This not an easy question to answer. It might be that dancing is an ancient cultural practice, a necessary accompaniment to a traditional occurrence such as a birth, wedding, coronation, or an invocation of some elemental boon like rain or a good harvest. Or, it might be to learn something new, a bucket list thing, a resolution for the new year that is finally faced. Or, yet again, it might be to acquire a new social skill needed to overcome some sort of perceived awkwardness—the “two left feet” scenario (a biological impossibility, but people are to be humoured).
Personally, at the Salsa Windhoek Social Club, we like the idea that dancing is “muscle bonding”—what the historian William H. McNeal boldly asserts as the reason for our survival: “We’re still here because we dance.”
In Keeping Together In Time: Dance And Drill In Human History, McNeal argues that “rhythmic input from muscles and voice, after gradually suffusing through the entire nervous system, may provoke echoes of the foetal condition when a major and perhaps principal external stimulus to the developing brain was the mother’s heartbeat.” This makes sense to us: that through dancing we experience something close to what we felt when we were in our mothers’ wombs. We can dig that.
The proof, as usual, is always in the pudding: look no further than the warm-up in a class with everyone finding their rhythm together, or the magic moment when everyone manages to execute a complex pattern in perfect synchronicity, or, better yet, with rueda de casino—a dance which automatically brings a smile to everyone’s face (the only thing more fun than getting all the calls right is getting them wrong).
Besides salsa and cha-cha, two popular staples of our dance floor, bachata—a simultaneously simple and sophisticated dance of romance and passion—adds two steps and a tap of melodic credibility to McNeall’s theories. Bachata music is easy to dance to, its rhythms can be found in numerous songs, and, once the fundamentals have been mastered, pairing up with another dancer or joining a party-ending line dance proves that one is committed to ensuring humanity’s survival. Those in the know, slyly acknowledge that bachata leads to many beginnings.
While that bit of innuendo is decoded, here are five bachata songs to get intimate to.
Solita — Prince Royce
From the Prince of Modern Bachata himself comes this offering: Solita, a lonely rhythm in need of ears, a small space to dance, and a partner.
Odio — Romeo Santos featuring Drake
Romeo Santos, another staple of the modern bachata scene, pairs with Drake, one of the most popular contemporary artists to produce this amalgam of bachata and rap. (If the sample feels familiar, it is because it borrows, quite sneakily, from Careless Whispers by George Michael).
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow — Leslie Grace
“There is a bachata cover of every song.”—Anonymous
Serious bachata dancers know this deep and ancient wisdom. While some covers and remixes are certain misses, this bachata version of Carole King’s Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? is definitely hits it on the money.
Darte Un Beso — Aventura
From its tropical ukulele intro, this offering from Aventura (Prince Royce’s ensemble) is a firm favourite at the studio and at parties. Endings or beginnings—really, it is us up to the individual to decide what they do with this catchy bachata tune.
Calma (Remix) — Pedro Capó and Farruko
Enjoying the current resurgence of Latin rhythms and fusions, Pedro Capo’s Calma, featuring the rapping talents of Farruko, is a mixture of numerous music ingredients: nostalgia, romance, and a tropical party vibe. It almost makes you book a flight to the nearest beach paradise. But because of ongoing lock-downs it offers four minutes of some of the best bachata dancing around.