Bachata is a style of social dance from the Dominican Republic which is now danced all over the world. It is associated with bachata music. The authentic dance from the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean is a basic dance sequence in a full 8-count moving within a square. Dancers in the Western world much later made up a basic step going from side to side, and also copied dance elements from other couple dances of various origins, Latin and non Latin alike. The basic dance sequence consists of three steps and then a tap step or various forms of step syncopation (such as the “double step”). Some dancers in the west accompany the tap with an exaggerated “pop” of the hips. Bachata can be danced on the 1st beat of the musical phrase, with the tap on the 4th beat, but dancing on the 2nd, 3rd or 4th beat is also common. The tap is done on the opposite foot of the last step, while the next step is taken on the same foot as the tap. The dance direction changes after the tap or fourth step.
The World Bachata Festival was held recently right here in our very own city of Petaling Jaya, at Wisma Bentley which is right next to Ikano Power Centre. Organised by Shamballa Tribeni Dance & Music House, the event was strongly supported by many of the leading salsa and bachata dance schools both within and outside Malaysia.
Did I know about this festival? Truth be told… no, I didn’t. But that was because I am not involved in the bachata scene, as I have stopped salsa classes for more than a year. I never even took bachata classes formally, and only picked it up at the clubs when I used to go social dancing.
So that was on me. But the organisers had been heavily promoting their event, and many local salsa and bachata enthusiasts signed up for this exciting event, and needless to say it was one that they had been looking forward to!
The World Bachata Festival ran from 23rd to 25th October, and consisted of dance workshops, performance, and of course – parties! The agenda was almost the same every day for the three days of the festival: the daytime was filled with workshops from both local and international instructors, after which there was a little break before the evening performances, and every night ended with a party where participants could dance the night away.
When my dear friend and beautiful blogger Geozo Wong buzzed me to ask if I was going for the festival, I was like… WHAT?? There’s a bachata festival?? I was immediately curious! I have been to similar festivals such as this, although it was for other dance forms.
Unfortunately, because I had not known about the festival, I was already booked up that entire weekend… except on Sunday night.
Based on Geozo’s request, the organisers very graciously provided me a media pass, which enabled me entrance to the Sunday night performance.
The schedule indicated that the performances were supposed to start at 8pm, but I think the performers needed more time for rehearsal, and the doors were only opened at about 8.30pm. I really had no idea what to expect, but I got myself a seat in the hall (free seating) and waited excitedly for the performances to begin.
The auditorium was made up very grandly, with a large beautiful stage in front of a seated audience. There were two small screens on each side of the stage where the names of the performers (most of the workshop instructors) and the studios they represented were projected so that the audience knew who the dancers were.
The performance started with a duo from Singapore (Derrick & Feliz) who did a lovely salsa number – full of flips, tricks and dips! This was followed by a troupe from Illusion Dance Academy (Malaysia), who did an interesting medley of hiphop and traditional Indian dancing, with elements of salsa included. The young dancers were highly energetic, very skilled, and quite exciting to watch!
The next performance was by a dance company that called themselves – wait for it – A Dance Company! Hailing from Manila, Philippines, their performance showcased two couples dancing salsa in unison.
There was a short break for formalities where the organisers and the supporting companies were acknowledged, and of course the instructors who had been generously sharing their expertise in the workshops these past three days.
The next troupe to grace the stage was from Dance Blaze Academy. Doing a highly energetic salsa number, the two guys on stage must have been the envy of the male dancers in the crowd as they had four lovely ladies to dance with; part of their choreography showed both male dancers leading two ladies each in sync.
Gupson Pierre from Canada took the stage next with partner Angel. Although good dancers, it was pretty obvious that nothing was rehearsed for this stage performance; they had no fancy outfits or fancy choreography. The performance was made up of Gupson leading Angel through social salsa moves; there were no tricks or lifts to excite the crowd.
Natsuko Tamakawa from Japan took on the stage next. Dressed in an elaborate white tasseled costume, she did a solo performance made up of a medley of a few different songs. She obviously has had classical dance training as she had beautiful lines while she executed her solo routine.
Tamil and Edel from Singapore took the stage next with a heart-stopping salsa routine, also full of tricks and lifts. This was followed by a solo performance by Sultan Jamal from New York.
The night closed with a performance with the largest number of performers… made up of the participants of Nestor’s bootcamp! They had attended the workshop from the Australian instructor, and had spent the past six hours working on a bachata routine just for this performance. Some of the participants in this workshop had also performed earlier in the night (in the dance academy performances), and I must say it was quite impressive that the participants were dedicated and committed enough to work hard – and they pulled off a pretty good dance routine! This is quite a good motivator for people who would like to try performing but don’t really have the chance to; this bootcamp gave participants (both with and without experience) a chance to learn a routine and perform it in front of a supportive crowd.
I managed to take videos of all the performances, but initially I had a very poor angle because of the seat I was in. Very sorry for the poor quality (some parts were blocked by the main cameraman)… hope you manage to enjoy what little of the performances I actually managed to record!
Unfortunately I could not stay for the party, although I would have loved to. It was a school night (yes I still go to school…) and I had to return home to prepare for the start of the work week.
Overall, I must say that I was simply blown away by the amazing showmanship that the performers demonstrated. To be honest, I felt that some of them just phoned the performances in… but overall I must say I was very impressed. If I have one regret, it was that I didn’t get to watch the performances on Friday and Saturday nights, because every night had different performers!
If anything was going to get me back into salsa and bachata, I must say this festival is the key! It was a pity I was not able to attend the full three days of this spectacular festival.
If you want to get in on the action, don’t miss the great discount offered by the organisers for next year’s festival! The World Bachata Festival 2016 will be held from 18th to 20th November, and a full pass that gives you access to all workshops, performance and parties will only cost RM200! It is VERY WORTH IT as this year’s full pass cost RM300.
For more information please visit www.worldbachatafestival.com.
Also, read Geozo’s blogpost about the first day of the World Bachata Festival here!