Many people know that the first Salsa festival was the Puerto Rico Salsa Congress organized by Eli Irizarry in 1997.

But many don’t know when the first Bachata-centric Congress took place.  Do you know? If not, a spoiler is soon to follow.

Answer.  It was the Sydney International Bachata Festival in April 2008. It was co-organized by Juan Ruiz, Nestor Manuelian, and Sky Blue.

The festival instructors (in the featured picture above) were Juan Ruiz, Rodney “Rodchata” Aquino, Nestor Manuelian, Anup Thomas, Sky Blue, Nikal Kleinstreuer, Nirico Mambo, and Lydia (last name unknown).

The below video created by Juan Ruiz features pics from the first festival.  Check it out!

A performance from the first Bachata festival in 2008.

The first Bachata-centric Congress in the USA was the Reno Bachata Festival in January 2009.  It took place at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino.

Bachata Congress History 2

It featured many instructors who have become staples in Bachata festivals across the world.   They are pictured above.  From left to right: Jorge Elizondo, Leslie Ferreira, Jorge Contreras, Seemore Johnson (back left), Cristina Pujol (back), Billy Bob (back), Giedre Sarunas Souls and Sarunas, Alejandro Rey( orange t-shirt), Summer Sando, Camille Yannatuono, Lee “El Gringuito” Smith, Nohelia, Rodney Aquino (front left), Juan Ruiz (front right).

The 2009 Reno Bachata Festival was organized by Rodney.  His original vision was to organize the event in San Francisco, but through a series of rapidly transpiring circumstances the event wound up in Reno. He quickly convinced Jorge Elizondo, Camille Yannatuono, and Billy Bob to come on board as instructors and, with Juan Ruiz visiting from Australia, Rodney had the foundation from which the rest of the congress would be built.

You can find Rodney’s written account of putting the festival together HERE.

Below are several performances from the Reno Congress.  Many of “today’s” most influential Bachata instructors and organizers performed.  Is 2009 to early to be considered ‘old-school’?


Alejandro Rey and Paso De Oro

Jorge Contreras & Leslie Ferreiras

Juan Ruiz

Lee “El Gringuito” Smith

Just a little peak into the ‘history’ of Bachata congresses.  It has only been six years since the first Sydney International Bachata Festival, but the growth and explosion of Bachata music in that time has taken the dance in many different directions.   “Traditional” Bachata is beginning to be taught as more instructors learn about the roots and culture of the Dominican Republic.  “Dominican Fusion” Bachata is already danced at most festivals and is often mistaken as “Traditional” Bachata.  “Bachata Moderna” is perhaps the style of Bachata that most dancers are familiar with.  “Bachatango” is a fusion style that many dancers are aware of, but few have mastered.

Want to know more about current Bachata dance history? Check out our Most Influential Figures In Bachata article.

Who knows where Bachata will be taken next…but the journey is just beginning.



Leave a Reply