sort of fairytale element to it. I personally feel drawn to dance, and bachata in particular, because it provides a fantasy. Four minutes in which someone takes care of me and treats me like they love me. I think for some other people it is much the same, even if they don’t necessarily know it. Fortunately over time I have learned to recognize who really cares and who doesn’t, and for better or worse I have come to only really enjoy dancing with the people who do care. <3

  66. Azzy May 23, 2017 @ 5:49 am

    Thank you for this article – I agree with so much of this!
    I reshared the link to your article with my personal input I’m copy+pasting here:
    I started learning Latin dance (salsa bachata, etc) over 10 years ago; I come from the school of thought to be an ‘overall’ dancer; be good at your basics, be good at salsa AND bachata, respect the history of the dance style you are learning (if it’s not your culture, learn about it from instructors who can educate you). The problem is, there are too many dancers who are not even comfortable enough with themselves as dancers who want to bust out overly sensual and advanced moves on the dancefloor; who don’t care about making connections with the person they are dancing with, and as followers, we just get forced into these big moves and are made to feel uncomfortable. Also, I feel like there seems to be a ‘sensual bachata’ factory somewhere churning out artists who are all selling the same formula; usually a hot couple, who do dance demos almost making out with each other, selling their ‘sensuality’. Nothing wrong with that; we’ve all always admired dance couples who are good at what they do especially if they really are amazing dancers; but the problem is they are selling their “image” and everyone is buying; like an express ticket to a ‘sexy dancer identity’ that everyone wants to have; but in reality not enough dancers are actually well-practised enough in their dance skills, and just haven’t invested into their dance style to be comfortable and be able to make someone they are dancing with feel comfortable. So dancers skip ahead to the ‘sensual moves’ and it just feels forced. Also really appreciated the part of this article that mentions how younger dancers just don’t know how to act right – too much self-absorption and focus on this culture of wanting to be recorded and performing ‘social demos’ – everyone is doing it for attention and not for the ‘love of dancing’ or with the objective to connect.
    We cannot stop dance styles from evolving (I understand there is a similar debate over Kizomba and Urban Kiz) and it’s great to embrace modernity and fuse together music, etc; but my personal take is I don’t enjoy a large percentage of my dances because of this weird forced sensuality and doing sensual bachata moves (you learned from a workshop that day) don’t maketh the sensual dancer.

    • Stefani May 23, 2017 @ 1:31 pm

      I love this. <3 <3 <3 Thank you for sharing

  67. Cubanisima May 23, 2017 @ 1:01 pm

    Couldn’t agree more. As an organizer who cares about the audience I have more than once heard complaints from female dancers. And have had to (politely) have a little talk with some of the male dancers. But it IS hard for the average and passionate dancer to stay on the right side of the line, when show- and professional dancers showcase and advocate moves that are just too much if no agreement has been made between the partners.

  68. Jomayra May 23, 2017 @ 9:59 pm

    Preach Girl!!!!!! A thousand times over thank you for writing this. I’m Dominican. Bachata is in my DNA, but I got pulled into the Latin dance scene 7 years ago by salsa. That’s when I began embracing my roots. I fell in love with dancing and even more so with sharing true passion and love for the craft with others who loved nothing more than dance. Then… came salsafied bachata courtesy of ataca and alemana and sensual. I embraced sensual… took me a while, but I joined a team and made some wonderful connections there. I left the scene last year because of everything you’ve just written about. It feels good to know I’m not alone.

    • Sara June 21, 2017 @ 1:00 am

      Thank you for writing this post. Everything you’ve written about strikes so close to home. I personally was assaulted by an instructor in the sensual bachata scene this year and to my knowledge, my case isn’t an isolated one. Despite filing a police report, I understand this instructor is still being invited to teach at congresses around the US. You’ve highlighted everything wrong with the bachata (and many other social dance) scene. I definitely hope people start to talk and educate the scene about this because these kinds of paternalistic, predatory behaviors hurts and alienates everyone.

  69. Nitesh May 24, 2017 @ 8:40 am

    Try Tango!

  70. Just. Say. No. – The Perfect Follow May 24, 2017 @ 1:06 pm

    […] the wake of last week’s viral post on the sexualization of bachata, I have one very important thing I’d like to say to all the […]

  71. Nick May 25, 2017 @ 6:41 am

    There is so much right and so much wrong with this post. All of it revolves around perspective and point of view. Who has it, whose view is being expressed. With that in mind, let me start by mentioning what I see wrong. While the perspective is hers, the focus of the post express a certainty that there something wrong with Bachata. That is the first problem, an authoritative voice claiming a clear definitive answer to the problem of Bachata. Second, she blames sexuality, a moral judgement. And finally, she places the blame squarely on Men. Now, her perspective does offer insight into the way this woman, and by extension, a lot of other women feel about the way guys, not gentleman, take liberties with the dance and thus their partner.

  72. Megan May 26, 2017 @ 11:26 am

    Hi Stefani! This is only partially related, but I have a question/concern that I was wondering if you could possibly speak to… I’ve just started dancing zouk (coming from a swing and ballroom/dancesport background) and I’m already utterly in love with zouk, but the number of creepy men and unwanted advances I’ve gotten at socials is really upsetting. I don’t know if it’s zouk in particular, or all the Afro-Latin social dances, but it’s at a level that I haven’t experienced previously and I’m not really sure how to handle it. I’m 19, female/a follow, and white with long blonde hair so I tend to stand out of the general crowd at socials here… Maybe I’m being targeted moreso as a newbie/outsider, but it’s very unpleasant and it makes me nervous that I have to be subjected to much older men’s sexual motivation and advances. I have zero experience with men (never had sex or so much as been in a relationship) in my personal life and I’m quite shy/reserved/introverted, so I feel very out of my depth and find it hard to assert myself in these situations. I know in theory that I have the right to refuse or end a dance for the sake of protecting myself physically/mentally, but I can’t let go of the societal and dance-specific conditioning of always saying yes/being accommodating and polite. Zouk has a lot of moves which are inherently sexual and I can’t avoid them with leaders that are much older and creepy… Sorry if this has been one long incoherent ramble, but I don’t know what to do. I love zouk and I really want to pursue i, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to “get over” the creepy factor that seems to come along with many of the men In th scene.

  73. DJ Vamp May 26, 2017 @ 10:14 pm

    Actually, I found it quite shocking when you mentioned people were regularly kissing you on the mouth on dance parties. Almost never experienced that overseeing a crowd as a DJ here in West Germany. Nevertheless, I think you are right in most points. The sad thing, however, is that you tend to turn your back on the Bachata scene just because many people do not understand what Bachata actually is.

    And yes, there is a Bachata Sensual factory behind that which primarily wants to make money and establish it as a brand. This is nothing bad per se but they underestimate the problem you mentioned. Nowadays, artists have to work against this movement in their classes.

    I try to work against this flow, too, also explaining this on my homepage:
    Feel free to visit and share your opinion:
    https://www.djvampbachata.com/what-is-bachata

    Best regards,
    DJ Vamp

  74. Michelle Hobman May 28, 2017 @ 12:12 am

    Such a well written article. We are fortunate in our dancing world to meet respectful sensual beautiful leaders and followers enjoying the totality of the shared experience of giving & receiving. It is unfortunate in a lot of situations where both genders fail to read or lack sophistication to understand signals and boundaries, I have been subjected to all of the above & there is nothing more perfect than mutual respect on & off the dance floor. Lack of respect equals lack of respects for oneself. Know thyself first. Thank you Stefan. 💕🦋💕

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