Alternatives of bachata basic steps PART 1

After a couple years of intensive dancing, one starts getting a bit bored of basic steps. I mean stepping always the same pattern over and over again – it can get boring. But there is a solution! If we can make a formula with variables (parts of steps), then changing of at least one of variables should also change the output or at least the perception of the output.

“What is the formula”, you ask.

“I’m glad you asked” 🙂

First of all, I’ll introduce the pattern of the basic step. I want to pay your attention, that basic step pattern is not about directions. It’s about weight transfers and pauses (no weight transfer). By default, it will be taken from the followers perspective.

So let’s start while standing on the left foot. On 1, we are going to transfer the weight to the right foot. Optionally, one can “sit down” on your hip (just like when one have to stand for 30-60 minutes, one starts rest one of the leg, by “standing” only on the other) after the transfer. Then on 2 transfer the weight back to the left foot. On 3 repeat the same thing you did on 1, (after this point you are standing on your right foot, and have left as free). And finally on 4 there is a pause, a little “bounce”, tap movement, when the weight is not being transferred in the end, but a slight move to the left and back exists.

Let’s write the formula with variables:

Basic step = direction x weight transfer x timing

meaning that step is different depending on the values of direction, placement of weight and timing

Shortly about those three components:

  • Direction – One can step front, left, right, back, but often forgets crossing steps and steps without direction.
  • Transfer weight  – one can fully transfer weight, meaning one can stand on one of the feet and lift the other one without losing balance, or partially transfer weight, meaning a little sort of bounce to support for a second or two, but no longer. Also, tap is always happening right next to the supporting feet. It’s important to notice that one can use only the “free” foot for stepping.
  • Timing – There are some timing option out there others than step on 1, 2, 3 and tap on 4 😉 I’ll tell you 😉

Basic step in place

The first alternative is a basic step in place. Remove the direction completely. Stand in place and do “grape-stamping”. Start by standing on both feet. Then move the weight to the right foot (on 1), shift it back to the left one (on 2), and then to the right again (on 3) and then slow down keeping weight on the right (on 4). The thing is that your feet might not even move (neither direction-wise, nor height wise), just weight. It’s actually a nice exercise to get to know how weight change is working.

Half step

Half step is actually a good way to slow down the dance, especially when the song gets slower. So how does it look like? Here it is:

Step and change weight completely to the right (on 1), tap and keep the weight on the right (on 2), then step and change weight completely to the left (on 3) and finally tap and keep the weight on the left (on 4).

Funny enough, it also works with opposite order. I mean, tap right foot on 1, transfer weight to the right foot on 2.  Tap the left foot on 3, and transfer weight to left on 4.

Dominican basic step

As mentioned before, the basic step I use came from western world bachata and differs from authentic (Dominican) one. They differ in a way, that western basic step is being danced in a line side-to-side, while Dominican – in a square. The pattern of changing weight is the same, but directions differ.

Step and change weight completely to the right (on 1), bring left foot together and shift change to the left (on 2), step backwards and change weight fully (on 3), and tap and keep weight on the right foot (on 4). The following sequence would be:

Step and change weight completely to the left (on 5), bring right foot together and shift change to the right (on 6), step forward and change weight fully to left foot (on 7), and tap and keep weight on the left foot (on 8).

The steps one is using should depend on the music one is dancing to. It’s interesting to mix some of Dominican style while dancing, especially in the parts of song that have clear beats. Dominican bachatas often consists only of such beats. If one dances to one of modern western bachatas the rhythm often changes: gets slower where some vocals are and faster in instrumental parts. It makes it interesting to dance when it changes.

Now we talked about various weight transfers and directions, but how about timing?

Cha-cha-cha step

Dominican music has also an interesting element – syncopation

syncopation is a general term for “a disturbance or interruption of the regular flow of rhythm”: a “placement of rhythmic stresses or accents where they wouldn’t normally occur.”

Syncopation plays with dancers perception and bring some unexpected beats which are quite interesting to play around with 🙂 A very nice step to play on it is a so called “ball and the chain” step. It looks like this:

Step and change weight completely to the right (on 1), put your feet together and shift weight to left (on 2), now magic happens on “3”, “and” and “4”. Notice, that there is something on “and” part of the counting. One shifts weight to the right (on 3), then quickly bounces (partial transfer) on the left (on “and”), and lands on right again (on 4). See, this “and” is a tricky part, because it’s a really short period of time. One finishes exactly in the same position as without it, but did an extra step. This is awesome and looks really nice! 🙂

Conclusion

After some years of intensive dancing, one starts getting a bit bored of basic steps. Some people stop dancing at this point, thinking they reached the “bottom” and some – starts going to international workshops and congresses, and tries to learn something fancier, cooler, better looking, complicated – new. The latter happened to me. Then followed Bachaturo (Warsaw, Poland, in 2013), Benidorm BK (Benidorm, Spain, in 2014), Bachata Day (Milan, Italy, in 2015).

Now I’m trying to share what I learned and there’s going to be a second part of the post in the future, that will cover other alternatives like broken basic, tango, etc. There are many things to learn. Go practice! 🙂