Salsa vs Bachata

Tom Clemens Battersea Spanish

Salsa vs Bachata


Salsa or bachata? Well we have been giving salsa classes at Battersea Spanish for a long time now and will soon be offering bachata classes. Both are hugely popular dances and, it’s important to remember, styles of music. They’re full of Latin rhythm but each is distinctive in style and origin. With the help of our resident salsa and bachata teacher Juan Carlos we’re going to look more closely at both dances.

So Juan Carlos where does salsa originate from?

“Ooofff that’s complicated…well, the origins of salsa music are not very precise, salsa as we know it is a mixture of many different sounds and rhythms from Africa, Spain, Cuba, Puerto Rico and a lot of other countries. People tend to say salsa is from Cuba or Puerto Rico and it can be true as the main salsa singers and salsa bands come from these two countries. But it really became popular during the mid-1970s in New York.”

Resident Salsa and Bachata teacher Juan Carlos – Photo: Kelly Lawlor

And how about the dance?

“When it comes to the dance, there are different salsa dance styles throughout the world. The most common styles are Cuban, New York and Colombian style.”

And why’s it called salsa?

“Well you know “salsa” in Spanish means sauce, like hot sauce, so some people say it’s because the dance is hot and spicy and makes you sweat! But other people say it’s because salsa music and dance is a mixture of different styles, just like a sauce is a mixture of different ingredients. And there’s loads of other theories too!”

Where does bachata originate from?

“That’s a much simpler question! Bachata basically originates from the Dominican Republic and came from the older genres of bolero and son which are both types of music and dances. Bachata is romantic and so is bolero.”

Bachata emerged in the Dominican Republic in the aftermath of the conservative Trujillo dictatorship. What is considered the first bachata song was recorded in 1961 by Jose Manuel Calderón, titled ‘Borracho de amor’ (Drunk from love).

“There were quite a lot of years when bachata wasn’t very popular among most people and it was kind of a taboo genre, it wasn’t until around the 90s that it became mainstream.”

Juan Carlos explains a step to his salsa class – Photo: Kelly Lawlor

How popular are they both?

“Well both dances and music genres are obviously very popular all over Latin America. Here in London you probably will know some salsa clubs where you can go to dance. I don’t think bachata is as well known yet. People commonly start out by learning salsa and later on realise that bachata is another very popular Latin rhythm. But you don’t need to have done salsa before to do bachata.”

Indeed, perhaps in non-Spanish speaking countries we aren’t as aware of salsa and bachata music. Salsa has its global superstars, for example Marc Anthony who is the top-selling tropical salsa artist of all time and has won two Grammys. Equally bachata has its own global superstar in Romeo Santos aka ‘The King of Bachata’. Santos has 3 #1 albums on Billboards Top Latin Albums and his song ‘Propuesta Indecente’ (Indecent Proposal) has over 1.3 billion views on YouTube. The recent performances of both in London demonstrates the genres growing popularity here. With Marc Anthony doing his first UK performance at the O2 Arena in 2016 and Romeo Santos performing in the UK for the first time just earlier this year at Wembley Arena.

Salsa superstar Marc Anthony and ‘King of Bachata’ Romeo Santos

What are the main differences and similarities between salsa and bachata?

“The differences between bachata and salsa are really big! If you’ve heard Latin music before you know the difference right away. If you haven’t, listen to the playlists I recommended you you’ll see what I’m talking about. The timing is the same in both dances, but salsa music tends to be faster y picante (spicy), bachata is slower and kind of suave (smooth), it’s a romantic dance. The basic steps for each of them are completely different. Unlike salsa, in bachata dance there are no turns, instead you bring your partner in close the whole time, so don’t blush hahaha.”

Juan Carlos has recommended two Spotify playlists for salsa and bachata novices which he’s sure will get your hips moving, Salsa Nation and Bachata Lovers.

Is one more difficult than the other?

“You know at first, beginners struggle a bit more when they are learning the basic bachata steps compared to salsa. But once you have mastered that part you will improve really quickly.”

A salsa class at Battersea Spanish in full swing – Photo: Kelly Lawlor

Can anyone do salsa or bachata dancing?

“Yeah of course! It’s a skill and anyone can learn any skill. You don’t need to be a ‘natural dancer’ and it is a great social activity. It’s fun so don’t worry if you struggle at first! When you start it requires practice and patience from the students part, once they feel confident on the dance floor, they start to let go and feel that they flow more naturally to the music. You just have to find your inner latin rhythm hahaha.”

Many novice dancers have taken salsa lessons with us at Battersea Spanish, moving right the way through from beginner level to advanced level. And we are excited to now be adding bachata lessons to our Latin Dance offering right in the heart of Battersea in south London! Come along to our Salsa and Bachata Taster Lesson on Monday 25th June at 19:30, you can book your place here.