If you’re entering the world of bachata, and partner dancing more generally, for the first time, you might be wondering what the difference is between competitive and social dancing. They are both very popular forms of bachata but there are some key differences between the two.

YouTube video

Check out this video of Ataca and Sara having fun at a bachata social dance and you can see why it draws in so many people. They are also highly successful competitive dancers where the dancing is very different. Continue reading below to find out more.

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What is the difference between competitive and social dancing?

This write-up from Stanford Dance is a comprehensive look at the differences between competitive, social, and exhibition dancing in the world of ballroom, and many of the same principles can be applied to bachata.

The best way to see the difference between the two is to think of the varying purposes. The goal of social dancing is to have spontaneous fun with a wide variety of different partners in a social setting. As such, the footwork and technical aspects aren’t too involved or overly complicated.

In contrast, the goal of competitive dancing is to perform perfectly in front of a panel of judges. The routine is precisely choreographed and, to succeed, there needs to be a high level of technical performance.

This isn’t to say that competitive dancing is in any way better than social dancing. Some (not all) competitive dancers struggle with the lead-and-follow interactions that are necessary for social dancing, as well as the floor craft. Applying competitive techniques to a social dance can be a recipe for disaster as it doesn’t translate and it can prevent dance partners from having a good time.

On the other hand, there are fewer avenues for truly honing your skills in social dancing. If you are the sort of person who enjoys constant improvement and becoming the best that you can be, competitive dance training will allow you to push yourself as far as you can. It does require more time, however. You can expect to be training most days a week for years to get to the point where you can compete. Whereas you can pick up the basic skills that you need for social dancing in a matter of weeks, and you can get away with a weekly class.

Do I need to choose one or the other?

Some dancers, like Ataca and Sara, are both competitive and social dancers. So you don’t necessarily have to choose only one. Many people, however, find that their personality naturally favors one over the other, and that is absolutely fine!

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to share it with your friends. Also, as online education getting more and more common these days, we’ve decided to launch a new online schools section. Consider checking it out if you’d like to learn to dance from the comfort of your home. Such online classes offer a convenient way to learn from world class teachers at an affordable price.