THE DEATH OF DOMINICAN BACHATA?

In part 1 I talked about the possibility of the Dominican government banning the Bachata Sensual by means of a lawsuit. You can read that here. https://www.supersalsa.nl/2019/12/13/dominican-bachata-immaterial-cultural-heritage-vs-bachata-sensual/

And now: What interest do the Dominicans have in protecting the popular Dominican way of dancing Bachata? Is there more to this?

DEAD DANCE STYLES

I recently interviewed Francisco Vazquez, the inventor of LA Style Salsa on1. I did this as part of his promotion for the Holland Salsa Bachata Fest 2020. Francisco was totally lyrical about the ‘Curaçao Style Salsa’ that he discovered here in the Netherlands in the early ’00s. He explains that this way of salsa dancing is actually our ‘roots’. And that I shouldn’t forget that. See for yourself from 14.32 minutes:

Intervieuw with Francisco Vazquez promoting the Holland Salsa Bachata Fest 2020

But ‘Curaçao Stijl Salsa’ – what we here in the Netherlands also refer to as ‘Salsa Rechts Voor’ – is virtually extinct in 2019. Anyway, it is no longer the dominant salsa style here in the Netherlands. Not even on Curacao where it originated! After the introduction of the LA Style Salsa on1 and the New York Mambo on2 in the Netherlands (by Annetje Riel and Marlon Castillo from 1998) it went quickly downhill with the Curaçao Style Salsa.

Besides that you also had what I affectionately call ‘Zouk Salsa’. This dance style conceived by Claudio Gomes is actually an amalgamation of Cuban/Antillian Style Salsa with dance movements from the Brazilian Lambada and Zouk! See here the 1st Dutch salsa dance instruction video from Zouk Salsa!

Claudio Gomes and the Netherlands’ first Salsa Dance Instructional Video ‘Zouk Salsa’

The following video clip is a short summary of the 1st Open Salsa Dance Competition, held in Zandvoort (1995). In it you can see the various dominant salsa dance styles in the Netherlands: Curaçao Style Salsa and ‘Zouk Salsa’ by Claudio Gomes:

1st Dutch Open Salsa Dance Championships 1995

Besides that you also see a bit of Merengue Showdancing during that contest. Merengue show also slowly died out in the Netherlands in the 90’s. Euro Latinos D.C. – the first semi professional Afro Latin show team of the Netherlands – was one of the last groups to dance Merengue. See here a video with a long show with Salsa Rechts Voor and Merengue Showdansen by Euro Latinos D.C.:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioeZ9ZmN56I.

Why are these dance styles (almost) extinct?

Because most of us (me too!) were completely captured by the newly introduced (Western orientated) dance styles,
because we didn’t pass on the dance to the next generations, and
because these original dance styles were only a small part of the rainbow of dance styles that already existed such as folkloric dances and other Caribbean and Latin American dance forms.

But the Dominican Bachata has been immensely popular in the Dominican Republic and beyond for years. Her popularity continues to grow. So why should the world protect the Dominican Bachata?

UNITE IT WITH DESTRUCTION AS A BY-PRODUCT

In 1997, the 1st World Salsa Congress was held in San Juan Puerto Rico.

That’s when many salsa dancers from all over the world came together for the first time to learn and enjoy each other. One of the most important things the organization has done is to canonize the Puerto Rican style of Salsa dancing – and especially the variant that Eddie Torres recorded (New York Style Mambo on2). This is clearly said in the following video from 0.52 minutes.

1st World Salsa Congress Puerto Rico 1997

This standard was then blindly adopted by all those present. This new style ‘salsa dancing in lines’ was then spread in the countries of origin by these salsa pioneers. Others like the great promoter Albert Torres copied this successful formula of days long dance congresses and festivals with 1 or 2 salsa styles as a theme and applied it to most continents, countries and cities. This has been the beginning of the international Afro Latin dance industry. In the process of globalization of Afro Latin dance, some of the original dance styles were lost.

Have you ever heard of Israeli Style Salsa? Edie The Salsa Freak once told me of its existence during one of her dance workshops in the early ’00s. But I’ve never seen it myself. She explained that they danced on1, but that the followers never stepped backwards on the 1. Always forwards, so to their partners. I can’t find the dance anywhere online…

Since the other Bachata dance styles worldwide are growing faster than the original Dominican Bachata, it is not surprising that the Dominicans think that their dance style is increasingly being supplanted by what they see as an ‘abomination’. And on the other hand, the Dominican Republic also has much to fear from the undiminished popularity of Reggaeton among young people. Especially the woman-unfriendly lyrics and the very explicit way of dancing are attracting more and more young people. As a result, they lose more and more interest in the traditional bachata. The same development can be seen, for example, in Cuba, where the Son is increasingly becoming a dance for the elderly and for the tourist industry on the island. International artists and DJs continue to experiment with Bachata. The bachata remixes of Pop and R&B music are gaining market share. There are now even Bachata Remix parties! See here a list of DJ Tronky’s best bachata remix music:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0Ti70q7RUw&list=PLiRjI-m5pJYeSRNBpcWidMK42Fu_LU-ej.

Conclusion: Enough reasons to protect the Dominican way of bachata dancing!

In preparation of this article, some of my friends on Facebook and I had a nice discussion. I would like to thank them for their invaluable contributions: Nadia, Yaya, Remy, Mariska, Mechteld, Roy, Romy, Nucita, Valentino, Pascal, Patrick, Froukje, Robert, Robin, Angelique, Gerald and Gilbert: https://www.facebook.com/sederick.short/posts/10157600050933211?comment_id=10157617262418211&notif_id=1577475104314500&notif_t=feedback_reaction_generic.

In my last article of this series I will propose a nice solution which the lovers of the Dominican bachata will hopefully pick up and put into practice 🙂

Thank you in advance for your reactions to this article. Please feel free to join the discussion under the last link.

Y que viva la bachata!!!

Dominican Bachata Immaterial Cultural Heritage vs Bachata Sensual

On December 11, 2019, the bachata was officially registered in the annals of the UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Dominican Republic.

Congratulations to ALL fans of the Dominican bachata worldwide! 🙂

But what kind of legal consequences can the many promoters and dancers of Bachata Sensual expect to be heading their way right now?

Years of Discussions

There have been many discussions about bachata going on for years on end, raging across the international Afro Latin dance community. About what it is. But especially on how NOT to dance bachata. The manner in which Bachata Sensual dancers dance is often compared to – and labeled as – foreplay and/or ‘dry humping’ by the vast majority of Dominican Bachata lovers. One of my arguments has always been that the complainants have no leg to stand on, since the government of the Dominican Republic does not even care to defend their cultural heritage by making bachata an Immaterial Cultural Heritage at the UNESCO. Let alone suppress, or even prohibit Bachata Sensual.

The Prohibition of Bachata Sensual!?

But now that the Dominicans have succeeded in their mission …

Is it now possible for them to outlaw Bachata Sensual? And can those who use this name be officially sanctioned? Can the government of the Dominican Republic start a lawsuit against all other forms of bachata dance? Do the Dominicans now have a legal arsenal to protect their cultural heritage? The answer to all of these questions is ..

Complicated.

The dance “bachata” has been officially registered in the annals of the UNESCO like this:

“The bachata as a dance style is as passionate as the music to which it is danced to. The dance is based on a rhythm of eight measures. It is danced in couples, using sensual hip movements. The bachata as a dance is learned anywhere from childhood in a spontaneous manner, but the country (the Dominican Republic) also has more than a hundred schools, studies and academies which are committed to passing on the dance to the next generations. “

Considering this definition, you would conclude that dance styles having appropriated the name “bachata” – and not conforming to it’s innate characteristics – really should be banned. But is this true?

After MANY hours of  reading papers on the subject, I finally found the right answer in a file of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the UNESCO. It says:

“Just as it is the case with the list of the World heritage, there is also a part of an international UNESCO intangible heritage list: the International Representative List of Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The objective of this list is to show the enormous diversity of intangible heritage in the world. The intangible heritage does not have to stay the same, but it may take new forms in time. “

https://www.unesco.nl/nl/dossier/immaterieel-erfgoed

That last sentence is crucial to me when trying to understand its implications. Because the bachata music itself has not remained the same since its inception in 1961. First, there were many changes made to the bachata music on the Dominican Republic. And this process also continued from the ‘90s onward in the United States. The dance has also gone through the same process. So, a lawsuit against Korke and Judith – the inventors of Bachata Sensual – would not be successful on these grounds.

On these grounds, mind you…

Dirty Bachata Dancing!

But many Dominican bachata enthusiasts find Bachata Sensual to have an offensive character in comparison to the traditional way of dancing the bachata. Remember those ‘sensual hip movements’ in the definition? First of all, there has to be a mechanism for defining and/or to empirically determine which way of dancing can be considered ‘sensual’, and which one is ‘sexist’ or even ‘offensive’. This assessment is indeed very ironic for a dance – which at its humble beginnings – was also danced at the bars of many brothels …

But, let’s imagine that the Dominicans can determine empirically the way Bachata Sensual is danced to be offensive to their Immaterial Cultural Heritage. What kind of legal steps can they then take?

WIPO

There is an interesting article on UNESDOC which might give the right answer to this question. It was written by Wend Wendland. He’s a lawyer, with a Master of Laws (LL.M) degree in intellectual property law. Wend practiced as an intellectual property and media law attorney, and is now head of the Traditional Creativity and Cultural Expressions Section, Traditional Knowledge Division, of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, Switzerland.

You can read the article yourself from page 97 to page 106: 

https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000135863

WIPO works closely with UNESCO with it’s goal to enforce legal protection of the intangible world. As for my question, this segment is very interesting. It’s on page 100. The WIPO focuses among others engaged in:

“[…] prevention of insulting, derogatory and/or culturally and spiritually offensive uses;”

Conclusion

My conclusion after analyzing all options is that it can be hard for the Dominican bachata enthusiasts to legally eradicate Bachata Sensual… 

But it can be done!

My question is: Do we WANT to do this tho?

I will write the answer to this question in my next article. Tomorrow I’ll leave to Den Helder in order to dance the ‘Ataca y La Alemana Bachata Challenge’ together with Amanda and the students of salsa school Happy Salsa 🙂

What’s your opinion about this article? Let me know in the comment section! 🙂

P.S. 

“Nurturing non-material cultural heritage is indispensable for preserving continuity and development of a society, the maintenance of dialogue between the present and the past and for drawing conclusions with a view of the future.” – Ph.Dr. Samanta Kowalska