Step, Tap, Spin, and Unwedge: Welcome to Bachata Night

Students try their best to keep up with instructor Diana Garcia Rodriguez. PHOTO BY DOMINIQUE CADENAS-CALVO/SF FOGHORN

   How exciting does it sound to try a flare side step, or a bachata spin, or pretend to remove a wedgie in the form of dance? Last Thursday, Latinas Unidas and Latinx Undergrad Network of Activists (LUNA) brought in USF alumna Diana Garcia Rodriguez to share her knowledge of Bachata with students. Rodriguez is a member of In Lak’ech Dance Academy, a Latinx dance school based in Oakland that centers Queer dancers. 

Bachata, a popular Latin dance, focuses around a basic three step movement and hip motions. Most of the participants at the workshop, including myself, were new to bachata and danced out of their comfort zones. 

When I walked into the buzzing room, people were confidently stretching and looked as though they were gearing up for the first song. As I joined the stretching, I wondered what I was getting myself into, considering I had never taken a dance class before. 

Rodriguez started off by teaching us basic steps and how to shift our weights while dancing. I learned that tapping is a significant part of the bachata dance and realized I should’ve probably worn dance shoes instead of my Nikes. 

The room was brimming with participants and we often bumped into each other while dancing. Rodriguez walked around the room to help students in groups and had the people in the back switch to the front periodically, giving everyone an opportunity to see her moves and learn effectively. 

Students came with their friends for an evening of messing up and laughing together. Alizee Gamber, a fourth-year biology major, told me that she wanted to learn romantic dancing. “My favorite part of the workshop was when the instructor asked us for song requests and we did the routine that we learned to ‘La Bachata’ by Manuel Turizo,” she said. Eddie Chiambo, a second-year computer science major, said that he came because he likes Latin culture and wanted to learn something new. 

Rodriguez brings up participant Valeria Ramirez to demonstrate a move to the class. PHOTO BY DOMINIQUE CADENAS-CALVO/SF FOGHORN

Rodriguez taught a step she called the “wedgie” in which we pretended we had a wedgie and danced to get rid of it. Students laughed as they wiggled their hips to the music as they tried to unwedge their imaginary underwear to the beat. She also said that this step was important to remember for consensual purposes — you can wedgie your way out of a dance while keeping your distance from your dancing partner if you’re uncomfortable. 

My favorite step that I added to my repertoire was the super easy and fun bachata spin — it was the basic bachata steps but you spin fully in one direction and then reverse spin in the other.

Students were excited to practice their moves to music, throwing in some of their own song requests such as the song “Eres Mia” by Romeo Santos. Other budding bachata dancers like Arlette Nevarez, a first-year international business major, said that she felt “lovely and happy” after the workshop. 

Some complicated moves like the side step cross, a super fast cross of your feet in between beats, left some students grooving and others confused. Thankfully, Rodriguez let students record her moves so they could practice them later on their own. 

Participants were excited about the moves they learned and even stayed a few minutes after to practice while enjoying the concha and horchata refreshments. With recordings of Rodriguez’s steps and knowledge of the basic bachata steps and spins, my roommate and I practiced the difficult side step cross moves in our dorm room afterwards, and after a while we finally got the hang of it. 

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