The lilting music, the catchy beats, tell you a romantic tale and reflect the culture of a country extremely well. All these qualities fit the popular genre of music called Bachata music. The music is characterized by bitterness and the subsequent dance revolving around themes like romance, loss and heartbreak. Bachata literally means party and it hails from the rural areas of Dominican Republic. Here, the basic melody is played mainly with an electric guitar. The dance involves 4 steps in its primary form with a pop or a tap on the last beat. Initially thought to be as low class, this form of dancing has gained considerable popularity.
History of Bachata Dancing
The Inception - Trujillo's Era
As mentioned, the music lead to the dance, thus we start from that. The word bachata means to socialize. As we flip over a few pages of the evolution, it is seen that bachata, in its music form has a turbulent history. You can also call it rough with a tinge of wickedness to it. It was actually not acceptable as it was created in brothels and bars and a few other socially tabooed places. In this aspect it shares a historical thread with another popular dance form called Merengue. While Merengue was held up by the Trujillo Government (1930 to 1961) surprisingly, Bachata was given a tardy treatment by Trujillo. The dictator was of the opinion that Bachata was backward and an art form with low standards which was not suitable to strengthen the country. Consequently, he brought about a censorship, denigration and a near extinction of the dance and the music form. Eventually though, after the end of Trujillo's dictatorship, this dance started to gain a foothold again.
A Glimmer of Hope
Things improved with regards to the development of Bachata after end of Trujillo's reign. Although the upper class still looked down upon it, it seemed that the times were getting better for the dance form. The proof of changing times was found in the first recording of Bachata song in 1961 done by José Manuel Calderón. It was as if the gates were open for this dance form. But this was short lived. As described earlier, the higher echelons of the society still looked at the dance and music in a negative light. There were attempts to revive the dance and music form in between but all went in vain. The decade of 1970s again, was a dark one. The music was not at all played anywhere, there was no mention of the dance, and bars and brothels were the only places where it was prevalent and in respected and elite events, it did not have any footing.
The Latter Stages
Again the tables turned in favor of the dance which was on the sidelines of the social periphery in the 1980s. Things progressed to a level where the dancers and musicians started performing on television too. It was now the time to steal the glory for the bachata dancers and achieve a level of stardom like never before. Luis Vargas and Antony Santos were amongst the first few stars in history who dominated the scene with a few Bachata Merengues repertoire in the 1990s. This was also the time when it started to get an acclaim as a music of Hispanic dance halls.
Now, Bachata has got a worldwide recognition and this dance is practiced and taught in many countries over the world. In fact, now the music has taken a backseat and the dance has gained popularity in leaps and bounds! That was the journey over the years! It was surely full of ups and downs, wasn't it?