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How to Dance Bachata Well and Become a Really Good Bachata Dancer

Updated on February 2, 2017
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Anya Brodech is a professional Salsa, Latin, Swing and Ballroom dance teacher in Oakland CA. Visit her website, YouTube channel and Facebook

Bachata is a very sensual romantic dance that is a lot of fun to do, especially when you have the right partner!
Bachata is a very sensual romantic dance that is a lot of fun to do, especially when you have the right partner! | Source

Have you ever danced bachata before?

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Why You Should Learn to Dance Bachata and What It's Like

Dancing isn't easy, but that doesn't mean that it's impossible! Bachata is one of my favorite Latin dances because it's so unapologetically sexy and intimate in a way that no other Latin dance is except for maybe Rumba. Even though Bachata is considered more of a "street" dance and not considered "official" or "traditional" ballroom or latin, it doesn't stop people from having bachata competitions and showcases around the world! Bachata is a great dance to learn because the basics aren't that complicated and it really becomes about learning how to isolate different parts of your body in order to get that sexy, sensual body motion. Also, It lets you get in touch with your romantic side and teaches you how dance in an intimate manner while still being respectful. Even if you don't like to dance, the music is very beautiful and if you don't know Spanish, this would be a great time to learn, just so you could really appreciate the lyrics!

Beautiful bachata song! Soy Incondicional by Prince Royce

Bachata Basic Steps for Men/Leaders

Bachata is pretty easy to learn how to dance, in terms of the feet.

The bachata basic steps are: Side-together-side-tap

For Leaders/Men:

  1. Take one step to the left with your left foot
  2. Keep your left foot still as you bring your right foot to your left foot and close your feet together
  3. Take one step to the left with your left foot
  4. Keep your left foot still and tap your right foot on the ground and leave it to the side.
  5. Pick up your right foot that you just tapped with, and take one step to the right with it
  6. Bring your left foot to your right foot, so your feet close together
  7. Step to the right with your right foot again
  8. Tap your left foot

Congrats, you just danced one bachata basic!

To continue dancing, just repeat again starting from step 1 and head towards your left.

Basic Bachata Steps for Women/Followers

The bachata basic steps are: Side-together-side-tap

For Women/Followers:

  1. Take one step to the right with your right foot
  2. Keep your right foot still as you bring your left foot to your right foot and close your feet together
  3. Take one step to the right with your right foot
  4. Keep your right foot still and tap your left foot on the ground and leave it to the side.
  5. Pick up your left foot that you just tapped with, and take one step to the left with it
  6. Bring your right foot to your left foot, so your feet close together
  7. Step to the left with your left foot again
  8. Tap your right foot

Congrats, you just danced one bachata basic!

To continue dancing, just repeat again starting from step 1 and head towards your right.

Listen Closely to the Music: The Importance of Hearing the Beat

The count for Bachata dancing is 1-2-3-4, with a tap/hip lift/kick/accent on the 4th beat. This sounds like, ba-ba-ba-badabap (step-together-step-tap!), which fortunately is easy enough to discern in most bachata songs (unlike salsa which can be very difficult sometimes). So find that beat in the song and follow it while you're dancing in order to stay on time and be in sync with your partner.

Do your homework and become familiar with bachata music. Start listening to it in your free time and/or substitute it for your regular music. There's a lot of places you can listen to bachata music besides on the dance floor: YouTube, Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, CD's, the local radio, etc..

The more you listen to bachata music, the more familiar and comfortable you will be with it. Try to listen for the beat and discern patterns in the songs. This is a good mental exercise because the knowledge of the songs will be stored away in your memory and will then be activated the next time you hit the dance floor and it'll only take you a moment or so to figure out if the song that just started playing as bachata. It also helps you be able to identify new/unfamiliar songs as being bachata or not, and thus allow you to dance confidently knowing that you are doing the right dance!

Just get into the music when you listen to it and check for pauses, breaks, instrumental solos, or other fun little bits where you can take a moment or two and do your own special moves unique to that part of the song. This well help add some variety to your dancing and let you have some extra fun with your dancing. It's even better when your partner knows the song as well and does his own little thing at the same time. This is just one thing you can do to really make your dancing unique and expressive.

Famous and Popular Bachata Artists and Where to Find Bachata Music

One of the most popular bachata artists is Romeo Santos, the former lead singer of the famous bachata group Aventura. Some other bachata all-stars include Prince Royce, the Dominican duo Monchy y Alexandra, Juan Luis Guerra, Xtreme, Yoskar Sarante, and many more.

For those of you living in the US and other English-speaking countries, bachata music can be hard to find sometimes. What you need to do usually is go under the "Latin" or "Latino" section, then look for "Salsa y Tropical" or "Latin Urbano."

Many of the songs deal with being in love or having lost love, but they are all very passionate! Listen to the music and let it move you!

I wrote two hubs about the top ten most romantic, and most sexy bachata songs to which I've provided links for at the end, which I invite you to read and look at because I also provided English translations for all of the songs for those of your who don't speak Spanish. It's a great list that will help you begin what I hope to your extensive and amazing bachata music collection! :)

"Cupla al Corazon" by Prince Royce

Adding Body Rolls to Take Your Bachata Dancing to the Next Level

If you're a more advanced dancer, you can also strategically incorporate forward and back body rolls, which is something you'll notice a lot of couples do when they're performing. Dancing socially, it might be a little too much if your partner is not on the same skill level as you, so I would recommend holding off on the body rolls until you are dancing with a partner that knows how to do them.

If you do have a designated dance partner, I highly recommend learning how to do body rolls. You can ask your private lesson teacher how to do them, or you can sign up for an adult hip-hop class because there's a lot of body rolls in the choreography.

If you watch the video I posted below, you'll see both members of the couple dancing a lot of body rolls in their bachata. You'll notice that usually they do their body rolls at the same time. Don't do body rolls on your side steps, because that won't work well, do them while moving forward or back.

How to Do Ladies Arm Styling for Bachata

Ladies, bachateras, if you want to make your bachata dancing extra sexy, you absolutely must incorporate arm styling! When you're dancing, you want to be using and engaging your entire body. If you let your arms hang at your sides or flop down, that's not going to look sexy.

Arm styling is really not that difficult in itself; what it requires is an awareness of what your arms are doing, every single moment that you're dancing.

Before you get overwhelmed and say OMG, that's so much to think about it! Let me tell you that it just requires a lot of practice and persistence. First, concentrate on getting your footwork in before getting your arm styling and body movement in.

Ok, so here is how you learn to do ladies arm styling in your bachata.

  1. Try and think about keeping your arms/hands/wrists picked up whenever you're dancing. This doesn't mean raise your arm over your head, but rather don't let your arms hang down at your sides. This is good for two reasons, a) Your arms aren't flopping around at your sides, and b) Your hands are easily accessible to your partner to lead the next move.
  2. Watch the ladies bachata styling video I posted and watch what she does with her arms and look at the different movements and try and find some that you like
  3. Keeping your arms soft and flexible, practice doing the movements by yourself in front of a mirror at home or at your studio, just to get used to doing them and seeing what they look like on you. You don't want to tense up your arms, because that will make it really hard for you.
  4. Whenever you find yourself with your arm/hand free during dancing, try and do some kind of arm styling movement with it. You don't have to do something big, something small will suffice while your practice doing it.
  5. Practice, practice, practice until you learn how to move your arms gracefully while dancing without even thinking about it.

Wear the Right Clothes in Order to Dance Bachata Well

It is very important that you wear the right kind of clothing so that you can dance bachata well. Some options of what to wear include pants, shorts, or a stretchy skirt; basically anything that will let you spread legs apart about shoulder-width apart or so. The reason why is because you may end up dancing very close to your partner with your legs between each others, so you need to wear something that will accommodate that. Don't wear a tight pencil skirt because it'll ride up as you dance and put you in an awkward situation as you struggle to keep pulling it down while you dance.

I wrote an article about what kinds of clothes women should wear to dance bachata, with the link posted below.

In the video I posted below of the couple dancing a fast Dominican-style bachata, you will observe what I have described above. The woman is wearing a fitted tank top and shorts allowing her to get close to her partner and exhibit a great range of motion as she performs a variety of moves.

Along the same lines, try to wear something fitted on top though since you'll be dancing in close proximity with your partner and don't want your clothes to be flying around and getting in the way of your dancing.

Don't wear any belts with a large buckle and make sure that neither of you has anything in your front pockets that sticks out or is hard (like keys, wallet, phone, etc.) because it'll press uncomfortably against you and/or your partner and be a nuisance while you're dancing.

Regarding shoes and footwear, you can wear your usual Latin dance shoes. For an explanation of what this entails, please read my hub that I wrote about What kind of Shoes to Wear for Salsa, Bachata, and Other Latin Dances

Couple dancing a stylized Dominican bachata

Ladies Sexy Bachata Styling

When and How to Move Your Hips in Order to Dance Bachata More Sexy

Moving your hips is a HUGE part of dancing bachata!!! Do a straight-legged, hip-less bachata is about as dull and boring as it gets! The key to getting a sexy, but smooth bachata hip motion, is to move your hips during the side-to-side part (the ba-ba-ba, or 1-2-3, depending on how you count it), and do a subtle hip accent at the end of count 4 (so 1-2-3-&4). If you don't really move your hips as your going side to side, but only do it at the end very suddenly, you will a) throw off your balance, and b) have an overdone hip emphasis that will look rather off compared to the rest of your dancing.


How to Move Your Body to Become a Really Good Sexy Bachata Dancer

Keep your knees bent the entire time (unless you are doing some trick/dip/particular move for a momentary exception). It's only possible to get natural looking hip action when your knees are bent, not when your legs are straight!! If you watch the video below of the couple dancing bachata, you will notice that the woman has her knees bent about 99% of the time! Follow her example!!

Instead of jerking your hips around from one side to another, think about moving your ribcage from side to side instead. I'll admit that it is complicated to thing about and you really have to focus, but it's worth it! The results you get from moving your ribcage instead of your hips are that you get a smoother more undulating rather than jerking look. In addition, you also end up getting body motion in your arms and shoulders as well if you keep your arms soft and relaxed while moving your ribcage.

Furthermore, you should relax your entire body and loosen your muscles so you aren't dancing all tensed up because then you'll look very rigid and uncomfortable. Think of yourself as being made of spaghetti that's flexible and easy to move around. However, don't be a whacky-wavy-inflatable arm tube man (like the ones they put out in used car lots) that flaps around in the wind and snaps suddenly and becomes straight. Your should feel loose and your movements should flow together

Couple Dancing a Sexy Bachata with a Lot of Body Movement

Breathe Deeply and Relax

Breathe deeply before you start dancing and relax your body so it's easier for you to feel and sense your partner's movements and move as one with them.

Examples of What a Good Dancing Couple for Bachata Looks Like

Notice how this couple is holding each other closely while dancing bachata. It is important that you pick someone to dance with whom you are comfortable enough with to be close to like this.
Notice how this couple is holding each other closely while dancing bachata. It is important that you pick someone to dance with whom you are comfortable enough with to be close to like this.
A more advanced bachata couple will be very close and comfortable with each other to be able to do complicated moves like this that require a lot of trust. The woman is relying on her partner to hold her up and is comfortable enough being this close
A more advanced bachata couple will be very close and comfortable with each other to be able to do complicated moves like this that require a lot of trust. The woman is relying on her partner to hold her up and is comfortable enough being this close

How to Choose Your Bachata Dance Partner

Bachata is a very initimate dance so carefully pick someone that you feel very comfortable with and trust in order to avoid, or at least minimize any potential awkwardness or uncomfortable situations.

If you are just starting and learned bachata in a class and found that you really connected with one of your partners, try and dance with them outside of class. Ask them if they would be okay with being your designated bachata partner for social dance situations, telling them that you feel most comfortable with them and would really appreciate their help as part of the learning process.

If find yourself in a new dance setting where you don't anyone that well, or haven't danced bachata with, don't worry! Usually people know how to bachata if they know salsa, but not always, so keep that in mind. If you want, you can ask him while dancing salsa, etc. what other dances he knows. What you do is dance some salsa or other dance that's not so personal as bachata, and gauge your comfort level with that partner. If you find him to be a strong lead and feel that you connect with each other as dancers, then ask him for dance when a bachata comes on.

Separate Fantasy from Reality

There is some difficulty that comes with separating fantasy from reality when it comes to bachata. You need to be able to recognize that the intimacy and passion is just a part of the dance; that's just the nature of it. It is critical that you are able to accept the fact that what happens on the dance floor, stays on the dance floor.

How to Successfully Handle The Intimacy of Dancing Bachata

Bachata is a very intimate, up close and personal dance. Yes, this means that you can use it as an excuse or opportunity to flirt with someone that you like and who is interested in you as well. Obviously you should do this is a tasteful and respectable manner; don't be trashy or do anything that will make other people uncomfortable.

However, you should not use it to come on to or harass someone who is not interested because that's just bad manners and bad dance etiquette!

You need to remember that what happens on the dance floor, stays on the dance floor!

What I mean by this is that just because you danced with someone very closely and passionately, it

DOES NOT MEAN THAT...

a) You are now dating or boyfriend/girlfriend,

b) You are entitled to make sexual advances towards your dance partner,

c) You can only dance with that person for the rest of the night,

d) You are obligated to go home and/or sleep with them,

e) You are anything more than two people who just danced together!

A friend of mine from dance once told me that it's hard to be so personal with someone sometimes knowing that at the end of the night you are going home alone.

If this isn't for you, or something that you see yourself struggling emotionally with, then consider dancing with a romantic partner. It's something that takes people some time to get used to if they are new to dancing and/or not used to be so close with other people.

Don't worry if you find yourself having some difficulty with it at first, just remind yourself that you are only dancing together and nothing more. Sometimes it helps if you dance with people that you are not particularly attracted to and/or not romantically interested in so this way you can get used to dancing and not making anything more of it.

This bachata couple is dancing together in a very intimate and personal manner. They both have their arms completely wrapped around each other with full body contact
This bachata couple is dancing together in a very intimate and personal manner. They both have their arms completely wrapped around each other with full body contact

Get Close and Personal

It is not uncommon to find yourself (or to see others) "hug-dancing" during a bachata with their arms wrapped around each other and bodies pressed close together. You might also see people touching their foreheads together while dancing bachata. These are all perfectly acceptable practices, so don't worry that you're partner is trying to come on to you or that you might give them the wrong impression if you do this!

Don't be afraid to wrap your arms around your partner's neck and/or rest your head on his shoulder if you can reach it and gently of course, so they can breathe comfortably and you're not dragging them down. I should note that you should only do this with partners that you are very comfortable with so it doesn't feel awkward.

This move can be incorporated into your dancing when you have come out of a turn or some other move that ends with your hands/arms on his shoulders and you two are dancing close together. You just keep your arms there instead of putting them down and usually he'll get the hint. It's a great way to make your dancing more sexy and intimate, especially when you are doing steps that require you to be very close together. It also helps you feel more relaxed and comfortable and let's you get in touch with your partner's body movements and rhythm.

Generally the more advanced you are, the more often you will find yourself dancing very, very, very, very close to your partner and having your bodies move as one. However, this does not mean that you have to date the person you dance with or that you are interested in becoming "more" than dance partners.

Get sexy!

Like it or not, bachata is an incredibly sexual and romantic dance, so if you're not comfortable with that, then stay off the dance floor. Bachata is a great dance to really let yourself go in and really feel the music and get close with your partner. Some of the best bachata dancers are the ones who embody the beautiful romantic lyrics and move in a sensual and uninhibited manner.

Confidence is key to pulling off any dance well. If you are hesistant, reluctant, unsure, or uncomfortable in any way; it will be visible to those around you! So just relax, take a deep and go for it. Don't worry about messing up; dancing is a lifelong learning process and everyone makes mistakes on the dance floor. If you screw up something, just smile and laugh it off and keep on going! :)

Don't force yourself to be super sexy all at once because it'll come off as unnatural and awkward. It's okay if you're shy or don't consider yourself the "sexy" type. Just find moves that you are comfortable with doing and gradually work your way up.

© 2013 Anya Brodech

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      Kelsey J. 3 years ago

      Great article! This is really useful! So happy I know Spanish because the songs are so good!

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