Author’s Note: This is going to be yet another bachata post. D-Wall, author of Facing Diagonal Wall was curious to know about my experiences with bachata for additional perspective. Seeing as I had no ideas for the next post, I’d be happy to share them. It’s also an opportunity for me to experiment with a differently styled post, four vignettes with an epilogue.
Warmth in the Chill
The air was chilly for us Houstonians, so we dressed warmly. It was Homecoming. I was reluctant to go stag because of my bias towards partner dancing. But, I pushed my pettiness aside because the jump n’ flail was better than the study-in-my-slightly-smelly-dorm. I was glad I went because that oh-so handsome student, whom I shall call Rocker (for his absurdly long hair, which I strangely found attractive), was there. I contented myself to sit off to the side, and enjoy the view.
The mellow tones of a bachata wafted through the courtyard, and several couples began to engage in what I thought was a boring impression of a malfunctioning conveyor belt. That is until I looked up to see the much taller Rocker holding out his hand, expecting a dance. I took his hand, feeling suddenly warm, as he lead me in my first bachata. It was pretty easy, save for my rapid heartbeat. Maybe this dance wasn’t so boring after all…
Er, No Thanks…
A studio-mate convinced me to go to a Latin club she frequented. Why not? Long story short, I loved it and joined her whenever she went. She stuck with salsa, while I would meander from the tightly packed main room to the side room where people danced bachata. It was still unremarkable, but I was beginning to warm up to it. I greatly appreciated the charitable people who patiently lead me through patterns as I acclimatized myself to urban-styled bachata. What I didn’t appreciate were those that decided to mix grinding in an already sizzling ensemble. Granted, my high school classmates’ attempts were downright hilarious, but even when done properly, it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. So, I’ll happily twist my hips, do body rolls, and even go into full body contact when I dance with you. However, I will NEVER rub myself against you.
Sweetness in Spanish (Part I)
There’s another reason bachata is so close to my heart that I haven’t shared with you guys.
The temperature outside was 54 °F. Let me point out that Houstonians can experience seventy degree temperatures in late winter. It was cold! I was bundled in long pants, long-sleeved shirt, scarf, and trench coat. If clothes make the man, then I was apparently ready to enjoy four hours of Latin dancing, courtesy of my university’s Hispanic Student Organization. I was looking for a break from partner dancing, if you can believe that. That is, until another student, whom I shall dub Orange Cap, asked for a dance. Unlike Rocker, he asked me multiple times. He seemed to have a lot of fun, and I found myself having fun with him. Would you believe that Orange Cap asked me out later that night, even though we’d just met? On a frigid night, those sweet strains sung in Spanish got me my first date, ever. I’d never felt so warm.
This occurred about a month ago. I’ve been doing bachata for slightly over two years. I’ve found my style and am now working on dancing it confidently. Whenever I go to my club’s monthly “mini Congress,” I go to the bachata group class because I’ve more to learn.
The amalgamation involved two dips. The first began when the man pushed my right hip back for a beat. My right leg springs forward and lightly hooks on the man’s left. Finally, he rotates my upper half in a tight, semi-circle. I’m not used to dipping on one foot and was struggling as I held onto my partner’s shoulders tightly for support. The male instructor bursts out a “Whoa!” My expression replies “What?! What’d I do wrong?” “That was awesome!” he finished. The second dip was what I call a squat dip. The man squats, like during the exercise, while the lady goes straight back. I was struggling for support again and had to squeeze my partner’s right leg between both of mine. I come back up only see that same instructor staring at me again: “That was beautiful!” he exclaimed. Cue embarrassed expression.
Epilogue: Sweetness in Spanish (Part II)
Bachata may sing of angst, but I’ve found it nothing but sweet in my personal experience. I’ll admit that my singleness and age factors into my conclusion, but there’s warmth and near-elegant sensuality in a well-danced bachata. Of course, the definition of “well-danced” depends on who you speak with.
In my opinion, the sensuality is necessary, but it can easily overdone. For me, this dance is more akin to a warm caress with a loved one rather than an act of passion behind closed doors. Therefore, I’d group bachata (and rumba) with the former. Argentine Tango (and bolero) with the latter. Dance with tender sweetness and amiable passion. Um, does that make any sense? It’s difficult to describe the degrees of emotion that one should put into each dance, but I trust my instincts with the final piece. You should, too.
P.S.: It probably wouldn’t hurt to try dancing bachata in your lessons or in a group class to get your feet wet if you’re seriously considering dancing it in a showcase. If you’re enjoying it, why not try it? You can always let your teacher know what you’re comfortable and uncomfortable with.