Monday, August 18, 2008

Bachata Part 2: Lovin It Close?

This is part 2 of a series. Check out last weeks "Gatta Learn Bachata" before or after this article.

Bachata is often danced as a contact sport, but that's certainly a choice.

In one of the comments on my previous bachata article, Joe mentioned "partners who don't want to dance close are missing out."

My first thought was: "Maybe... If she’s comfortable with you then she’ll enjoy your amazing journey, otherwise she’ll be mentally fighting you the whole time. As a lead we should earn their trust before getting too close.”

Too many guys abuse the close concept, getting very close too early because they want to be close and bachata is the perfect excuse. This same concepts apply to salsa, but since it’s not usually danced so close, it’s less of an issue.

We need to be competent enough to lead open bachata moves very well, respecting that some partners are not going to enjoy the dance if we are too close too soon. Some may never want to dance close and I'm fine with that.

Be sure it’s a mutual thing, and she wants you as close as you want to be. I’ve seen some amazing dances that stayed primarily in open position, and both partners had a fun, sexy dance. You can mix open and close depending on the situation.

Of course, anytime we can hold a woman close, we are likely to do so. That’s just part of our natural leader instincts. However, if it’s done without a mutual connection, it can quickly backfire. Most guys don’t pay attention to their follows response, but you can see it in their face and body language if you’re attentive.

This is also interesting to watch when you are taking a break and watching others. Figure out which follows are enjoying the close dance and which are hating it or simply pretending they are fine with it. If you watch enough it will become pretty obvious to you, and then you'll recognize the signs with your partners.

Don’t assume that if she is close to another guy, she will love being close to you. That couple may have had twenty dances over the last six months, and that is a different class of dancing than partners with just a few dances.

Close is fine and appropriate for repeat partners, but I still see lots of guys who don't get a second dance because they think doing their great close moves will seal the deal. That will occasionally work, but anything works some of the time. If you play the odds, a measured approach is a stronger strategy.

Just to be clear; If you and your partner want to be as close as lovers on the floor, go for it. It’s also appropriate to start more open with new partners and get closer as the dance progresses or during one of the follow-up dances.

Your job as a lead is to have her want you to be close, because it feels great for her and she’s enjoying your lead.

Ladies: Your thoughts? (Guys are welcomed too.)
Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it.
--Lily Thomlin


  1. When I dance with somebody I don't know I'll start out in an open position.

    If we connect I'll decrease the distance a bit (closed position) and check to see how she responds.

    Normally this will be fine as we're now at the same distance we would be dancing salsa and they're used to that.

    From there bachata offers you lots of chances to see how lady reacts to various moves. I find that draping her arms around my neck is a good way to get an indication of how she feels.

    To get her arms around my neck properly I have to pull her a bit closer. At that point it is up to the lady to decide whether she is comfortable with this closer distance or if she wants to pull back again. If she pulls back I respect that and will not pull her closer during that song.

    In the past I've heard somebody say 'I'm leading so if I want to pull her close I do that'. I have to agree with the fact that he's leading but in my book there is a very big difference between leading and forcing.

    Besides, would you really want to dance close with somebody who just wants to get away again? I wouldn't.

  2. Ps, if I don't feel we connect I won't even bother decreasing the distance.

    Pps, when I said "would you really want to dance . . ." in the last paragraph I wasn't addressing you Don.
    It was a general 'you' aimed at anybody that might read this.

  3. Walter,

    From your photo it's obvious you're too tall and you have a chromosome issue that doesn't work for me. (I'm fine with tall if we eliminate the chromosome issues.)

    Anyway, I think your measured approach is right on. Start open and move closer in stages is an excellent approach.

    You have it totally right, if she doesn't want to be close to me, then leave it open and make the most of that...

    If it changes later, great. If not, than not a problem either.

    I'm still not going to dance bachata with you, no matter how open we pretend to be. (grin)

  4. For sure you should not force a partner to dance closer than they are comfortable (indeed you should not force your partner to do anything in a dance) and you can have a good bachata entirely in the open style. However, in my view the dance works much better in a close style or with a mixture of close and open. In most of the lessons I have attended the teacher begins by insisting that partners stand close "no daylight between you". Whilst I can understand Walter's point about starting open and then maybe moving closer, I really disagree. Right at the outset the guy sets the tone for the dance, indeed often bachata begins with a slow intro that asks for a few bars of gentle swaying. Ideally the guys should take the girl close from the start, in a tango-like hold - this gives a clear confident message to the girl, it says to the girl that the guy is in control, he knows what he is doing "just relax and enjoy the dance". If you start with an open hold and then kind of try to move in closer when you get a chance, it sets quite a different tone. It feels timid, unconfident and maybe even a bit sly and cheap. It is very subtle and I totally reject any kind of sleaziness or taking advantage of the girl - I know some guys do this and it makes all girls wary. You should treat the girl with the utmost respect at all times, however close you dance and should not take any liberties unless she is someone you know very well and share complete mutual trust with - but this is true of any dance - not just bachata.

    If the girl really does not want you to hold them close at the start, then I have no problem, we will dance open-style, that's cool - but I won't try and sneak-in any close moves unless she makes it clear that she wants to. And let me put my honesty-hat on here - if I don't want to dance too close to a particular partner - then I'll start it open and stay like that too. I am choosy who I dance bachata with - though I do try to be equitable about it.

    For me, too, one of the nice things about bachata is how different it is from regular salsa. You lead with the body and can get so much expression with close body movement. Sometimes you lead with pressure from the inside of the thighs, when you are overlapped, and one of my favourite moves, the half-turn in a close hold, only works if your feet are totally interlocked and you can rotate about a common centre, more or less underneath both of you. In the close-style, too, you are freed from the tyranny of having to think up a string of interesting moves to entertain her with. In open style, bachata is like a kind of side-to-side form of salsa - which can be very good too - but it is different. I usually go for a mix of the two, to provide contract and texture in the dance - but the real thing is close.

  5. Hi Joe,

    I respect your point of view.

    And even though mine is different I can can definitely see where you're coming from.

    As I see it there are 2 ways you can close the distance when you start out from an open position.
    Hesitantly or confidently.

    If you are timid when draping her arms over your shoulder than your partner will know. Same when you try to 'sneakily' get her closer. However, if you're confident while doing it she will recognize that as well. There is a clear difference, mainly in body language. Women being the body language experts that they are know this difference.

    Also, it is not about sneaking moves in.
    It is about testing the waters.
    Compare it to not throwing a new partner into quadruple spins or leading her through an intricate combination as soon as you step onto the floor. First you find out if she can even spin and is not an absolute beginner who is out for the first time.

    I completely agree when you say that open and closed bachata are completely different. I'd almost go as far as qualifying them as different dance altogether that just happen to be danced to the same music.

    All of that said though, next time I'm somewhere new (my local scene is pretty small so by now I know pretty much everybody) I will give your method a try to see what kind of response that gets.

    And Don, no need to worry.
    You're not my type either. It seems that chromosome issue works both ways.

    Don't take it personally though. I'm sure you're a great dancer even though you may not be an expert bachata lead just yet;-)

  6. Hi Walter,
    For sure there is a gray area and a lot depends on that unconscious connection you establish with your partner right from the start. In theory I try to go for the close hold immediately, that's how it "should" be danced and the more people who get used to it the better. But in reality - I don't always do it - some girls are kind of intimidating and some days maybe I just don't have the courage.

    I like your "draping the arms around the neck" idea - I will try that one too.

  7. I would love to see some comments from the ladies. I know what I hear via private e-mail from the follows, but I'd love to see some go on record with their feelings.


  8. Me too.

    After all, without feedback we're just guessing here.

    However, if for some reason they don't come I'll accept a comment from you reflecting their opinions as law.

  9. Fintan From IrelandAug 19, 2008, 2:49:00 PM

    Bachata has that tango element to it. I prefer close at the start because it has a relaxed sway before you want to step. Music plays a huge part in when you want to move back and move forward. When the music is romantic i find myself in a sway position, when the music is very step orientated i vary my lead from open to close. Fintan from Ireland.

  10. My policy is similar to Walter's, in that I let the woman determine the closeness.

    One problem with getting too close is that bachata is usually played as a break from salsa. By that time, we can all be pretty sweaty!

    I've been attending a bachata class sporadically, and I was surprised to hear one woman from the class complaining that many of the guys were not dancing close.

    BTW, the two workshops I attended at the Palm Springs festival were excellent.

  11. Okay, I'll put in my two cents as a follower. (Though I can't presume to speak for 50% of humanity!)

    I agree with joe that bachata is supposed to be danced in a close hold. The motion only works when the dancers share a single axis rather than each dancer being on his own axis.

    It is true that I am comfortable dancing close with some leaders and not with others. Paradoxically (body odor and other obvious turnoffs aside), that has mostly to do with *his* level of comfort and his confidence in dancing/leading close.

    When the leader approaches the close hold as if it were the most natural thing in the world, it *feels* natural and perfect and I'm perfectly open to it.

    When he approaches it sidelong or with a hesitant or sexualized manner, that's when I freeze up and pull away.
    And it has nothing to do with how well I know him. It has everything to do with how well he knows the dance and how confidently he approaches it.

    A guy who starts bachata with an open hold is telling me he doesn't share my understanding of the dance. He's telling me that *he* sees the closeness as something specific to the partner and not something intrinsic to the mechanics of the dance. He doesn't 'get it.' My expectations for the dance are lowered, and my guard goes up: because if he doesn't see the close hold as intrinsic to the dance, then maybe he would see my initiating a close hold as an indication of interest instead - that's certainly not the message I want to send.

    So a dance that starts in open hold is likely to stay that way. I'm not going to take steps to change it. And I'm not certainly expecting any fireworks.

    A guy who starts with a close, secure hold is telling me he does share my understanding of the way bachata, when done well, is supposed to feel. He raises my expectations for the dance and makes me more than eager to meet him halfway.

    I understand and appreciate the courtesy inherent in the approach of starting open. But for me, that takes a back seat to the lead who can set the tone for the dance with a confident signal that we are going to be *in* this dance together.

  12. One more thing - I would say that it's perhaps prudent to start in open-hold when the girl is a beginner, since she may not be comfortable with stranger-contact yet.

    I definitely would not have responded well to a guy who went right into closed hold when I was just starting out, even though I love that now.

  13. Noobster,

    Great to have a female point of view (POV). I hope we get more!

    I've heard similar comments from some others privately. I hope more put in their feelings because us guys need to hear from as many females as possible.

    I also have some who divide it by their experience with that partner, rather than their own experience.

    I look forward to more providing their POV.

  14. Too bad Noobster is the only woman that has commented so far.

    But, based on her comment it looks like I'll be changing a bit.

    Dance close right from the start with experienced dancers, stick to my original way with beginners :)

  15. Two cents from another female....

    I have seen all degrees of “closeness” when it comes to bachata. There is the almost Quaker we-can-only-touch-at-the-fingertips version at one end of the pendulum, and the “Are they…uh…doing it?? They should go get a room…” version at the other end. Both styles, to me, are extremely distracting and take away from the beauty and romanticism of the dance.

    As a female and a follower, I am concerned that there are instructors out there who are insisting that there is "no daylight between you" and your partner. Ultimately, the amount of closeness will differ couple by couple for myriad reasons – familiarity, comfort level, personal style, etc. As with any partner dance, the leader can assert a certain amount of his own aesthetic with the choreography he chooses, but if for any reason he feels resistance from the follower, it is the leader’s responsibility to adjust accordingly. It’s as simple as that.

    On a personal level, I am in a committed relationship, and I would not want to dance with a stranger in public in a way that would embarrass me OR my significant other. But that's me. If others want to push the envelope, I suppose that's up to them. This dance will certainly evolve as it continues to become more and more popular in the clubs. Already, I can sense the beginning of the “this is the right way” / “that is the wrong way” kind of an argument approaching. My hope is that no preference is deemed “wrong” unless there is a clear issue of individuals taking advantage of closeness to behave inappropriately. That is NEVER okay.

  16. Another great point of view. I can say many of my private conversations and e-mails say overall many guys are too close at the start.

    We may get different feedback from the experienced follows, but even she says in the beginning she wouldn't have been comfortable too close, too soon.

    One thing that is clear: I don't think there is a right/wrong way that has emerged yet.

    Hopefully we'll get a few more female voices here, with their likes/dislikes so we can see the range of thoughts on the subject.

    One size won't fit all, but over time hopefully some decent strategies will emerge.

  17. I really like this article and I think one small thing is missing. Why not be a little bit girl and keep distance in the beginning?

    Just make her want to dance closer. Let her wait for a time. Over the time you will find out automatically when she wants to get closer or not.

    ...and then there is also not the embarassing part that she doesn't want to dance with you any more and all the other people around know exactly why.

    So in the end you gain more because also the other girls on the dance floor want to dance with you.

  18. Here's an idea: Start out with a bit of distance. Then after several measures, and if your partner seems comfortable, take a close hold to do a couple spins (back-spot turns), since those require closeness to work right. Then back off to a more open hold. If she seems comfortable with that, increase the amount of time spent in closed-hold.

    As far as the 'doing-it' variety of bachata, I think that comes from dancers incorrectly moving their hips forward-and-back, when it's supposed to be a side-to-side movement.

  19. Bachatta is a wonderful fun dance with lots of variety. If you really want to learn and dance bachatta well - come on down to the Dominican Republic - we will teach you how to dance it like a native! I watched the utube video and you will never see a reach bachatta dancer look like this!

    Bachatta is easy to learn but getting your own unique style takes a bit of time and practice.

    It is naturally danced very close together and rarely is anything meant by that. It is just the way it is done....

    SO, a personal invitation - come on down to the DR for some lessons!

  20. That would be a great time! I suspect the way bachata is evolving in the states, it already is different from the original, just like LA salsa is losely related to Cuban salsa, but really a different variation.

    I see so many new people taking up the dance, it's bound to change it into something different than it's roots. That happens with music and other arts, so I'd expect it with bachata.

    Again, I'd love to take a trip and learn the authentic roots of the dance, that's a great idea.

    Side note: What is the right way to spell the dance? (bachata or bachatta)

  21. SnowDancer said...

    "As far as the 'doing-it' variety of bachata, I think that comes from dancers incorrectly moving their hips forward-and-back, when it's supposed to be a side-to-side movement."

    I was actually referring to the "save a horse, ride a cowboy" style that I see now and again on the dance floor. The women still move correctly (side-to-side), just with their bits-and-bobs up in the leader's business. I do not personally enjoy watching a woman get up on the leader's leg like a spaniel in heat, nor do I like to be pressed into the leader and forced to dance that way.

    Is that more clear? LOL!

    Phew!! All these euphemisms are making my head hurt.....LOL!

    On the other side of the coin are the dancers who take you out and are obviously embarrassed by the whole thing altogether, so you end up with about 18 inches between you at all times, and your eyes never meet lest you be overcome and swoon, I suppose...??? I don't know, but that's just as weird to me.

    Again, it's all opinions here. No right or wrong -- just preferences.

  22. another female pov here...
    i recently had a bachata dance that made me very uncomfortable. right from the beginning, the guy had me close. too close, really and i dont recall ever having danced with him before. so in my opinion, i would prefer my lead to start with a bit of distance. even an inch or two is distance. that is comfortable because youre seemingly close, but your bodies arent pressed too uncomfortably tight against each others.

    personally, there are varying degrees of closeness i am comfortable with. if i dance with someone often and know them, a close lead is fine. if its a stranger (or even a beginner), i think i would prefer a bit of distance. by distance, i dont necessarily mean half a foot...i just dont want to feel a strangers body pressed up against mine.

    of course, there are those other reasons why i would prefer not to be too close, as some one mentioned: sweat, body odor, bad breath, etc.

    i agree with some of the other responses that the lead should be aware of how the partner is responding. if it seems as if they are keeping their distance, the lead should adjust to that.

    back to that dance i had the other night...i was resisting the 'closeness' the whole time, but my lead was completely clueless (someone send him that video on perception blindness! lol). it felt as if he was even trying to pull me closer. ugh...

    p.s. great blog topics, don! :)

  23. Another woman's POV:

    I completely agree bachata should be danced close, and when done properly it can be like heaven, however there's nothing worse than a guy making you dance close when you're obviously trying to tell him you don't want to.

    Having said that, probably worse than that is dancing open position with a guy you want to dance closed position with =P

    I would say; start off close but not too close, show her you're comfortable in the dance & confident, get a feel for the lady's comfort then try out the hands over the neck thing & see how she responds.

    I know that when a guy has it right, I am slightly disappointed when we do spins or anything that's out of closed position, but that's the way it should be, give her the closeness but hope that when you take it away she longs for it again...

    Bachata should be enjoyed not worried about or uncomfortable so just make sure guys think about your partner as well as yourselves & have some great dances!

  24. Great conversation. Here's my (female) POV:

    I completely agree with Jenn's suggestion to start with an inch or two of space, and then get closer if it feels right. I love bachata either close or open, but I don't want to start off completely enveloped in a stranger's body. With a good partner, I'd like to spend about 80% of the song close, maybe using a few turns to give space ocassionally.

    The other night I had 2 very uncomfortable dances with a guy whom I had never met or danced with before. He began holding me VERY close, legs intertwined and holding my head to his shoulder while his face pressed into my neck. That already felt a little forceful. Our moves were great throughout the dance, both of us with nice footwork and our transitions were perfectly in tune. But I was increasingly uncomfortable that he wouldn't give me a few inches of space at least once in awhile. Twice he dipped me quite low, and pulled me back up very slowly while his face grazed the length of my body from pelvis to nose. The second time he even blew on my chest on the way up! He apologized when he saw that I was not smiling at that, but I had unfortunately hit my limit.

    It was disappointing b/c not only did I feel uncomfortable, but I think we could actually have had very nice dances together based on our skills. We're both at the same level (about an intermediate-plus) and he commented on my good rythym and that I responded very well to his cues. It was just too close for someone I'd never danced with before, especially in the hot and sweaty club.

    So... I would've appreciated a moment of space before getting so close, and I wish he'd checked a little more closely to see if I looked pleased.

    I have two etiquette questions that maybe some of you can answer. First, how can I send gentle signals that I would like some space? Some of the guys above mentioned letting a woman determine the closeness, so how should I go about doing that subtly?

    Secondly, is there an appropriate way to turn down a 2nd/3rd song in a row with a guy? I attend a salsa night in which the DJ usually plays 3 bachata songs back-to-back. Since those are my only chances for bachata that night, I'd sometimes prefer to dance them with at least 2 different partners instead of remaining with the first. Yet some guys hold onto me for another dance. I do not like to turn people down and it's normally nothing against that particular partner; it's just that I would like to dance a bachata with someone else as well.

    Thanks for this blog and everyone's comments so far!

    1. This has happened to me as well.

      I went to a latin dance club for the first time tonight. I know the basic steps of bachata but I did not understand that it is sensual in nature - I figured the closeness was just a stylistic option for people who are attracted to each other or connecting very well. I am a young woman just out of my teens and and a middle aged man with a pot belly asked me to dance when bachata was on. Given my lack of knowledge of the nuances of the genre and not wanting to appear rude, I accepted.

      He got extremely close and kept trying to intertwine our legs and pulled our whole torsos together tightly. I was resisting the closeness in the lower body and not using my hands to hold on to him at all, rather I was moderately pushing away from his shoulders with my forearms to give him the message that I didn't like it. I also made an obvious effort to keep my head from coming anywhere near his neck or shoulder. He wouldn't acknowledge these signals and give me more space.

      I went only with one friend (whom I didn't trust to back me up in case of a confrontation in which I might be made out to be a prude or an overreacting bitch). So I resigned myself to looking extremely uncomfortable and unhappy and continuing to push away with my arms until the song was over.

      Guys, when determining the closeness of the hold please please please just gauge your partner's reaction to you and whether she seems eager or reluctant when she accepts your invitation. Pay attention to how she is reacting physically because in a social environment we often don't feel safe verbally expressing our discomfort (see my above reasoning). Too much intimacy and a refusal to stop forcing it leaves new dancers feeling sleazy and used and less likely to come back since it was such a negative and violating experience. I danced with several other wonderful and respectful people who helped me learn more about the different genres but my night was completely tainted by that one man and even after showering I feel like I still need to scrub.

  25. Firstly this is a fantastic article, and If it’s not to Late, I’d like to add some comments regarding this…(From a Guys Perspective)

    I’ve been dancing Bachata for just under a year now and gotten quite good at it, and it’s become my preferred Latin Dance…

    But the issue with giving the partner enough space, is hard to pinpoint. I personally allow the women to dictate, how close she’d like to dance…and I still sometimes get it wrong.
    I dance Bachata ‘Moderna’ styles, so that’s with: Cross on 1/2/3, turn patterns, Closed position/Second Position/Open Position, Styling, footwork, Sensual moves, tempo changes…
    My Bachata teacher, has always stressed that we ‘move around the dancefloor’ rather than left-to-right, forward-and-backward movements. So, when I dance Bachata I’m always moving from one style to another…and some of this will involve frequently moving between very close or open positions.

    And the key thing is that I tend to only really dance with people I know, or have regularly danced Bachata with, as Bachata can be such a personal, sensual or emotionally moving dance…that I generally prefer to dance it with people I know (don’t get me wrong, if somebody I don’t know asks me…I will say ‘yes’, as I imagine it must be difficult for a women to ask a guy that she doesn’t know for a Bachata dance, could be a little intimidating, and I wouldn’t want to discourage a person from doing this). But when starting a dance (especially with someone, I haven’t danced as much with), I take Walter de Rooji’s previously mentioned approach, and start in the open position, but I initiate a turn pattern-into a closed hold, which brings the woman closer, and from there I let the woman decide if she is comfortable with this, and she can adjust her comfort level accordingly. I’ve been frequently told by partners that I’m a very good/confident lead….so I’ve found a woman feels this when I’m leading, and becomes comfortable with a dancing a closed position with me quite quickly, and this can be a real blessing when making a women feel comfortable dancing in a closed position. But as I’ve found…it doesn’t always mean that the women will always feel that way with every dance. I’ve been told I’m not dancing close enough, I’ve been told I’m dancing too close, I’ve given space to girls I’ve known, that don’t like being too close…only to have them step in very close to me, and hold me very close, and I’ve been told off for not looking enough into my partners eyes. There generally doesn’t appear to be a generally consistent way of approaching dancing in the closed position with a partner, and each dance seems to be needed to danced on it’s own merits. And us as guys sometime wrongly (and sometime rightly) try to interpret how a women may/may not be feeling on the particular dance. And I’ve got to come out as say that It’s not easy….and there certainly needs to be a bit of understanding from both parties, to make the best dance possible. But when it comes together (and I’ve had my fair share), with two people dancing as one…it’s can be one of the most breathtaking dances I’ve ever danced (in a way, I don’t get from Salsa/Cha Cha, Merengue).

    But the “Placing the arms around the neck” approach…does give you some idea as to how comfortable a women may feel in the dance, but it’s important to note to anyone trying this move, should not note that this should ideally be done as the music/mood dictates, rather than in the middle of a dance for no reason. I guess you have to feel the moment to do a move like this, otherwise it can feel a little forced (and bear in mind, that some dancers may not actually know, what you want them to do with the arms, and will bring them straight back to the normal closed position hold).

  26. I see this is an old post, but since I see other recent comments and I have strong feelings on this matter, I'll just chime in with my own two cents as a woman. I'm in a long-term relationship with another dancer, and we've decided that what makes us happy and comfortable is only dancing up-close bachata with each other -- but for the sake of the topic, I'll reply as if I were single.

    First as a follow: If anybody -- but especially a stranger -- assumes that we're going to dance bachata (or any other dance) with up-close body contact because "that's just the way it is," I am going to physically hold myself away from you. If you don't give any sign of getting the hint by the time the song is over, I will never dance with you again.

    If, however, you stay in your "dance bubble" and leave me room to stay in mine -- starting in closed position and leading with part of your right arm (as opposed to only right hand) is fine; pulling me closer than needed to do that, however, is not -- then there is a better than 50-50 chance that the flow of the music and the moves will bring us naturally together.

    You can make yourself available (i.e. not holding me away with your frame) and, if I choose to get closer, you can hold me closer. If we're going to dance close, though, it won't happen through any deliberate choice or decision on your part -- it'll either happen organically and mutually, or you'll open the door and I will choose to walk through it.

    As a lead: I lead other types of dancing, but am still a newbie in the "leading salsa and bachata" department. I also just (last weekend) went -- as a lead -- to one of those boot camps where the instructor insists that "no air space between you" is the only way to dance bachata. I wasn't interested in dancing smashed against anybody (man OR woman), but they were super-short on leads so I went for it anyway, and everything I experienced pretty much confirmed my observations as a follow.

    I ignored the instructor's admonishments to pull the other person close and led as *I* would want to be led in closed position: Maintaining my own small dance bubble of an inch or two airspace, and leaving the woman her own private dance bubble of the same size. I deliberately left the door open so that the follow could "walk in" (get closer) if she wanted to, but just as deliberately did nothing to draw her any closer.

    End result, most of them did get closer to varying degrees (a few times we did do the whole "ride a cowboy, save a horse" routine, since that's what the instructor was teaching). Some of them chose not to get any closer at all. But ALL of them were comfortable, and *I* was also comfortable because I knew *they* were comfortable. A lot of them -- even (especially?) those who were initially uncomfortable about the idea of dancing something so sensual even remotely close to another woman -- made a point of telling me how much better/safer/more comfortable they felt being led that way as opposed to the guys who were (understandably) following the instructor's directions to just hold the woman close, period.

    So, there you go ... two cents as a woman follower, and another two cents as a woman lead.

  27. Okay...

    I've like to add to this, as I've been dancing Bachata for a few years now...and I have to say, that my dancing style has fundementally my style is far more Dominican based. I don't dance the whole dance Dominican-style (open hold, Footwork), but I do tend to lead the woman around the dancefloor with Dominican style I hear the music very differently than how I did 2 years ago (I like to hit the syncopations/Breaks/Dance on the Vocal's)..

    So I probably say 80% of my dance isn't even close with the woman...and I know some women, that I'm dancing with for the first couple of times find it a bit odd, but they start to get it after a while, as they can see I'm dancing the various instruments, as opposed to the rhythm.

    But when I am close, I really do these days, just wait and see how the woman responds to how close she wants to sometimes there is fair bit of body movement involved, and I really wouldn't want to do this, unless I'm sure the woman is comfortable.....but I tend to find that the really advanced women, tend to have less of a problem being really close because:

    1) They've been dancing Bachata for quite a while, and you become acclimatised to the closeness and understand it is after all, a dance
    2) Some body movement is just difficult or plain awkward to follow unless your really close
    3) A lot of the Bachata evening's (and there are quite a few in London, now), that teach the 'Sensual' style of Bachata (not really my thing)....and if you're not prepared to be close in those lessons...then It's going to be a loooooong lesson for you

    But It should always be left to the woman to dictate how close they want to be in the closed hold.....admittedly I tend to go into a dance, thinking there will be some distance between us, and sometimes, to only be completely wrong-footed by a woman, that wants to dance very close...

    But I guess the mark of any good dancer, is being able to adapt to any situation :)

  28. It's a very sexy dance and I would have reservations dancing it with strangers. It looks like a dance I could only do with someone I'm intimate or romantically involved. I think I feel uncomfortable with the tango too. I love both dance styles but I feel like it would be better dancing with someone you're comfortable with and intimately involved with.

  29. Obviously, it has been long ago that this issue was raised, but me reading all these comments and the main article bring it back to "modern" times, right?

    Bachata can vary from very boring to very interesting depending on a million of reasons. Most of all, it depends on the music. There are bachatas which sound sensual or romantic or a bit funny or a bit tango or kizomba dynamic... and this means that the couple has the opportunity to adopt a few styles while dancing and diverse.

    As a follower, I have experienced bachata in various ways and I quite understand the close embrace coming from someone who just wants to grab the chance over someone who really enjoys the dance. Recently though, I found out a new species of bachaterros emerging which is very annoying. It is okay (not always) to dance close embrace bachata, as long as you alternate once in a while with open embrace and as long as you can make it look decent and interesting for the follower.

    Bachatas tend to become too close and followers are in danger of falling into the back-lead category unless the give in. This has made leaders more ambitious to distinguish their close bachata from another's leader close bachata by i.e. subtly exhaling in your ear or your neck, making followers feel very uncomfortable and wishing the power to go off immediately or the song to stop.

    So, leaders, let the follower chose if you are the one she wishes to hold close to her body and if you are not, make sure you can lead a very interesting open embrace and remain in her memory for these amazing new steps you had to show her. And believe me, there are so many interesting moves in open-bachata, that some times it becomes very addicting! Then, she might want to try the close bachata and the romantic side of you.

  30. The dance style that today is called Bachata tanz started in the Dominican Republic. It is dance broadly everywhere throughout the world however not indistinguishably.


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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero