For Dutch version click: Carlos Cinta interview Nederlands
El Unico Bachatero, better known as Carlos Cinta, might be the most famous Bachatero in the world. Carlos grew up in Chicago en began teaching in his grandparent’s basement. He came up with the craziest, most spectaculair moves and became more and more popular in Bachata land. Nowadays he still travels the globe, but his goal has changed. He no longer focuses on the spectaculair moves, but on the musicality, the simplicity and the feeling of the authentic Bachata. Bachata NL ran into Carlos Cinta at the Bachata Beach Festival in Zandvoort and asked him for an interview. The answer: Oh yes, I love questions!
And not only does he love questions, he loves giving looooooong answers to them. But don’t feel discouraged, just read whatever you find the most interesting. Enjoy!
I’ve read that your first experience with Bachata was not very pleasant. How come?
In the beginning, I didn’t like bachata too much because I thought the music was annoying. The requinto, (lead guitar), had a very twangy sound and my ears didn’t like it hahaha…. I grew up listening to R&B, hip-hip, rock, easy listening, smooth jazz, etc…. so the high pitch twangy guitar was very different and unpleasant at first.
Bachateros.com writes that you initially got enthusiastic about Bachata because you wanted to dance with a certain talented Bachatera. Would you like to share who this girl is and what attracted you in her dance?
In 2003, i met a lady through a friend, we ended up dating and she enjoyed dancing. At the time, I thought dancing was “only for girls” so when we would go out to the latin clubs, she would be on the dance floor dancing all night and I would be sitting on the couches by myself. I didn’t really care to see her dancing all night with every man in the club and only coming to talk to me when she was tired so I decided that I either need to learn how to dance so I can enjoy the experience WITH her, or she was going to drive me nuts hahaha.
She was a very good dancer and she danced every style of music. The only thing I could do was merengue. So I started taking classes with out her knowing so I could surprise her when I felt comfortable enough to go on the dance floor. What ended up happening is I actually started to enjoy the dance and music and parties etc because i could actually participate instead of just sitting there looking stupid .
If I’m correct, you’re mother is Mexican and your father is from Ghana. Has dance always been a big part of your life? Do you maybe have siblings and are they interested in dance as well?
Correct. My mother is Mexican and my dad is from Ghana. I didn’t start dancing until 2003. I grew up playing sports. That was and is still my passion. I have always been addicted to music… but dancing was never something that interested me. My dad is a musician so I guess it’s in my blood. From what my mother tells me, my grandfather was a great dancer in his prime hahah. But he is the only other person i know in the family that dances. But we all love music.
You are known for teaching your Musicality Classes. Why is it so important to you that people completely understand the music? Do you think it makes them better dancers?
Yes, 100%, without a doubt, I truly believe that when you understand what is happening with the music it will not only improve your dancing, but also increase the feeling and connection you have with every song. My philosophy is this… when you dance; YOU ARE DANCING TO THE MUSIC! In Bachata and many other kinds of dance, the moves are connected to the timing of the music, the playfulness is connected to the feeling, the feeling is connected to the instruments/rhythm of the song. I have a deeper appreciation for the music and dance ONLY because i understand what each instrument is doing…
I understand when the transitions are going to happen because I understand the structure of the music. Bachata music is very structured. Not every song is the same, but there is a basic “format/template” that a lot of the songs follow. If you pay attention, the music will tell you want its going to do BEFORE it does it. If you want to dance “musically”, you have to know what the MUSIC is doing. Once you become familiar with the instruments and the structure and transitions, you will start to become aware of more sounds, more rhythms, etc. and this will create an even deeper connection with the songs. With this increased feeling, your body will start to do things that you had no idea were possible hahahaha….. and it was all because the music made you do it.
Imagine dancing to a song you don’t like. There is no musical connection, only steps. NO emotion, NO passion, ONLY steps. Your body language will show exactly how you feel in that moment. Now imagine the opposite scenario. A song you love, lots of breaks, lots of changes in instruments and rhythms. You love that song, so when you dance…. it shows. You are doing the same moves, same steps, but now with attitude, with flavor, with feeling… and it was all based on the song. Well that song is made up of many individual instrumental layers. Again, it all goes back to the music. Less thinking and MORE feeling. Try to count less and actually FEEL what the instruments are doing. The dance will be more enjoyable. You could do the basic step the majority of the song, but still have a great time because you and your partner are on the same page with each other and the music.
What is according to you the right way to ask a woman to dance? Do you appreciate it when women ask you (or men in general) to dance or do you prefer asking yourself? What makes you ask a certain girl when you’re at a party with mostly strangers?
I think the right ay to ask a woman to dance is to extend your hand out, WITHOUT TOUCHING THE LADY, looking at her, smiling, and asking her if she would like to dance. If you don’t know the person, you don’t want to make the lady feel threatened or nervous.
I love when people ask me to dance. The strange thing is…. I’m shy hahahah…. I get nervous to ask women to dance. I think in this day and age now, women can ask men to dance also. It happens all the time in europe. For some reason in america, many women don’t do it because they feel the man should do everything. I don’t agree with this thinking. If you want something, go get it. If a woman asks me to dance, that doesn’t mean she wants to take me home and marry me…. it just means she wants to dance.
What makes me ask a lady is the way she moves… I enjoy watching people dance, and when I see someone that is just enjoying the music and dancing as if nobody is watching… that attracts me to want to dance with her because it means I don’t have to worry about “doing fancy tricks” just because I’m a teacher. I can just dance nice and basic and have fun.
Many dancers in the Netherlands have followed several Salsa courses, but feel that there’s no need to take Bachata lessons or workshops, since ‘everyone can dance Bachata’. How is your opinion on this statement?
Just because someone dances salsa DOES NOT mean they can DANCE Bachata. anybody can DO Bachata: 3 steps , tap, 3 steps , tap. easy, no problem. But there is so much more to truly understand how to DANCE Bachata. It’s like me saying Salsa is easy. 1.2.3-5.6.7, how hard can it be? I think we all know that its much more complex than that. Here’s another thing… just because a person dances modern Bachata does not mean that they can dance Dominican/traditional Bachata. They are two complete different dances. The timing is the same, but the feel, the flow, themovement is VERY VERY DIFFERENT! Many modern dancers are used to only going left-right and in circles. The traditional way to dance almost never goes left to right in a straight lateral line. The shapes that are danced are very different, the connection is different, EVERYTHING is different. Even the “professionals” have a hard time transitioning. I know I did at first because it was very different from how I was accustomed to dancing. I can go on and on about this topic because this one is a common misconception that I see all the time. But I think I will stop here because I will end up writing 5 pages on this hahahha.
You’ve taught all over the world and you’ve also given workshops in the Netherlands. What do you think of the Bachata scene in our country?
I LOVE BACHATA IN HOLLAND !!!!!!!!!!! A lot of the dancers just dance! There are so many caribbean people there and caribbean people love their music and dance! Also I think Holland is the country that most plays the more traditional sounding kind of Bachata. I think it’s accepted more because of all the caribbean people and thats what they are used to hearing (I don’t know this for fact, it’s just my opinion). The best party that I have EVER been to non festival related was in holland! It’s run by DJ Marlon from salsipuedes dance. From what I’m told , his Bachata parties are twice a month in Goirle. I loved the party because of the mix of people , the music was GREAT ! The people just went to have a good time. There were women asking men to dance, the floor was packed the whole time, and the people were just getting their groove on! No fancy tricks… no 1-man circus….. just dancing WITH their partners and not FOR their partners. It was awesome! AND THE MUSIC WAS GREAT ! (I know I already said that, but it needs to be said again hahaha). When I go out, I go for the music and not so much for the dance. I love to hear good, loud music !
How do you come up with your moves? Is it just while dancing at a party or do you get your inspiration from something else?
The moves I come up with happen at very random times. Sometimes I will be sitting at work and accidentally come up with something. Sometimes it will be from watching other people dance and I’ll get an idea. Sometimes I will wake up in the middle of the night and then a move will come into my head… I have no idea when or how they come hahahaha. That’s why I almost always have pen and paper with me just incase. If I don’t write it down I will forget it.
You say you got bored with people dancing only the basic step to Bachata songs and you came up with your own style. How come that when we see you dance at festivals or workshops, you dance very modest (no turns, no complicated patterns)?
My dancing has changed A LOT over the past 8 years. When I first started, all I did was the “modern/turn pattern” style. As time went on, I learned more and grew as a dancer. In 2009 I danced with a Puerto Rican lady at a Dominican club in San Diego called Club Caribe and thats when my Bachata world changed… She danced like a Caribbean “street dancer”. What I mean by that is she didn’t “learn” how to dance/learn how to dance in the studio; she “grew up” dancing in the house/street. When you compare “street” with “studio”, it is two very different worlds. Studio is more technical, they use numbers, structure. Street is less about counting and more about feeling and just having fun, less “technique” and more just going with the rhythm of the music.
Since I enjoyed dancing with her, I started paying attention to what she was doing. Then i noticed that at this club, since the majority of the dancers were east coast/caribbean people, A LOT of people danced like this. As time went on, I started hanging out with them, and I would watch how they danced to “their music” and then began to notice how the music was different than what I would usually hear in all the other night clubs. I truly believe that people don’t yet understand/appreciate ones culture until we are surrounded by it. Then you get a taste of the real thing and it becomes contagious. Also since I now have a deeper understanding of the culture of the Dominicans and their music, I try to be sensitive to their history and I try to keep the dance as rooted as possible because this is the type of Bachata I choose to represent. I’m not saying that any other way is “wrong”, I’m just saying this is what I choose to do.
What do you do when you aren’t dancing? How do you like to spend your free time?
How do I spend my free time? hahahahha. The people that know me already are laughing because they know i love to eat and take naps. If I’m not doing those things then I’m doing something with music (cutting songs, making playlists for class, looking for new music…). BUT…. my real passion is sports. Any time there is something that involves a ball, I want to play! It is what I grew up doing my whole life. Sports, sports and more sports. When I’m over seas or in foreign cities I have never been before, I like to sight see. But my favorite 3 things are to eat, take naps and play sports.
What is the weirdest thing that you have ever experienced or seen on the dance floor?
The wildest thing I’ve experienced on the dance floor would probably be watching guys IN A PACKED CLUB doing performance moves with their partners. Picking up the girls, making them do flips, tossing them around like toys. It’s one thing to do it in a performance…. but in a crowded night club… there’s no space for that. I would sometimes ask myself…. ‘was that a pair of women’s feet that just went flying by my face?”
More of the interview is yet to come! Find out why Carlos Cinta teaches without a partner, what his favorite songs are and more!