port of harlem magazine
Theo Hodge, Jr. M.D.
Bachata, Born in Africa, Developed in the DR, Rocking the Globe
Feb 10 – Feb 23, 2022

joshua banks
“Both are African,” confirmed Baltimore Salsa Dance Company’s Latin, African & Cultural Dance Institute’s CEO/Artistic Director Tabitha Hitchye at the DC Bachata Experience (DCBX) Live event. The event at the Easton Hotel was one of several that takes place around the world.

Though bachata and salsa are African is origin, bachata is often associated with the Dominican Republic, which shares and island with Haiti, whereas Salsa is associated with Cuba. “They both have the same counts,” added Hitchye, but bachata more often includes slower, horizontal movements while salsa moves are often faster, vertical movements.

When class started around 7p last Saturday, Hitchye reminded the dance leads, “Tell your partner what to do next,” by signaling with your arm movements what steps to take next. The lead, she says, can be male or female.

After about four hours of dance classes, the social or open dancing organized by DCBX was on until 3a with about 60 people representing diverse ethnicities and age groups. The organizers say pre-COVID participation was around 6,000 people, from all 50 states, and 36 countries.

Joshua Banks, who is a biostatistician in Philadelphia, says he attends conferences and socials around the globe. Aside from the DC event, the polygot has attended conferences in New Jersey and the Dominican Republic and socials in Mexico City and Puela, Mexico; Miami; New York City; and Marsaille and Paris, France.

Though Banks speaks English, Spanish, French, and Italian, he adds that speaking the language is not needed to have a good time since the dance rules generally are the same in each country. He plans to center vacations this year at festivals in Los Angeles and Italy. “Dancing in beautiful places, why not?” added Kat Aguilar-Smith, one half of the husband-wife organizing duo who is also known by her stage name Kat La Gata (cat the cat).

The events also draw an unusually friendly crowd. “Whether you come with another person or not, the norm is that people dance with other people,” says Kat’s husband, Lee Smith, Jr., also known as Lee el Gringuito (Lee, the little White boy). He attributes the inclusive atmosphere of bachata events on their being an “organized dance.”

Bachata originated in the beginning of the 20th century in rural Dominican Republic by African descendants, but now enjoyed by dancers around the world. “All Latin dance stems from Africa,” repeated Lee, who is now promoting this intangible African commodity around the globe.

“However, we are trying to create the next South by Southwest (SXSW) in DC,” continued Lee while offering taste tests of their latest bottled sauces. Their 14th annual DCBX is August 25-August 29 at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, DC, the nation’s capital.

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