Salsa and bachata are two of the most popular partner dances that are danced today. Many clubs and socials play both salsa and bachata music at their events, which can be confusing to newcomers just getting started with Latin dancing.
However, the two dances are actually quite different.
See below for the ways in which salsa and bachata differ from each other and how you can easily tell the difference.
What Is The Difference Between Salsa And Bachata?
There are six main differences between salsa and bachata:
- Salsa dancing is typically much faster than bachata
- Salsa and bachata are danced to different types of music
- Salsa is usually danced in a forward-backward motion instead of side-to-side like bachata
- Salsa is generally danced further apart than bachata
- There are differences in the type of body movement
- Salsa is more energetic and bachata is more sensual
Salsa is known for its high speed and energetic dancing, and is usually danced to quicker tempo (usually in the 160-220 bpm range). Salsa dancing involves lots of quick turns and fast footwork:
Bachata on the other hand is known more for being slow and romantic, with lots of close holds and dips (typically in the 108 and 152 bpm range):
The one exception here is Dominican Bachata, which is danced at a much quicker tempo and involves lots of quick footwork:
Salsa and bachata are actually danced to two completely different types of music.
Salsa is danced to salsa music, which originates in Cuba and was popularized in New York. There are many differences between salsa and bachata music, the main one being speed.
There are also two distinct beats that set salsa music apart from bachata: the clave and tumbao. This video provides a good visual representation of both:
Bachata music on the other hand comes from the Dominican Republic and is a slower tempo than salsa. Remixing pop songs is also common in bachata music:
It can be hard to explain the differences between salsa and bachata music without getting too technical. The best way to learn to disitinguish between the two is to listen to lots of salsa and bachata songs.
Salsa is usually danced in a forward-backward motion along a line (known as “the slot”). Salsa dancers dance on the counts of 1-2-3 and 5-6-7, pausing on the 4 and 8.
The exception to this is Cuban style salsa and Colombian style salsa. See our article on the different styles of salsa dancing.
Bachata on the other hand is danced in a more circular fashion, with side-to-side steps. Bachata dancers step on the 1-2-3 and 5-6-7, similar to salsa, but do a distictive tap on the counts of 4 and 8.
Another way to distinguish between salsa and bachata is that salsa is usually danced further apart, with intricate turn patterns and spins.
Bachata on the other hand is generally danced much closer, with bachata dancers dancing hip-to-hip with lots of movement in the upper body.
5) Body Movement
Both salsa and bachata incorporate body movement, but the movements are quite different.
In salsa there is a lot of shoulder movement and shimmies, as well as a figure-four motion with the hips. More recently, salsa dancers have also started to incoporate movements from other styles of dance, such as Afro Cuban.
Bachata on the other hand incorporates a lot of side-to-side hip movement as well as upper body movement such as body rolls and dips.
Overall, salsa is known for being fast, energetic, playful and flitatious, whereas bachata has a reputation for being slow, sexy, and sensual.
The two dances have a completely different vibe, and many dancers prefer to dance one over the other.
Is Bachata Easier Than Salsa?
Bachata is typically considered easier to learn than salsa, because the music and dance is a lot slower. Salsa also requires more athleticism.
However, mastering bachata is no easy feat, and requires learning difficult body movement, connection, and the intricacies of bachata music.
Learning one dance can help with learning the other, so start with one and work on learning both. Most Latin dance events include both salsa and bachata dancing, so learning how to do both means you get to dance more dances!
I really liked your article!! both salsa and bachata are the sensual dance forms, make them unique in their own perfect way.