cultural differences

Out of my comfort zone: A dance called bachata

When we had one of our first proper conversations, David told me that his favorite things were skating, reading and dancing. These three are all very nice. The dance that he specifically liked was called bachata, and I had no idea what that was.

I’d never been really interested in Latino dances. I knew salsa and that was about it. I have danced for some years, but always as a super chill hobby, and mostly in the early teenage life. And apart from the Finnish “prom”, vanhojen tanssit, I haven’t really ever danced any couple dances, only solo. The dance that I’ve liked most has been West African. So, if I think of all the possible dances for me, Latino ones would have been last on the list.

Then David linked me some videos. That was horrible. “WHAT IS THIS SEX DANCE???”, I thought to myself. Watching them, my face turned completely red, and it was just very uncomfortable.

“Gosh, get a room!”, I thought and knew that I would never ever dance bachata in my entire life.

Of course, that’s not what happened.

For a while David was teaching bachata in a dance school in Maribor, but I never had the nerve to go to the class. Eventually he started teaching me the basic steps, and it was pretty okay. The bachata music all sounds the same, and as a no surprise I didn’t like it very much. The closest thing to Latino music I ever listened was Major Lazer.

For me bachata has caused a huge amount of all kinds of feelings. Should I do something that I’m not so interested in just because my partner loves it? How do I feel about him dancing with other women? How do I feel about dancing with people I don’t know?

To begin with, it’s already pretty difficult as a Finn to let anyone come as close to you as in bachata you need to.

“It’s just dance.” Yes, but also no. Especially if it’s a sensual one, I think there is always something going on underneath the surface. (Remember the scene in Pulp Fiction when they talk about giving foot massages?)

And then again, our instructors at the class are related, so that means that it doesn’t really need to be sexual in any way.

Here again is a huge cultural difference, already between North and South European, but maybe even more between European and South American. A difference of what dancing and physical closeness in general means. If I exaggerate, a Finn’s personal space is something like one meter minimum, and an Argentinian doesn’t even know what a “personal space” is.

For me it’s felt like bachata is like a language that I can’t speak. The biggest problem in the beginning was this huge feeling of inferiority when I compared myself to Latino ladies. Often it seems like dancing and being super sensual just comes so naturally to the majority of them, and there I am like a block of ice, trying to move my hips and failing miserably. I get this feeling and paralyze completely. But luckily this isn’t a huge problem anymore.

If you think about dancing in general, it’s quite scary! You really have to put yourself out there. Especially if you are a beginner, you have to be prepared to look silly and fail a lot until you get the grasp of it.

A situation like that is quite difficult to control, and for me it’s sometimes challenging.

And for me dancing has always been something that manifested strength and freedom, not caring about rules or aesthetics but just having fun. We’ve been always having these mini dance parties with Bea, where we just listen to super good music and dance like crazy around the living room. And suddenly dance was about being feminine and sensual and following rules. I didn’t know how to be – and I’m still in the process.

David just told me that for him bachata is about self expression and doing whatever he wants. I feel like I can’t be improvising yet because I don’t know the basics well enough, so that’s why it still feels so restricted for me.

But then came autumn, I was stuck in Vaasa and suddenly I felt it: I sort of missed dancing bachata. Might have been part of missing David. Anyhow I signed up for a solo mix course at the local dance school. There we practiced salsa, bachata and kizomba, but as it was a solo class it’s not quite the real deal. Still it was super nice and I was enjoying a lot. It started to feel lighter, I started to take myself less seriously.

Now we are attending a beginner course together, and everything is becoming increasingly easier.

Recently one problem has been letting someone else lead me. I think that as a Finnish woman it’s just coded somewhere really deep that I am independent and I will do my own decisions. So, being just there, led by someone else, letting someone else make all the decisions, doesn’t come very naturally to me. But I’m learning.

The road has been long and there are still tons of things yet for me to learn. At this point I am proud of myself and happy that I haven’t let my prejudices and fears stop me from trying.

What Bachata has really taught me is:

  • Let go. It isn’t so serious.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others.
  • Going out of the comfort zone might be painful but usually has good results.

– Tia

P.S. All my friends still call bachata seksitanssi, sex dance.


“Go outside your comfort zone” “Or don’t if it makes you feel anxious” As seen in Kuntsi art museum’s wall.

Fuera de mi zona de confort: Bailar bachata

Cuando tuvimos una de nuestras primeras conversaciones, David me contó que sus cosas favoritas eran patinar , leer y bailar. Tres cosas son muy lindas. El baile al que él se refería específicamente era bachata, y no tenía ni idea de que se trataba.

Nunca estuve realmente interesada en bailes latinos. Sabía de salsa y ya esta. He bailado por algunos años, pero siempre me lo tome con tranquilidad, y mas que nada cuando era adolescente. Y aparte del baile de fin de curso, no había bailado ningún otro baile de pareja, solo sola. El baile que mas me ha gustado es afro-dance. Entonces, si pienso en todos los bailes posibles para mi, baile latino sería la última opción de la lista.

David me paso algunos videos. Eran horribles ¿Qué es esto, baile sexual? pensé para mi misma. Mirándolos me puse totalmente colorada, me sentía incomoda.

“Vayan a un hotel”, Lo que pensaba y sabía que nunca podría bailar bachata en toda mi vida.

Por supuesto, eso no fue lo que paso.

Por un tiempo David estuvo enseñando bachata en una escuela de baile en Maribor, pero nunca fui capaz  de ir a las clases. Finalmente él me empezó a enseñar los pasos básicos, bastante bien hasta ahí. La música de bachata suena casi toda igual, y no es una sorpresa de que no me gustará mucho. Lo más cercano a música latina que alguna vez escuche fue Major Lazer.

Bachata ha causado un montón de distintos tipos de sentimientos ¿Debería hacer algo que no estoy interesada solo porque a mi pareja le encanta? ¿Cómo me sentiría si él bailara con otra mujer? ¿ Cómo me voy a sentir al bailar con gente que no conozco?

Para empezar, es difícil para un Finlandes dejar que alguien se acerque lo que bachata requiere.

“Solo es un baile” Si, pero no. Especialmente si es uno sensual, siempre creo que hay algo mas alla de lo visible.  (¿Saben de esa escena en Pulp Fiction relacionada con los masajes de pies?)

Pero por ejemplo, nuestros profes son hermano y hermana. Con esto me refiero a que el baile en si, no es necesariamente sexual.

Para mi se siente como si bachata fuera un lenguaje el cual no puedo hablar. El problema mas grande al principio era que me sentía inferior, me comparaba con las mujeres latinas. Es como si fuera  natural para ellas el bailar sensual, por eso, me  comparo y me siento como un kilo de madera tratando de mover mis caderas, fallando miserablemente. Viene ese sentimiento y me paraliza completamente. Por suerte ya no es un gran problema.

Si piensas en baile en general, esto te da un poco de miedito. Tienes que realmente ponerte las pilas en esto. Especialmente al principio, tienes que estar preparado para hacer el bobo y equivocarte mucho para conseguir la base.

Situaciones como esa son difíciles de controlar, y para mi es desafiante.

Llego el otoño, estaba estancada en Vaasa y de repente lo sentí: Era como si extrañara bailar bachata. Capaz era parte de extrañar a David. De alguna forma me apunte en baile latino sin pareja en la escuela local de baile. Practicábamos salsa, bachata y kizomba, pero era como si la clase no fuera gran cosa. Todavía era super divertido y disfrutaba mucho. Empezaba a sentirme mas liviana y considerarlo menos serio.

Ahora estamos yendo a una clase de principiantes y poco a poco todo va mejorando , hasta llegar a ser incluso fácil.

El último problema ha sido dejar que alguien mas me guíe. Creo que como una mujer finlandesa esta en nuestro código que bien profundamente somos independientes y haré todo con mis propias decisiones. Por ello, ser guiada por alguien mas, dejar que otra persona tome las decisiones  no viene de forma natural. Pero de todas formas estoy aprendiendo.

El camino ha sido largo y todavía hay un montón de cosas que aprender. En este punto me siento orgullosa y feliz de que no deje que los prejuicios y los miedo me pararan.

Lo que bachata realmente me enseño:

  • Déjate llevar. No es tan serio
  • No te compares con otros
  • Salir de tu zona de confort podría ser doloroso pero lleva a buenos resultados.

– Tia

PD: Mis amigas todavía le llaman baile sexual.

Las notas de la imagen dicen

“sal fuera  de tu zona de confort” “o no lo hagas si te hace sentir ansiedad”
Lo vimos en el muro del museo Kuntsi