Bachata dance is one of the most popular dances in the latin dance community. This is due, in part, to the popularity of the music, and through the initiative and talents of several dancers spreading Bachata across the globe. This post is an attempt to recognize the dancers who have had a major influence on the genre, and have had played a significant role in shaping how Bachata is currently danced. In other words, these dancers are why we dance Bachata the way we do today.
Where does Bachata come from?
First things first. Bachata music and dance were born in the Dominican Republic. The dance is a descendant of Bolero, which served as a foundation from which the basic movements and timing evolved.
Bachata – Sometimes referred to as “Traditional Bachata.” It is characterized by the box step basic figure. It is the style of dance done in the Dominican Republic.
Bachata Moderna – More advanced and complex turn patterns are usually incorporated when dancing Moderna. The basic is a four step count danced side to side with an emphasis on stylized movements. It is often referenced with Sensual Bachata when more intimate elements of dance partner work are integrated. Other styles include Urban Bachata, BachaTango and Bachata Fusion.
Influential Bachata Dance Figures:
Seemore Johnson & Cristina Pujol (Spain) – The Co-founders of Hips On Fire, Seemore and Cristina were early pioneers in teaching Bachata in the United States and abroad. They founded Hips On Fire in 1998 and began teaching a variety of latin dance styles including Bachata. Seemore and Cristina were teaching Bachata before most of the great Bachata dancers of today had started. In 2003 they created a group partner dance called Rueda De Bachata. The video below is from the 2004 Salsa Rueda Congress in Miami. You’ll recognize several basic Bachata steps and patterns in the video.
Juan Ruiz – Coined the phrase Bachata Moderna to describe the new style of Bachata that hit the scene back in the early-mid 2000s. Juan (along with Samantha Cilia) created many of the foundational figures and movements as well as the teaching methodology of Bachata Moderna. His initial influence was felt in Australia and New Zealand, but quickly spread throughout Europe and North America. Juan, Nestor Manuelian, and Lidia McMahon Grigorian organized the first Bachata-Centric congress in the world, the Sydney Bachata Festival (2008), and they showed that it was indeed possible to have an entire latin festival centered on Bachata. The FIRST Bachata festival ever promoted (but not yet held) was organized by Tony Lara, and Peter and Christine Dottax. This was held in Sweden after the Sydney Bachata Festival. Check out the Bachata Moderna demonstration from Juan and Samantha from 2009.
Jorge Escalona “Korke” Vazquez & Judith Pereiro – Korke and Judith are the influential Spanish duo that helped to popularize and are often credited with creating Sensual Bachata (which was coined by Tony Lara). There is no doubt that they were incredibly instrumental in popularizing the style and they deserve major credit for it’s explosion. Korke began teaching Bachata around 2010 and teamed up with Judith shortly thereafter. Check out one of their Bachata Sensual workshops in the video below.
Inaki Fernandez – One of the most important instructors to initially hit the Bachata scene. Inaki created “Bachata Spanish Style” which took Bachata from a primarily side to side dance and made it more dynamic. Juan Ruiz credits him as an major influence on Bachata Moderna.
Tony Lara – Tony played a leading role in the popularity of Bachata dancing throughout the world. Lara was one of the first to teach Bachata internationally and brought his “Italian Style” of Bachata to many of the first editions of Bachata festivals. Tony has had tremendous influence in spreading Bachata to European and Oceanic dancers, and he has taught countless dancers across the globe through workshops or from his popular “Bachata Italian Style” five set DVD series.
Check out a video from Tony in the Swedish Bachata Festival (2008)!
Rodney “Rodchata” Aquino – Organized the first Bachata congress in the United States, the Reno Bachata Festival (2009). Rodchata continues to be a heavy contributor to the west coast Bachata scene and his Bachata congresses are some of the most popular in the world. Most, if not all, of the best Bachata instructors in the world have taught or performed at his events. He hosts a regular VLog on his YouTube channel where he interviews influential dancers in the latin dance scene.
Check out Rodchata at the 4th Finland Bachata festival.
Jorge Elizondo – “Bachata Jorge” or “Papa Jorge”, as he affectionately called by his students and peers, organizes several well attended Bachata congresses and workshops around the world. Jorge coined the phrase “Bachata fusion” to describe his mixture of Bachata with other latin dance styles. He is often credited with being the most influential in spreading Bachata Fusion and Moderna due to his global influence, and he has been the mentor to many current popular dance instructors. Elizondo was an instructor at the first Bachata congress in the U.S. and his impact in Bachata is still being felt almost 15 years later. A case can be made that Jorge is the most influential Bachatero alive today.
Check out the DVD footage of Papa Jorge from 2007.
Lee “El Gringuito” Smith & Kat ‘La Gata’ Aguilar – They organize one of the most popular Bachata festivals in the world, the DC Bachata Congress. They have made their international mark both in the instruction of Bachata dance, as well as their promotion of Bachata music. Their list of accomplishments includes DC Bachata Congress feature articles in the Washington Post and interviews on CNN Espanol.
Check out Lee’s performance from the first Bachata Congress in the USA, the Reno Bachata Festival (2009).
Island Touch Dance – Jorge ‘Ataca’ Burgos, Tanja “La Alemana” Kensinger and Rudi “El Tiguere Del Mambo” Lopez form the multi-headed Bachata monster that is Island Touch Dance Academy. Island Touch sponsors several dance teams across the globe and is without a doubt the most popular Bachata dance organization.
Jorge “Ataca” Burgos – Jorge is an incredible Salsa dancer who happens to be one of the most popular Bachata dancers on the planet. In addition to dance, Ataca has starred as the male lead in the Salsa movie, “SHINE.” Burgos may be the most popular and most recognized Bachata dancer today due to his dance accomplishments, YouTube video views and his acting credit.
Tanja “La Alemana” Kensinger – Probably the most popular female Bachata Moderna dancer in the world and for good reason. Her smooth and sensual Bachata style has influenced millions of dancers around the world, and she is undoubtedly one of the most versatile bachateras on the scene.
Rudi “El Tiguere Del Mambo” Lopez – The Managing Director behind the Bachata powerhouse, Island Touch Dance Academy. He teaches, provides choreography, and promotes the Island Touch brand and he also organizes BachaTu, an event which is held in the Dominican Republic and steadily growing in popularity. He is also known for being one of the more popular Bachata DJ’s across the latin dance festival scene.
Check out Ataca, La Alemana, and El Tiguere below. This is an awesome display of musicality and choreography, and shows why they’d be on the Mount Rushmore of Bachata.
Alejandro Rey – Alejandro was teaching and performing urban style Bachata long before it became mainstream at congresses. Yes, his physique resembles that of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but once onstage you realize no football player ever danced Bachata like Alejandro. Alejandro is the Director of Paso De Oro Dance Company.
Check out Alejandro from a workshop at the San Francisco Bachata Festival in 2009.
Troy Anthony – One of the first instructors to teach Dominican Fusion Bachata and he helped facilitate its explosion on the latin dance scene. Troy serves as an instructor and emcee at many latin dance congresses around the world.
Check out Troy & Jorjet from a video in 2007. They were the “Jay-Z and Beyonce” of Dominican Fusion Bachata. Superstars! I just made that up…but you get my point. You’ll notice this style is distinctly different from Traditional, Moderna or Sensual.
Jorjet Alcocer – Remember that amazing Bachata shine you did last night that you thought was so original? Well, Jorjet invented it ten years ago. In fact, the instructor who taught it to you probably learned it from a Jorjet Youtube video. Without question Jorjet set the standard and foundations for “Dominican Fusion” footwork and she may have been the most popular Bachata dancer in the world from the late 2000s to early 2010s.
The video below is a footwork demonstration from 2010. Is 2010 considered old school now?
Adam Taub, Carlos Cinta and Edwin Ferreras helped to reorient the latin dance community back to the roots of Bachata. They continue to educate the dance masses on how Dominicans actually dance and are the most influential figures in setting the world straight on Traditional Bachata.
Adam Taub – The “White Chocolate” of Traditional Bachata. He may resemble a university professor, but make no mistake, Adam can hold his own in Bachata dancing. In addition to being a Bachata instructor, he is also a Bachata historian. Let me rephrase that, he is THE Bachata historian. The conversation about who is the most educated human on Bachata music and dancing starts and ends with Adam Taub. He has also produced documentaries, presentations for festivals, and written articles on Bachata. Adam loves all styles of Bachata but he is definitely a leader in educating the dance masses on the roots of Bachata and how Dominicans actually dance. If you love Bachata, then please carve out some time at your next Bachata congress and attend his presentation. I’d also encourage you to check out his YouTube Channel as there are TONS of great videos on Bachata music, dance and culture.
Carlos Cinta – “El Unique Bachatero”. He revolutionized Bachata instruction in that he was one of the first to incorporate live Bachata musicians into his workshops. Carlos’ “Bachata Breakdown” CD/DVD (2011) was a game changer in terms of helping students to understand Bachata musicality. Most instructors only use complete songs in hopes that they can help train dancers to hear particular instruments…while Carlos, through the assistance of noted musicians, isolated instruments so that dancers could practice timing and movements to a specific instrument. Carlos is definitely one of the more respected Bachata instructors on the scene today.
Check out the “Bachata Breakdown” DVD trailer below to get a taste of his classes.
Edwin Ferreras – The Dominican born Ferreras has been a major influence on the Bachata scene and he is currently the International Ambassador of Dominican Arts for the Dominican Republic. That’s a big deal. I doubt there are any who can dance all of the various styles of Bachata (or Merengue, another Dominican born dance) as well as Edwin. Dakhota Romero is Edwin’s dance partner and co-director of their dance company, Areito Arts. She is an amazing dancer (and singer) in her own right.
Check out the video below of Edwin and Dakhota.