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

Janet Jackson Made For Now Zouk and Salsa Dance!

A couple of days ago, the following clip appeared on my YouTube feed. Two of my favourite music artists of all time – Janet Jackson and Daddy Yankee –  performed together live at The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Their newest hit: ‘Made For Now’!

My first reaction after seeing this clip was: ‘No way this is happening! This is just TOO AWESOME to be true!’ But it IS true! As an eclectic afro latin dance instructor and entertainer from Dutch Caribbean descent, I myself was – and still am – in awe with the jaw dropping performance. My second thought: ‘Wakanda Forever! Not only the intro of the African percussionists, but the whole stage performance in that clip has a Black Panther movie feel to it. If you want to ‘get’ where I’m coming from, just read the (political) thoughts I had after seeing this now iconic Marvel superhero movie.

https://www.supersalsa.nl/2018/02/15/black-panther-movie-slavery-and-salsa/

I started dancing as a teenager in the 80’s on the island of Curacao, which is a Dutch colony nearby the island of Aruba. At that time, Janet Jackson’s music and dancing were not only very inspirational to us all, but especially the lyrics of her songs gave us the drive and the will to dance and live by Jackson’s standards. The following article in Dutch describes my first experience with dance competitions on the island, featuring Janet Jackson!

https://www.supersalsa.nl/2018/03/29/mijn-eerste-wedstrijd-danservaring/

The Official Clip and Sensual Zouk Dance

Having the song on repeat, I noticed some very familiar sounds. There was just something about the song that made me go like: ‘I recognise elements from some other songs and musical genres, but I can’t put my finger on them… yet’. It took me 3 days to figure it all out. First, the feel of the song reminds me a lot of Lionel Richie’s hit ‘All Night Long’. That goes for the 3 word soft sung chorus. The guitar play is from Senegalese music, well known from Paul Simon’s repertoire. The latin superstar from the Dominican Republic Juan Luis Guerra y su 440’s merengue song ‘A Pedir Su Mano’, which – coincidentally – starts and ends with African chanting, brought merengue from rural to classical and back to it’s African origins. And – like ‘Made for Now’ –  it also promotes racial and cultural diversity.

The poly-rhythm of ‘Made For Now’ has a distinctive Haitian/French Antillean zouk music at it’s very core. That’s why the best partnering dance which is perfect to include in this clip is the Brazilian zouk dance. It’s direct predecessor – the Brazilian lambada, is a combination of the ancient carimbo and the more modern forro dance, which was introduced in the 80’s as a new dance craze for the yearly carnival festivities in Bahia (Brazil). Lambada music was made internationally known when a group of clever businessmen from France went to Brazil, bought the rights of hundreds of songs and started the band Kaoma, which had a mega-hit with the song ‘Dansandu Lambada’ (1993).

The French-Antillean zouk music, which Brazilian dancers and instructors had chosen to replace the dying lambada with, started to gain worldwide popularity when artists such as Kevin Lyttle started to mix the sensual and slow zouk with R&B music, thus creating what we now call ‘Zouk Love’ music. Dance wise, the Brazilian born Claudio Gomes started to teach lambada dancing in Amsterdam (The Netherlands) in the early 90’s. After the lambada dance craze subsided, Claudio then proceeded to create a hybrid dance form by mixing the popular salsa dancing with lambada dance moves. I call this unique salsa dance style ‘zouk salsa’. Watch the following salsa dance instructional video of Claudio Gomes which was produced in the mid 90’s. From the 26.18 mark onward, he and his dance partner also demo the Brazilian zouk dance.

The Brazilians then chose the sweet French Caribbean zouk music to continue their dancing because they had lost their right to dance to their own music. It was forbidden for DJ’s to play it at the clubs. Nowadays, the partnering dance we call Brazilian zouk is one of the most versatile, adaptive and eclectic partnering dance styles there is. Zouk dancers dance on all kinds of music. From kizomba music, electronic beats, to reggaetón: if the dancers can dance to it, they will! Subsequently, there exists many sub genres of the zouk dance with contemporary zouk being one of the most popular dance styles in 2018.

Brazilian zouk is danced in Brazil (of course), The Netherlands, Australia, The U.K., Spain, U.S.A., Israel, Belgium, Zwitserland, Japan, Thailand, Germany, Poland, France, Portugal, and in Denmark. Claudio left to his beloved Brazil. Luckily for the Dutch, other great zouk teachers emerged such as Gert Faber and Remy Vermunt. One of Holland’s most prominent international zouk dance teachers is Pasty from Curacao. Check him out in this clip of a contemporary zouk dance together with Hilde from Norway! 🙂

The sensual Brazilian zouk dance is truly the hallmark of eclectic partnering dancing!

Daddy Yankee and Janet Jackson connected by Eclecticism and Reggaetón

Raymond Ayala, aka Daddy Yankee, “El Cangri” or “The Big Boss” has sold millions and received a staggering 105 (!) awards. The pioneering latin music artist created eclectic sounds which became extremely popular. Who doesn’t remember his reggaetón mega hit ‘Gasolina’ ? This song is credited with making reggaetón a worldwide phenomenon.

And Daddy Yankee’s 2018 hit ‘Dura’ is still dominating the (latin) music charts at this very moment. How eclectic is Daddy Yankee, you ask? Now, let’s see. For his album ‘Mundial’ (2010) he blended bachata, soca, vallenato, cumbia, dancehall, merengue with reggaetón, electronic music and hip hop! And Daddy Yankee never stopped searching for new musical horizons.  So, I think it’s not a question of ‘if’, but rather ‘when’ these two megastars would join forces. And the answer is..

NOW

Janet Jackson said in a recent interview that she grew up listening to many musical genres, including latin music. The grammy award winning artist told the example of her listening to reaggaetón music together with her bodyguard, which she has had for 22 years. Now, these two icons came together to deliver one of the most catchy songs of 2018.

You haven’t bought ‘Made For Now’ yet? Well, that’s the first thing you’ll have to do after reading this article. Put it on repeat. Ask every afro latin dance teacher you know to play this song at their salsa, kizomba or zouk dance classes. Ask every DJ to play ‘Made For Now’ at the parties. And keep it’s message of positivity & love deep within your heart.

I know I’ll be playing ‘Made For Now’ A LOT (!) at my salsa dance workshops. Will YOU?

If so, let me know how it went! 🙂

Peace and love.

 

 

Bruce Lee and Merengue Dance

What does Bruce Lee have to do with the boring merengue dance? Why has merengue caused a salsa recession in the 80’s? What kind of influence did merengue have on the evolution of bachata and salsa? And  what is this ‘merengue show dance’?

Let’s delve into the virtual rabbit hole and follow the merengue breadcrumbs, shall we?

Kung Fu Merengue Dancing

At the beginning of the 80’s, a merengue band called Los Kenton did something very unique at the time. The Kenton brothers mixed merengue dancing with Shaolin Kung Fu (martial arts) to create a new way to dance merengue on stage. Singing whilst dancing short merengue dance choreographies became a new dance rage called the ‘Kentomania’. As the Kentomania spread along the whole of Latin America, many bands felt compelled to follow their act.

There was another element which precipitated this success: the popularisation of the video recorder. Because of that, people could practice the dance steps they saw the bands display on television and practice them at home. This way they could dance together with their favourite artists when performing live. These small choreographs were consequently copied, put on sequences and then performed by teenagers in merengue show teams. And that’s how I started my Afro Latin dance career dancing in 1983/1984: With merengue show dancing on the beautiful island of Curacao!

Merengue caused the Salsa Recession!

Bands such as the pioneering Johnny Ventura, Fernandito Villalona, Wilfrido Vargaz, the New York Band and Juan Luis Guerra y su 440 were dominating the international Latin music charts. From Santo Domingo to New York city: merengue set the pace. This ‘merengue overflow’ had a bad side effect for Fania Records and other smaller salsa music labels: their sales dropped dramatically! Bachata musicians started to speed up their ‘musica del amargue’ and put merengue on their bachata albums in order for them to sell more records. At the end of the 80’s and at the beginning of the 90’s, salsa music got a new boost because from artists such as Marc Anthony, Issac Delgado and Eddie Santiago who took the main theme of the popular ‘telenovelas’ ( = televised soap opera’s) & popular ballads and remixed them into salsa versions. Thus, Salsa Romantica was born.

Example: Ilan Chester’s original version of ‘Palabras del Alma’ ( = Words from the Soul).

And now Marc Anthony’s salsa version:

So, what happened to Merengue Show dancing?

The music was first converted to Merengue Hip Hop by bands such as Proyecto Uno and Sandy y Papo. The popular reggaeton swallowed up merengue, and merengue continues to be a trans-formative force in (Dominican) bachata music. Elvis Crespo made house versions of popular merengue songs. Merengue has also been integrated in other mainstream Latin house music.

As for the dance: The merengue show dance died because of the following facts:

  1. The dance was never intended to be danced in show teams. This has mainly to do with the repetitive nature of the small choreographies.
  2. The merengue partnering has never been fully developed in the way salsa partnering has.
  3. The original salsa dance teachers were folkloric dancers. Modern merengue dancing was not a part of their folklore.
  4. Many of us – merengue show dancers – only use(d) merengue as a means to teach the budding salsero students basic partnering dance techniques and body movements.
  5. Merengue dancing has never been a part of the international (salsa) dance congresses or festivals. It’s only used sometimes as a warming up by international bachata dance artists such as Jorjet Alcocer.

Today, many merengue dance steps (or variations thereof) can be seen in Dominican bachata, in Zumba and in animation dance routines.

El Nergito Del Batey

I’m very glad I had the honour to start my dance career with merengue dancing. I also danced merengue in the first Dutch semi professional Afro Latin dance team Euro Latinos. 20 years ago (on October 30, 1997) I started teaching salsa. All of that was only possible because of merengue 🙂

On June 1st 2018, the ‘King of Merengue’ José Tamárez Mateo – better known as Joseito Mateo – passed away. I wrote this article to honour him and the music with which he gave a lot of joy to millions of ‘merengue afficionados’ just like yours truly.

Fun fact: Bruce Lee was also the 1958 Cha Cha Cha Dance Champion of Hong Kong. Maybe the Kenton brothers got their inspiration from this fact about their hero?

Que Viva El Merengue!