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A Guide to Safe vs. Dangerous Bachata Moves

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I feel like there may be a misunderstanding, at least in my community, of what dance moves are regular versus what are advanced tricks. In other words, moves that are safe to do with everybody at a social dance party versus complicated and potentially dangerous moves that you should not try on everyone. To avoid injuries and make everyone have a good time, we should have a good understanding of this. I want to start with bachata since this is the dance where as a follower, I get my back and neck hurt most often.

Firstly, there can be many reasons for this misunderstanding. For example

  1. Leaders who have never tried follower’s role don’t understand how difficult some things can be.
  2. If followers don’t speak up when they feel uncomfortable in dance classes, leads will never know their struggles and vice versa.
  3. Leads may forget that followers who have had professional dance training since they were young or do regular fitness training on the side, will find tricks easier to do, hovever not every follower is like that.
  4. Sometimes instructors just want to teach their students something exciting and flashy, forgetting to mention the potential dangers.

To help you get an idea of what is dangerous and what is not, I put together two lists of bachata moves, one for safe moves and one for advanced tricks.

Let’s start with the safe dance moves. By safe I do not mean boring or easy, I mean you can do these moves with people you have not danced with before and whose skill level you don’t know yet.

Safe Bachata MovesNotes
Basic step (to the side, on the spot, forward and back, in box, changing places)
All Dominican footwork
Body isolations Some followers may not have the flexibility or body control for these moves, but it’s not exactly  hazardous. Still, be careful not to force it.
Side body waveSame as above.
Simple turns, half turns, 180° or 360° turns
“Madrid” step
Booty roll / hip rollThis may be uncomfortable if your follower doesn’t want to dance sensually, but has little injury risk.
Shadow position
Break forward
“Paséala” and walk around
Body wave (without cambré backwards)Body wave is safe, but adding a cambré backwards to come up is not, read the second list.
Elbows in
Fall forward
( … and more)

Next, let’s look at some examples of tricks aka advanced movements that require good physique, additional training etc. These tend to be moves from sensual bachata style.

Advanced Bachata Moves (Tricks)Potential Dangers
Dips/Cambrés (image)Dangerous because followers need to have strong core muscles to hold themselves so their lower back doesn’t get hurt. If followers don’t have a flexible upper back, there is added tension to the neck. Strong neck muscles also required because gravity is pulling the neck back. Dips definitely shouldn’t be done fast or like a whip!!
There is also a danger of hurting the lead’s back – followers should not throw themselves into a dip unless they’re 110% sure that this was actually lead.
Head movements (image)
These can be dangerous for the neck if not led and executed with correct technique, without prep or too fast. Followers need very good balance, strong neck muscles, flexible upper spine and more to execute them.
Small head roll where upper body is not included and head doesn’t go back is a safer one though.
Tilted turns (image)Followers need very good understanding of their body in space and excellent balance required for this move to not fall. Proper technique also needed from both followers and leaders.
Lean in (image)It can be dangerous if you don’t know how flexible the back of the follower is and you go too deep down. Follower unfortunately has very little control here to adjust how deep she wants to go, she’d have to abort the move completely to save her lower back. The smaller the better.
Multiple fast turns or spins on the spot.Not overly dangerous, but followers may lose balance and trip. Requires lots of energy and good core control, therefore not good to do when tired at the end of the night. Leaders should do a very good and clear prep.

These moves you could ideally lead to your dance friends about whom you know they don’t have any back/neck injuries, have good fitness level and like doing tricks on the dancefloor. Assuming that someone is fit for these moves is risky, e.g. being young and skinny doesn’t necessarily mean being fit. Followers can choose to only follow through with these moves with advanced leaders who give proper preparation and lead clearly.

If you want to dig deeper, I have an article here that goes a little bit more in depth with the technique for some of the beforementioned advanced tricks.

These lists are by no means exhaustive, but hopefully gave you an idea of what are safe vs risky dance moves. To make dancing bachata safer for all of us, leads can try to be more careful with their choice of moves and followers can get additional training to prevent injuries. If anyone would like to add something to the hazardous moves list, let me know in the comments!

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