Bachata music and dance has a rich yet controversial history. It originated in the Dominican Republic and was censored for decades by the countries former dictator, Rafael Trujillo. Bachata music has only seen significant strides in popularity since the early 1980s, and Bachata dance has flourished post-2000 thanks to the music becoming more mainstream across the latin dance community.
There are several instructors and organizers who have led the way for dancers to learn Bachata dance, but there are only a select few who are helping to educate about the history and roots of the dance. Carlos Cinta, Adam Taub, Daniela Grosso, and Edwin Ferreras (pictured below) are among the small group who are filling in the educational void.
All four will be present at a new event being held in Toronto this October called Bachata B.E.A.T.S.
B.E.A.T.S. is an acronym for “Bachata Education About Traditional Style”. The event is being organized by Caryl Cuizon (Co-founder of iFreestyle.ca Latin Dance Company) and veteran Bachata instructor, Carlos Cinta.
We spoke with Carlos about the upcoming event.
It’s a small weekend event. The entire weekend will be spent strictly dedicated to educating people on the culture, roots, history, and music. We will focus on the traditional style music and not the modern style music which is at played at most festivals. There are going to be classes on Bolero, which was the predecessor to Bachata.
Adam will be doing a class on how Son has inspired Bachata movements while dancing. We will also be offering classes on the different kinds of Merengue. I’ll be talking about the music and instrumentation for both traditional and modern Bachata, but focusing on traditional style. This event will be different in that most other festivals focus on other styles of Bachata and dips, tricks, flips, etc. We won’t be doing any of that.
This is an event for us. The traditional style lovers. The current direction of Bachata is seeing most events focus on everything except the traditional style. At socials you may only hear two traditional songs played, so for most of the night dancers like myself are sitting down or not enjoying it. So this event is for us and the music we like to focus on. We’re going to be partying all night to what we like to hear.
We both love the traditional style. I’ve known Caryl for a while and I trust her judgement and believe what she stands for as a person and dancer. I know the value of what we want to bring will be an honest, sincere effort to push the traditional style and not have a lot of different acts just to make money.
It’s important to the community because there are many, many events that advertise traditional style, but it’s not an accurate representation of how they dance on the islands, or in the Caribbean. Everywhere I go I ask people about their stereotypes or perceptions of “traditional style” or “Dominican style”, and they always say ‘fast footwork and fast music’. Well guess what? It’s not either. Those are elements of it, but there is so much more to it. I believe Adam, Edwin, Daniela and myself will focus on the feelings and connection to the music rather than focusing on footwork or patterns that people never do in the islands. We will try to make it as island like as possible, so when you go and dance there no one will look at you and say, ‘Yes, you’re a YouTube dancer ‘ or ‘Where are you from? Because you’re not from here.” …We’re going to break all the stereotypes.
The event has a high focus on the history of Bachata and the finer points of the dance such as classes on ‘Rhythmology’ and ‘Interpretology’. How will classes such as these benefit people who attend?
It will be beneficial because once you have a better understanding of the culture, people, and what Bachata means to them, then you may start to think and feel differently about the music. You will dance and feel the music differently. Many times events are just about circus shows and pony tricks, and not about connecting to the music or partner. There is no emotion to it. You can mute the music and still do the dance steps. The event will be less about learning steps and learning more about connection and feeling. Deeper connection and feeling come when you understand what, why, and when to do something. In my opinion, it really helps as a dancer and you’re not just doing razzle-dazzle.
You have some excellent co-instructors. Give us a brief synopsis on why Adam, Edwin and Daniela were included in the event, and what they bring to the table.
Like Caryl, I trust in what they stand for as people and instructors, and they all bring something unique. I’ve seen Edwin teach various classes. Edwin is from the Dominican and studies music. He has a lot to offer and information that I don’t have. I could watch him dance all day. He and Daniela really work well together. He will be talking about the different styles that are danced across different regions. This is very common even in New York. Adam is my sensei. He is a (Bachata) guru. He knows a lot of musicians and studied in the Dominican. He has a lot of first hand knowledge about the culture and has respect from the musicians. In my opinion, these guys are the most knowledgeable dance instructors in the United States about the traditional style. Obviously there are other dancers that I wanted to invite, but since this is the first event I wanted to keep it small and the budget affordable. All three of the instructors offer a bag of tricks that I don’t offer. There is going to be a lot of useful information, applicable knowledge, and dance technique for every dancer.
You, Adam, Edwin and Daniela also had a June 2014 event in New York called Bachata 101. You guys seem to be leading the way on educating the masses about the roots and history of Bachata. Why is this mission important to you personally?
I feel very strongly about the music and culture. I feel a lot of it is being misrepresented. The stereotype is that the dance is super fast and played to super fast music. There is never connection, flow, or vibe. There is just a circus show. All of us want to try to bring it “closer to home”. With all of this “evolution” of the dance, as some people might say, it just get’s further away from the truth. Some of the stuff I see isn’t recognizable as Bachata anymore if you watch it on mute. We are just trying to do the best we can to educate people properly on the dance. At festivals some people look down on the style and cry about, ‘there is too much Dominican music’. I feel that people say that because they truly don’t understand it and it’s been misrepresented to them. That’s why they don’t like it because they don’t know how to dance it.
When it’s presented to them properly and people understand how to hear and connect to the music, then they will have a different appreciation for it. At this event we’re not trying to get dancers to come to the dark side and not appreciate modern Bachata. We’re trying to get people to accept and be open to the traditional style. If they like it, then that is up to them, but we at least want them to be properly educated. We want the traditional style to be accepted at the adult table and not be pushed aside to the kiddy table.
So grab your knife, fork, and your dance shoes…and get ready for a traditional Bachata buffet unlike any you’ve ever seen before!
If you’d like to read Dance Planet Daily interviews with Adam Taub, Edwin Ferreras and Carlos Cinta then click on their names below.