Is Bachata a Sinful Dance?
As part of Theology of Dance I teach both salsa and bachata. So I believe both can be danced in a way that is consistent with Catholic morality.
Of course, it's easy to see why some one would think otherwise. If you go to pretty most any Latino dance club, much of the dancing is done in an immoral manner. The problem stems from Latino culture, especially the music. As part of the TOD ministry I put together song lists with lyrics that extol good relationship. When it comes to waltz or swing or country two step, it's pretty easy to find plenty of songs that are about faithful love. But when it comes to salsa and bachata it's very different. Most of the songs are about bad relationship, such as adultery or a spurned lover or the like. Dancing to such songs is immoral. Based on my research, I am guessing that maybe only 10% of Latin songs are about good relationship.
Some people worry about the dance being too sensual. But that's not really the issue. All ballroom dance should be sensual! Not as sensual as the love between a husband and wife, but certainly more sensual than the office. The issue is almost never that the dance is too sensual. Rather, it is because the dance is not spiritual. Dancing should make the soul sing. I use dance as a means to meditate on my relationship with God. As my guide I often use the teachings of St. John of the Cross, and I feel that the poetry of St. John of the Cross would best be expressed through Bachata.
Of course, dancers can cross boundaries while dancing, and Latino dancers often do cross these boundaries. Years ago I watched a my first hip catch during a lesson. The teacher led his follower into a turn and caught her with his hand on her side, just above her actual hip. With both facing forward they began to sway side to side. It gave the impression that her rear was touching his leg, but it actually had a small bit of separation. Plus they were swaying in the same direction. So even if it looked sensual, it felt no more sensual than any other dance connection. Yet there was an artistic sensuality that was palatable. In contrast, in Latin clubs it sometimes happens that the man and or woman are straddling the others leg grinding. This is crossing the boundaries that should not be crossed. This is denying the spiritual. The point of dance is not to physically stimulate our reproductive organs. It is to stimulate the romantic part of the brain and to connect our emotions to the true, the good, the beautiful.
So in practical terms, I suggest being very wary regarding Latin Clubs. They may be fine, but there is a chance that they are not! But if there are places that play bachata and salsa as part of a ballroom mix, then that would be a good place to go!