There are Wikipedia pages for Bachata music and dance and these are very informative references when doing research on the history of Bachata. However, there are no comprehensive “Wiki” type pages highlighting specific Bachata dancers.
I recently did research for an article on “The Roots Of Bachata Dance” and was dismayed to find almost no historical accounts of influential Bachata dancers pre-2000. Bachata dance has gained a foothold in the latin dance community thanks in part to the popularity of the music and through the initiative of several dancers spreading the gospel of Bachata across the globe. This post is an attempt to recognize those who have played an influential role in the world of Bachata post-2000, and have had a significant impact in the way Bachata is currently danced.
Country of Origin:
Bachata dance is a descendant of Bolero. Bolero served as a foundation from which basic Bachata movements and timing have evolved.
Bachata – Sometimes referred to as “Traditional Bachata”. Characterized by the ‘box step’ basic figure. It is the style of dance done in the Dominican Republic.
Dominican Fusion – Frequently confused with
Traditional Bachata. Often characterized by syncopated footwork and quick kick steps. Dominican Fusion is a style utilized by many current latin dance instructors and students.
Bachata Moderna – More advanced and complex turn patterns are usually incorporated when dancing Moderna. Often danced side to side with an emphasis on hip movements. It is often referenced with “Sensual” Bachata when more intimate elements of dance partner work are integrated. Other styles often fused with Bachata Moderna are “Urban (Hip-hop) Bachata” and “BachaTango“.
Want to know how Bachata is danced in the Dominican Republic? Watch the video below.
What is your favorite style of Bachata to dance?
Influential Bachata Dance Figures:
Seemore Johnson & Cristina Pujol – The Co-founders of “Hips On Fire” based in Boston, 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.
Juan Ruiz – One of, if not the first, to coin the phrase “Bachata Moderna” to describe the new style of Bachata that is perhaps the most popular today. His initial influence was felt in Australia and New Zealand, but quickly spread like a Bachata tsunami through out the rest of Europe and the USA. Juan, Nestor Manuelian, and Lidia McMahon Grigorian organized the first Bachata-Centric congress in the world, the Sydney Bachata Festival (2008). Check out the picture montage from the festival below. Juan and Nestor Manuelian 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 Peter and Christine Dottax. This was held in Sweden after the Sydney Bachata Festival.
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” around 2004. Korke began teaching Bachata in 2004 and teamed up with Judith shortly thereafter. Check out one of their “Bachata Sensual” workshops in the video below.
Frank Santos – From the Dominican Republic but grew up in Italy. Frank was one of the first dancers to teach Dominican Fusion Bachata.
Inaki Fernandez – One of the most important instructors to initially hit the Bachata scene. Had a major influence in the evolution of taking “Bachata Italian Style” and molding it to what is now called “Bachata Moderna”. Inaki has produced several instructional DVD’s dedicated to “Bachata Moderna”.
Tony Lara – Lara was one of the first to teach Bachata internationally and taught at many of the first editions of Bachata festivals. He is the organizer of the “Sexy and Sensual” festival in the UK. Tony has had tremendous influence in spreading Bachata to European and Oceanic dancers. He currently has 12 Bachata DVDs available.
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.
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 well attended Bachata congresses and workshops around the U.S. Elizondo’s influence, however, extends across the globe as he often travels internationally to teach workshops or classes at festivals. 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 Moderna” in the USA, and he continues to do that through out the globe, including the Far East. 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 10 years later.
Check out the DVD footage of Papa Jorge from 2007.
Lee “El Gringuito” Smith – Organizer of one of the most popular Bachata festivals in the world, the DC Bachata Congress. “El Gringuito” along with his partner, Kat “La Gata” Aguilar, 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 El Gringuito and his performance from the first Bachata Congress in the USA, the Reno Bachata Festival.
Jorge “Que Rico” Contreras – Que Rico!! Jorge is the Co-organizer of one of the largest Bachata festivals in the USA, the Los Angeles Bachata Festival. Leslie Ferreira (also a Bachata legend from the west coast) serves as the other co-organizer. Jorge has had a tremendous impact in helping to shape the Bachata landscape on the west coast, and he and Leslie have traveled internationally to teach as well. Jorge is the founder of the highly acclaimed Que Rico Dance Company based in Los Angeles.
Check out Que Rico below.
Jorge “Ataca” Burgos – Jorge is an incredible Salsa dancer who happens to be one of the most popular “Bachata Moderna” dancers on the planet. Burgos (along with Tanja “La Alemana” Kensinger and Rudi “El Tiguere Del Mambo” Lopez) form the three 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.
Tanja “La Alemana” Kensinger – Probably the most popular female “Bachata Moderna” dancer in the world. Co-Director of Island Touch Dance Academy with Jorge “Ataca” Burgos. Her style has influenced millions of woman across the globe.
Rudi “El Tiguere Del Mambo” Lopez – The man behind the Bachata powerhouse Island Touch Dance Academy. He teaches, provides choreography, and promotes the Island Touch brand which features immensely popular dancers Jorge “Ataca” Burgos and Tanja “La Alemana” Kensinger. He also organizes BachaTu, an event which is held in the Dominican Republic and steadily growing in popularity. He is also widely 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 incredible display of musicality and choreography.
Alejandro Rey – Alejandro was teaching and performing Urban style Bachata long before it became mainstream at congresses. Periodically you’ll hear someone scream “That’s a big Mexican!” right before his performance begins. Yes, his physique resembles that of a linebacker for the Oakland Raiders, 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 – Another one of the first instructors to teach Dominican Fusion Bachata and he definitely help 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. I just made that up…but you get my point.
Jorjet Alcocer – Ladies, remember that amazing Bachata shine you did last night that you thought was so original? Well, Jorjet invented it five years ago. In fact, the instructor who taught it to you probably learned it from a Jorjet Youtube video. Her moves have been copied more than most Kanye West Mp3’s. Without question Jorjet is the most influential “Dominican Fusion” Bachata dancer today and she has set the standard for “Dominican Fusion” footwork.
Above was a video from 2007. Below is a footwork video from her back in 2010. Is 2010 considered old school now?
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. 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.
Carlos Cinta – “El Unique Bachatero”. He was probably the first to incorporate live Bachata musicians into his workshops. Carlos’ “Bachata Breakdown” CD/DVD 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, has isolated instruments so that you can practice your timing to a said 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.
Warning. Warning. Warning. I’m about to state an opinion that is solely mine and mine only. Thank you. Please continue.
Edwin Ferreras – The Dominican born Ferreras is currently the best Bachata dancer in the world (again, in my opinion). Why? Simple. Edwin can dance any style of Bachata at a professional level. Bachata Moderna? Done. Dominican Fusion? No problem. And, no, most syncopated “Dominican” Bachata you see on Youtube is not Traditional Bachata. Speaking of Traditional Bachata…can Edwin dance that? Without question. Urban Bachata? Yup. He started out as a hip-hop dancer. Bolero? Absolutely. Bolero (as stated before) is the dance that inspired Bachata. There are A LOT of great professional Bachata dancers today, but I doubt there are any who can dance all of the aforementioned dances as well as Edwin. Daniela Grosso is Edwin’s dance partner and co-director of their dance company, LFX Dancers. She is an amazing dancer in her own right. Ferreras, Grosso, Adam Taub, and Carlos Cinta are leading the way in teaching dancers about Traditional Bachata.
Check out the video below of Edwin, Dakota, and Juan.
Want to see my favorite Bachata video? Here you go. Old School versus New School = Too cool!