Dorie the Explorer: Start to … bachata

Easter is over and done with, the Easter Bunny is long gone but the extra pounds he brought us in the shape of delicious chocolate eggs and other treats, will remain with us for weeks to come. I actually don’t feel the slightest bit guilty. Why? Because I didn’t really have a lot of chocolate over the weekend (I had a migraine on Sunday so that ‘helped’) but most importantly because I got rid of quite a few calories before the whole Easter chocolate situation happened. Last Saturday I followed a four hour Start to bachata boot camp.

I had never danced bachata before in my life, because, well, I actually don’t really like choreographed dancing. I’m not a natural dancer. I have rhythm and I can learn steps, but it can take me a LONG time to actually memorize them. My feet usually can’t keep up with my head, and my head can’t keep up with the teacher’s feet. That’s why I tend to stay away from dance classes. But I’ve wanted to learn a Latin dance for so long now and I was tired of just waiting around to do it. So instead of enrolling in a regular class, like normal people would do, I went with a full-on boot camp. And I survived. Even better: I really liked it.

There were only five participants, three guys and two girls, which actually surprised me. Apparently it’s a pretty common thing in bachata classes. And here I was thinking men didn’t like Latin dances. We were all fairly new to the whole thing, which is nice, so we were all in it together. The teacher was how all dance teachers should be in my opinion: tall, dark, handsome with a foreign accent (he’s Greek) and good at what he does. He took his time to properly explain everything, to make sure we were still following and he just created a nice atmosphere.

First thing I found out: there is not one type of bachata dancing. You have the original bachata, the bachata dominicana, which has insane footwork. Then you have bachata tradicional and bachata sensual, which are both very intimate and which is the style that I’ve seen the most. We actually learned another style, the bachata moderna, which incorporates a few elements from other dance styles too.

The class itself had three different parts. We’d always start by learning and practicing the steps by ourselves, and then we’d start dancing as couples. There was a rotation system so everyone danced with everyone, which is a good system, and which is also the reason you don’t have to enrol with a partner (which is a HUGE bonus if you ask me). We’d repeat the routine several times and then we’d have a short break before we started a new part.

Now, like I said, I’m not a natural, so obviously, there were a few challenges. First of all, and I was kind of prepared for this, is the fact that the men are in charge. They lead the dance, they decide what you’re going to do. This is not an easy thing for me. I like being in control of a situation, especially when it involves strange men touching me. Having to dance with your eyes closed and blindly trust someone: not easy. But I was happy to hear the handsome Greek explain it like this: the man does lead the dance, so if something goes wrong, it’s the man’s fault (sorry guys). Therefore it’s also his responsibility to create a dance space where both partners feel safe and comfortable. He also acknowledged the fact that it isn’t an easy thing to do; to trust a stranger and have this person touch you. In the end, couples dancing is about mutual respect and having fun, but it’s a good way for me to put more trust in others and to learn to let go a bit more.

The second challenge for me were some of the steps. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy things went, but after a few hours your concentration starts to slip and things just get more difficult to memorize. There was one part where I was getting a little frustrated, which the teacher picked up on incredibly fast I must say. I still have to practice that one step because I still don’t know how to do it fast enough, but he didn’t make a big deal out if it, so neither did I. Practice makes perfect.

So after four hours of dancing bachata I have learned quite a few things, most importantly that I’m not done with this dance yet. I will be enrolling in a series of classes in May and I intend to spend quite a bit of my free time dancing the night away to some sweet bachata music.

 

Lots of love//D.

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