Why Bachata Dancing?
The Concept of Dancing
There are currently more than 500 dances that can be found on Wikipedia and probably a multiple of this number is the total amount of dances there are in the world. I do not claim to know even a fraction of them but why am I solely connected to Bachata in that strength?
With the fastest explanation, I would like to cite dance UK:
"Dance is the art form that communicates through the body."
Our most common mean of communication are our voice and brain. We use our mouth day by day with thousands and thousands of words that are in a standardized code which gets decoded by the brain. Most of the time, we do not transmit any news that is really important to be said. It is simply the primary bidirectional social activity. Sentences contain little striking information and emotion covered by a bunch of jokes.
Can we also communicate in alternative ways? Barack Obama (who is also familiar with Bachata) would say: Yes, we can!
A common example how people interact without words is pet owners: They need to use instincts, signs, motion and emotion to understand and react to their cats and dogs. Another example is communication between people from different countries that do not speak a common language. Same "problem", same solution.
Why do I mention this? Actually, there are a lot of different concepts of dancing and mixtures of those. I shortly want to explain some major commonalities and differences:
- music concerts and performing dances are meant to interpret music, communicate through an alternative way which is eyes and ears with indirect signs (unlike letters).
They try to deliver a message to the audience: this is an unidirectional communication, a message only to receive
(with a cheering audience maybe uneven bidirectional ;) ).
Technically, it can be both choreography or improvisation.
- social (couple) dances can have a huge span of "working principles":
The simplest form is a get-together with some basic rules for dancing (which is actually just a physical excercise with music in the background).
People walk (or even talk) connected through a more or less fixed dance position.
Interaction happens in a common verbal and technical way but
does -per se- not have much to do with communication through the body as cited above. It is more an expression of your own sense of music and alcohol.
Regarding Bachata, Traditional Bachata can serve this purpose.
Another kind of social dancing forms when people concentrate on athletic execution. Some are bored by simple moving patterns (or talking while dancing ;) ) and invent new ways to lead and follow in a couple to make dancing more interesting. This execution of movements can be solely athletic but can also be connected to a high level of musicality.
Still, this does not have much to do with communication through the body because even when a high athletic and musical level is achieved, a couple does not yet "talk".
Regarding Bachata, Modern Bachata Styles (also in the Dominican Republic) serve this purpose.
From a traditional dance point of view, this may seem as an arrogant way of dancing with the purpose of being seen and admired for it.
The third (and for me most advanced) form of social dancing is when people concentrate on music. This does not mean "musicality" which is only a congruent physical movement between body and music. By concentrating on music, people absorb the mood, setting and character of a song to express a dance in an artistic way. Expressing here does also not mean performing a dance like mentioned above because the expression has to work in a bidirectional way only in between the couple dancing and no interaction with a possible audience (!!!). If people start to interact with surrounding people ( e.g. by watching who watches them etc), communication in a couple through the body is lost.
Only if this social dance incorporates these three elements: get-together, athletic execution and connection between music-follower-leader,
I would call it a "natural dance".
Regarding Bachata, All Bachata Dance and Music styles can serve this purpose.
It is the character and attitude of people that make it a natural dance or not.
- many cultural dances consist of a performing dance and / or a social dance where the identity of people with their heritage as well as their social interaction is topic of their dance - be it street dance, folk dances, etc. Cultural music also follows these rules with specific traditional instruments and specific composition techniques. Bachata is one of these dances and at the same time evolved to a performing as well as artistic social dance.
However, many cultural dances (by their definition) cannot allow evolution in musicality and evolution.
Having a look at sportive activity with dancing, athletic stress levels while dancing range from professional dancers with acrobatics down to simple movements for each technical dance level as well as fitness level. Bachata can also provide this full range and can thus attract young and old.
Dancing in different Cultures
As discussed in the previous section, Bachata is a good example for examining different traits of interaction between music, culture and dancing.
For me, natural dancing consists of:
- a specific potential source: a music style: the more hands-on instruments, the better
the source first has to be perceived by the ears and processed by the brain
- a force that rises due to a specific potential:
emotions and motions connected to music styles matching the character of the dancer driven by text, melody and rhythm
- a physical execution: technique of body and fitness
connected to musical perception
which should be the natural reaction chain in this order - and no other.
For all linearly dependent process chains, there is something called the weakest link. In a sum of parameters for a certain event to happen, the weakest link determines the maximum outcome - be it profit of a company, chemical reactions or even dancing.
Depending on individual skills, this outcome is limited by one of these three factors.
What happens if people feel the urge to dance when they love a specific style of music (or a specific style of dancing)?
It is strongly dependent on the region where they live
what the maximum outcome looks like.
Latin / African Culture
A connected question might be: Why do African people produce extraordinary rhythmic music?
As I learned the hard way in my life, we are not what we are due to things we have but because of things we do not have (items, social contacts as well as character traits) because it prevents us from entering different insights of how the world works. Clearly, the things we do not have and understand are outnumbered by the ones we do. As a poor man that does only have two twigs of a tree, you can drum anywhere with anything. Advanced instruments like violins, pianos and electrical workstations are rare and expensive - some even build their selfmade guitars made out of trash! If you do not get your mind forced in a 4/4 rhythm from your childhood on but let evolve polyrhythms, this can also be an awesome evolution of percussion.
In addition, in Africa with some of the poorest countries of the world, social interaction is a huge part of life. If you live a troublesome life, you will learn a lot of different (and way stronger) feelings than in a well protected middle class family -
after the simple principle of actio and reactio. Therefore, in Latin / African cultures, music is a very strong part of their lifestyle. One does not need much to throw a party with some instruments and drinks but can gain unforgettable moments. Of course, whole families join parties and children grow up with constant music exposure, are brainwashed with their culture (which can be positive but also negative) and this of course settles in their emotional and brain-related development.
Culturally, for African people, understanding music is the weakest link due to their empiric way of perception of music. Emotionally, however, they can thus be way strongest- so, do only Latin and African people have that extraordinary need to dance?
A dull expression is often stated by Latin and African individuals in Europe that they have rhythm "in their genes" or "in their blood". Even europeans seem to "know" this "truth" when asked. As explained,
this is total bullshit (and nothing but positive racism).
Genes and blood are 99,9% and 100% identical to European ones.
I, too, as a"pure Western European German" grew up with a strong influence of music with countless instrument lessons and different cultural backgrounds from very different human ages and music styles. That is the reason why
- Dominicans called me a Dominican (maybe I am who knows :D)
- people do not believe I am German
- and I myself claim to understand how they feel and how music technically works.
Now, especially in the landscape of Africa and Latin America, villages and cities do not maintain dance schools. Apart from fixed traditional folk dances for shows and events, they just start dancing to music, improvizing what seems fit to dance to it in a couple (a bit comparable like drunk European singles trying the same in a club). Of course, there are also a lot of drunk indiviudals in Latin culture which match no-go dancing styles but the other half gets a conceptual feeling of how music and dancing are interconnected in a harmonic way.
These are major differences between myth and truth I want to emphasize here.
European / Western Culture
In Europe, people visit dance schools where people teach "how you should dance to a music style in a proper way". I assume that is because in Europe and especially in Germany, we have had a long and strong tradition of hierarchic education of authorities that tell us how things are done which we accept and follow without questioning by brain or heart. It even seems like a military training at some point perfectionizing synchronization of an expression rather than understanding and feeling the system behind it. That is why after this training, dance expression of dancers can be extremely well whereas a real emotion for (or understanding of) music does not need to be present at all.
As a second step, people generally concentrate on musicality (because it is also a rational process) but as the weakest link -in this case emotion- is not given attention, dance quality itself cannot grow.
When you leave school and are lucky enough to enter university, at some point, you should question the reason for things and detect which principles make sense and which do not. For me, there is a clear
teaching inbalance between these three main pillars of dancing which stems from the average background of dance teachers predominantly coming from a more sportive direction than musical or emotional/artistic direction.
We adapt figures, techniques and styles that other people teach us and rely on their professionality just because they are authorities in dance schools.
Maybe now is the right time to start thinking ourselves.
There are many ways to express music based on what people want to achieve with an expression (as explained above) but there are clearly better ones and worse ones. The best way to understand what is important to know is
to think about what is necessary to execute a move which will make most sense.
We can divide some previous necessary steps in a bit more detailed manner:
1) Physical Music Perception: Reception of music by ear and hearing
2) Music Decoding: Processing of music with our mind
3) Emotional Connection: Connection of music to individual feelings related to character traits
4) Physical Abilities: Preselection of individual possible movements related to sound
5) Dance Technique: Aquired dance expression skills
6) Move Selection: Technically as well as emotionally
7) Move Dosing: Congruence between movement and sound in intensity and speed
8) Leading / Following: Transport or reception+enhancement of a move
9) Dance figure: Maximum skill: Weakest link
For choreographies, this is done in a very detailed and slow manner to optimize the process. For social dancing, we neglect these steps and just dance as we are used to dance.
If we want to get more out of dancing and not just admire other people, it is not enough to pray and drink a magical liquid out of the holy grail.
Rather, we need to think about these steps. Clearly, following all of these steps in social dancing is not as easy but with the right concept, it is also not as difficult as one may believe.
Conclusion: What about Bachata Dancing?
The most important things to take away here are:
a) By its heritage and structure, Bachata can be a very simple and very good social dance as well as a highly complex and very good piece of art
b) When we want to proceed towards a complex piece of art, we have to work on our weakest link(s). Before that, we need to know our weakest links which may already be culturally predefined.
I hope having helped in finding -your- weakest link and motivate you to think about what helps you to improve your dancing.
"dance expression is a very individual choice"
- the act of expression clearly is, the quality of expression depends on way more than personal choice
Wikipedia and Dances
Primary Bidirectional Communication Form
Alternative Bidirectional Communication Form
Alternative Unidirectional Communication
Social Party Dance:
Primary Bidirectional Communication
Social Athletic Dance: Alternative Bidirectional Communication?
Social Musical Dance: Alternative Bidirectional Communication?
The weakest Link in a Chain
The Chain of a Natural Dance
The weakest Link in Dancing of African / Latin Culture
Blind Man performing on a self-made Trash Guitar
The human DNA
The weakest link of Dancing in Western Cultures:
A suggestion for Optimization
European Dance Schools
Common Dance Teacher Qualifications
Natural Dance Reaction Chain of a Figure
Expecting Superpowers by External Mights