What is Bachata? If you ask my Dominican grandfather, he will tell you (if he were still alive), that nobody is dancing Bachata nowadays. For him Bachata was a Ballad, this Ballad was danced "en un ladrillito" (in one small, little brick/tile), this danced was done with a full embrace/hug, never fast, never with fancy footwork, never turn patterns, never body movements, it was romance, it was hug and sway and it was a love affair. I don't and have never danced "REAL Bachata" according to my grandfather's definition. Bachata music has changed...and with these changes in music and the fusion of genres in the audio, there are also fusions in the dance. So, even if you are watching someone dance a "pure Bachata" song, they are likely to fuse other styles of dance genres because since so many Bachata songs have the musical fusion, the moves from other genres have become part of the vocabulary.
If we compare dance to language is like a spanish word making it into the English vocabulary. Once it is part of the culture it can not be undone. So English speakers can say hola and gracias to other English speakers and everything is ok, they would be understood. Those key spanish words and phrases are now part of the english lexicon. Dance works the same way. Once the vocabulary of a dance genre has been expanded with the introduction of other genres it can not be abridged. There are no longer any pure forms of Salsa, Bachata, Cha-Cha-Cha, Zouk or Kizomba…in existence. Any of these dances have all been influenced by other dances and styles of music and dance. When a person describes "Pure Salsa" it is what my Puerto Rican Grandfather (if he were alive) would call Americanized or Europeanized Salsa. Turn Patterns that come from Swing/Rock & Roll and/or Hustle, Fancy Footwork that comes from Tap Dancing and Jazz, and Stylized movements that come from Classical Dance or Ballroom. It is actually the antithesis of Salsa. My Grandfather's Salsa Style had a partner dance embrace for most of the dance. Less Turn Patterns and more focused on being close and connected. And, I still wouldn't call that Salsa. The Afro-Caribbean genre was not even a social dance in it's pure form. It was a folkloric dance. We have accepted this Europeanized or Americanized Version with all of it's turns and patterns to be Salsa...through our vantage point…which is one after the Fusion has already happened.
While I was in Cuba I met "The Founders". The Founders are a group of people who are known to have been part of the group that started the partner dance style that today is described as Salsa and in some places Mambo. They are known for their Rueda De Casino, but many dance historians are in agreement that their movements became the foundation in not only Rueda but in all the types of Salsa that are now popular around the world, because many of the pioneers who are known world-wide for the different styles of Salsa have something in common. These pioneers all share the fact that one of their instructors, role models and/or roots are part of this Cuban Movement. So one can say that The Founders have influenced Salsa World-Wide. The Founders themselves testify that they were borrowing moves from Rock & Roll/Swing and combining it with movements of Son (a Cuban Dance that most experts call one of the roots of today's Salsa) and also mixing it with European concepts such as Court Dances in which partners would switch in a circle formation while synchronizing their patterns and movements. The birth of Rueda De Casino. So, even the most Pure Form of Salsa as a Social Partner Dance is already a Fusion which comes from several different genres. I'm sure some people looked at The Founders as weird. What are they doing? They were adding "American" and "European" movements to Cuban Dance. But, time doesn't stand still, time changes everything…the only thing constant is change. Fast-forward 60 plus years and we have arrived the same point of Fusion in multiple dances. The Purists claim that it is a disservice and a misrepresentation to the dance genres being fusioned and Fusioneers see it as the natural evolution.
Quick Note: The name "Rueda De Casino" comes El Casino De La Habana. Casino was not the word for a place of gambling, instead it was more of a social club. Like a Country Club. Rueda means Wheel. So The wheel of the Country Club of Havana was a group of young men and women who got together and danced synchronized movements in a circle and while switching partners. Their dance became so popular because after the Cuban Revolution the young men and women of the city were sent all around Cuba to work in the country, in farms, agriculture, etc….while at the same time the kids from the farms were sent to the city to get an education. What was once private clubs that were only open to a specific group of people were now open to all. The dance style spread like wildfire throughout the country..and the rest is history.
The Fusion Revolution is the Future...In the future people would not dance different genres they will dance FUSION…they will dance like nobody is watching.
During the talk with The Founders their leader/spokesperson, which they call Abuelo which means Grandfather mentioned that one of the reasons why he believes that Salsa is danced all over the world is because as the seasons changed and years passed and new generations have entered the Dance World Salsa has lent itself to be a malleable dance form that adapts and adopts new forms, new cultures, and new influences. Abuelo said that in Cuba for example, there was a time that they danced their style of Salsa to different types of music and genres. When Rock & Roll was popular, he said, they danced Salsa to Rock & Roll. Wow!! Can you imagine that? He also said that now the surviving members "The Founders" are working with the new generation and they are open to different styles of music and dance styles to be mixed and fused with their dance style. One of the young groups of dancers that they work with is called "Projecto Rueda". This group dances Rueda De Casino but, also dances Hip-Hop Salsa, Reggaeton Salsa, Jazz Salsa, and many other Fusion Styles. The Founders not only support it but also encourage it. Abuelo said it is the reason why this dance is still ALIVE…till this day.
When I hear people say things like: "That is not Body Bachata…that is Zouk"…I think to myself…I wonder if The Founders experienced this. I can imagine how a Purist Cuban would have felt about a Cuban Dance Style danced by the Cuban Youth to Rock & Roll Music. Or worse yet, when movements from Rock & Roll made it on to the Salsa Dance Floor while a popular Salsa Band was playing and the young dancers added their moves with the American or European Influences. This surely must have been controversial at times, but now, it's just part of the Genre. People think that style of Salsa is Salsa…when in fact it is a Fusion. When I look at Salsa Shines (Fancy Footwork) in NYC, I can easily see the influence from other genres such as tap dancing….yet the community has accepted it as a staple of NY Style Salsa…but you can not deny it is Fusion. When you see Pachanga style Salsa in NYC you can also see James Brown literally in tons of their movements. We must see that it is FUSION. When you have other dances that also share turn patterns in common with Salsa such as Hustle, Swing, West Coast Swing…you have to understand that Fusion exists…whether we accept it or not…it is happening.
I personally have a philosophy which I think makes things easy to understand. In partner dance there are elements that exists such as Turn Patterns, Body Manipulations, Leg Manipulations, Spins, and in solo dance elements such as Footwork & Body Isolations. If we look at these elements as techniques and even art forms, we will realize what is happening and why Fusion happens so organically.
If Turn Patterns are looked upon as an Art Form, then The Art of Turn Patterns can be applied to multiple genres of dance, all one has to do is adjust to the proper timing and basic footwork to then effectively execute the Turn Patterns in different Genres. I can watch a Hustle Dancer or a Swing Dancer or a Zouk Dancer and easily translate their Turn Patterns into Salsa due to my 21 years of experience. Am I doing Hustle then…no. I'm doing a Turn Pattern. Where I borrow it from is actually unimportant. I could even make it up if I use the science of turn patterns. Really Turn Patterns don't belong to a specific dance. Of course certain movements fit better with certain styles and certain movement might be more characteristically fitting to a specific dance, but at the end of the day, a turn pattern is a turn pattern.
Take this ideology and spread it to other things such as leg manipulations that are probably most popular in Tango. I have seen people do similar leg manipulations in Kizomba and I have hear people say, "That is not Kizomba". But, why not? It is a leg manipulation. An art form. Any dancer of any genre can study leg manipulations. If you study leg manipulations and then adopt them to a different genre, are you no longer doing that Genre? I would say, you are doing whatever genre you are doing, with leg manipulations.
The Purists automatically jump and scream that it is an insult to both dances. Actually, both dances already have enough fusion that the Purists from generations ago will look down at the current purists and say that what they are doing is not the real dance anyway. So, basically the only thing that makes a dance pure in the eye of the purist is time. Because, if we keep going back through generations you will notice that each generation tells the next on that their style is not authentic.
My grandfather telling my Dad that his style of Bachata is not Bachata and then my Dad telling me that my style is not Bachata is not only ridiculous but basically it's a comedy act. I am choosing to stop the cycle. I will not tell future generations that their style is not authentic, it makes no sense. Basically, time changes, music changes, style changes, dance moves change, things evolve, and Fusion happens. If we look at it it is easy to figure out. My grandfather's Bachata was super slow ballads, my father's Bachata was fast electric guitar, the newest "Bachata" is pop songs being remixed….so of course people dance them differently. Some will say it's even sacrilegious to call a Justin Bieber song "Bachata". But…I will take note from The Founders who danced Salsa to Rock & Roll with Cuban Dance Movements mixed with American Dance Movements and European Dance Movements. The Fusion of all. So, I will not limit it, because if dance styles are going to last from one generation to the next, the key to survival is evolution and FUSION. If I love a dance style, then I will foster it's growth by being open to the evolution and FUSION of such a dance style as well as using that dance style to dance to different genres of music, even if people think I'm crazy.
I once had a dancer accuse Bachata Dancers of doing Zouk and that Zouk leads should not be used in Bachata and that to keep Bachata authentic they should stick to the proper way to lead Bachata Body Manipulations instead of doing Zouk ones. Here's my response: "There is no proper way of leading "Body Manipulations" in "Pure Bachata"...since body manipulations are not charecteristically an element native to Bachata. Body manipulation is a fusion element added to Bachata. So whichever technique is being used does not come from Bachata. So to say the proper way of leading it in Bachata, already is misleading. Body Manipulations, fancy footwork & turn patterns are all not from Bachata..so there are no proper ways to lead them in Bachata. What everyone calls Bachata is aactually already a Fusion. And any purist who says that something is not Bachata is especially wrong, because they are also referring to a fusion form of Bachata but claiming it as pure. In the "pure" form of Bachata the couples danced a ballad with little to no movements, in a loving embrace. The moves we do now would be scandalous back in that era especially in more conservative cultures. It wasn't until about 10 years ago that you could even hear Bachata in a nightclub in the capital of the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo.
While I was a college student I took a winter course in the Santo Domingo and in one of our outings I requested a Bachata at the nightclub. The DJ said that they didn't play that in the city only in the poor country side. In the USA we already had Bachata playing in all major nigthclubs. Sure, it was the least played out of Salsa, Merengue and Bachata, but you could request it in NYC. Yet, you could not get it in Santo Domingo. Just a couple of years ago I went to a wedding of one of my cousins also in Santo Domingo and some of my family that lives there was discussing Bachata and it still had a stigma. Some people were discussing how it didn't belong in a formal event, while others were saying that just like any type of music you just have to pick one with the right words. A beautiful elegant Bachata could be played in a formal event according to them. But to others, it didn't matter the words. The genre itself was not acceptable. Anyway, my point is if you don't see that the music has been evolving changing and becoming a fusion with other genres then you are not paying attention. The music as well as the dance have been changing rapidly every single day, every single year. Claiming an already fused form of a dance as pure is a lot more damaging than the natural evolution of all dances. There is no pure dance form, the only thing pure and constant is change.
I once had a spectator scream out during one of my performances that what we were doing was not Bachata. I also once had the same thing happen during a Salsa performance. Let's get this out of the way quickly. Social dances are meant for social dancing, they don't belong on the stage for a show. Once a dance is put on a stage it is most likely not the pure dance form at all…it is a Fusion. One has to adjust the dance to make it a show. We can argue all day if that is helpful or not for the growth of the dance, and we can argue all day if it is right or wrong. But why argue? Let's just agree, Dance Show performances are not pure dance forms, they are FUSION PERIOD.
I know exactly what Bachata and Salsa is and isn't...and actually, it is most of the critics that say quotes such as “That’s not Bachata” or “That’s not Salsa”, that don't have a clue. I specifically listed several things most people think are part of Bachata and Salsa above, for future reference for the critics. But we all need to realize these elements ARE part of the FUSION. It is because I understand this that I called my dance company Cultural Explosion. Because we teach and perform a FUSION. I have known this for 21 years.
As an instructor I have also been criticized by the Purist Police for teaching FUSION. My Salsa and Bachata workshops all have techniques that come from other dances. But, both Salsa and Bachata how they are accepted today even by the Purists are already Fusioned dances with techniques form other dances. If in my personal education I learn from some of my amazing world class instructors some new techniques that I find superior to what is standardly taught and used in the Salsa and Bachata World that I have been a part of for 21 years, it is my professional duty to educate my students, so that they too can grow. So in an attempt at helping educate the best leaders and followers..i'm sharing other genres techniques. My lead and following abilities have personally improved significantly in both Salsa and Bachata by learning other dances. So I practice what i preach.
I disagree with labels and most of the things the Purist Police says. To me there are no dance divisions the way THEY see them. There is Body Manipulation which can be done in any dance but most people assume it is Zouk. There is Leg manipulation which can be done in any dance but most people assume it is from Tango. All these things exist in nature. Leading and following is an organic, natural art. When done right, It uses the natural anatomy and the way it was designed to move... and the leader by pressing all the right buttons gets a reaction to his actions. I don't see one lead or follow to be specific of a dance. We can dance Bachata in the close embrace of an Argentine Tango, or in a hand to hand hold like a hustle...we can, if we choose to, be as dirty as a reggaeton or as sterilized as a waltz. People create boundaries and labels...I don't like them...to me partner dance is partner dance...I actually love to dance to songs that have no specific genre, so I can do whatever I want to them...fuse what people call Bachata, Zouk, Salsa, Kizomba, Tango, etc...this is the future...parties, festivals, instructors, performers, socials that don't understand this will eventually be left behind. This is one of the main reasons why you see the fusion more and more. Instructors that do a "pure" form of a dance will not be as popular as the instructors that can do BOTH the "pure" form and fusion form.
I want to be everyone's favorite dance of the night...to achieve this I need to lead my Salsa/Bachata the way my grandmother likes it, when I dance with her...no turns, no dips, no moving around. I also need to lead it with lots of spins and head movements and body isolations when I dance it with the Zouk Goddess. I need to lead it with leg leads and weight distribution manipulations when I dance it with the Kizomba Goddess and with funky turn patterns when I dance it with the Salsa Goddess.
THE GOLDEN RULE IS WRONG: Don't do onto others as you would like them to do onto you…INSTEAD Do onto others as they would like to be done onto them.
Some people want to be led in Bachata with what someone would call Zouk moves. So if I don't teach that, how I can teach leaders to be everybody's favorite dance of the night? I don't think they are Zouk moves...they are body manipulations. Some people want to do Salsa with fancy spins with different head positions that someone might call a Zouk spin. So again, we can look at them as skills and art forms that can go from one dance to another or we can be obtuse and see them as belonging to one dance.
At the end of the day, this could be a circular argument with no resolution, since the Purists see divisions where I don't. But, one thing I can tell you that can not be disputed is, what one person thinks is authentic I can find another person perhaps of a previous generation tell that person that it is not. My perception is the Purists are holding on to the past. The Fusioneers are in the NOW…they are seeing the fusion as the natural evolution and they are living in the present...the now is where all these dances and dancers are meeting...today at this moment...at socials that have Salsa, Zouk, Kizomba and Bachata dancers, together on the dance-floor they create a new dance form a fusion…this can not be stopped. It is how it has always been.
Is my mom no longer Puerto Rican because she has has picked up Dominican Colloquialism from my dad. Or are they both still who they are with a bit of the other. As the offspring of a fusion marriage, I can tell you it is frustrating when people tell me that I am not really Puerto Rican, or that I'm not really Dominican or that I'm not really American. I'm actually 100% Puerto Rican...all of me, I'm 100% Dominican...all of me, I'm 100% Latino...all of me and I'm 100% American...all of me. I am Fusion, all exist inside me...and I can choose to allow one or the other to take control when needed...or all at the same time. I am not less Puerto Rican because I'm using a Dominican Slang Word.
The Fusioneers are the pioneers that create the way the dance will be danced in the future. At the moment people will criticize them, like my grandparents criticized my parents, and like my parents criticized me...3 generations of 3 different styles of Salsa & Bachata. The 4th Generation is being created now...some will embrace it, some will say it is not Salsa, it is not Bachata...the same way every generation called the next one not pure. I will respect their opinions...and danced with each the way they want to be danced with...but I know the truth....each dance always changes....there is no pure form...the only thing constant is change.
Dance is Life...See you on the dance-floor. I'll be dancing Fusion, the only dance I've ever danced.