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Taking their first steps

Dancers learn some moves that have been popular in the Dominican Republic for about 50 years.

By Joyce Rudolph, July 23, 2008

The bachata, a sultry Latin dance performed to romantic music, is moving West, and local instructors hope to give it a little nudge with a new beginners class in Burbank.

Bodygroove dance company is adding beginning bachata classes to its course instruction because of its growing popularity at Los Angeles nightclubs, said Hollie Lee, owner of the dance school that already offers salsa, merengue and cha-cha.

“The steps are slower and easier than salsa, and the music is slower and very beautiful,” Lee said.

Lee invited two guest instructors Alejandro Rey and Sabrina Fair to demonstrate the steps to Lee’s class at the Garri Dance Studio on Monday evening.

Rey has been dancing the bachata for two years and teaches it at his Steps of Gold Dance Academy in Santa Fe Springs.

The dance originated in the Dominican Republic and has been more popular in New York, New Jersey and Florida, Rey said.

“I take the modern version and mix it with the original Dominican style,” he said.

“In the United States and Europe, the basic step is more technical, but in the Dominican Republic you listen to the music and you just dance to the guitar. If it goes fast, you dance fast. If it goes slow, you dance slow.”

Rey also incorporates jazzlike accents and hip-hop movements in his bachata dancing, he said.

“I’m trying my best to help it gain as much recognition here on the West Coast as it has on the East Coast,” he said.

Salsa has been more popular because there is a stronger Mexican influence in Los Angeles, but people are becoming curious about bachata, he said.

“It’s new, and it’s easier than salsa,” Rey said.

Bachata is a slower version of merengue, said Orlando Delgado, Bodygroove instructor who will be teaching two beginning bachata classes in August at Garri Dance Studio.

“Salsa is a lot more complex than bachata,” he said. “Bachata is much easier to learn and teach, and much more romantic to dance to.”

The bachata has been around about 50 years in the Dominican Republic, Delgado said.

“The bachata craze started about two years ago, and now it’s one of the most popular Latin dances being taught in the Untied States besides salsa.”

After taking classes, students test out what they’ve learned at Los Angeles nightclubs, such as the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, the Granada Night Club in Alhambra and Stevens Steak and Seafood House in Commerce, Delgado said.

Students taking Monday’s bachata class already had a few years of salsa instruction under their belt.

Anna Mazzucato of Burbank has been taking salsa classes with Bodygroove for about a year, she said.

“I just love the dance classes,” she said. “They’re fun, great exercise, and they totally lift your spirit. They make you happy.”

She plans to take another bachata class.

“It’s just as energetic as the salsa, and new moves are always fun to learn,” Mazzucato said.

Kendall Sor of Redondo Beach has seen Rey dance socially as well as on YouTube and likes his unique style, Sor said.

“The moves aren’t as complicated as salsa and salsa is more flashy, but bachata is more sensual,” he said.

George and Ruth Welch of Burbank started taking salsa instruction three years ago with Bodygroove.

They decided to try a two-hour bachata workshop about a month ago and liked it, Ruth Welch said.

At that workshop, they only learned the basic steps individually, but on Monday, they were dancing together.

“The dance steps are romantic, and we get to dance close together,” she said.


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