They’re basically at opposite ends of the spectrum as far as I see it. Dominican is the original dance (I make this claim lightly, because history is complicated, but it seems to be simpler than Salsa’s history), and very footwork-centric even in the partnerwork, Sensual is dominated by leading isolations, body waves, close sensual movements.
It’s an oversimplification, but the spectrum is something like:
┌── Moderna (Salsa influences) Dominican ──── Traditional ──┼── Bachatango (Tango influences) └── Sensual (Zouk influences)
Where I live (London), Dominican and Sensual seem to be emerging as the dominant forms, which kind of makes sense because it’s more-or-less completely separated from the Salsa scene now. My personal preferences is for somewhere between Moderna and Sensual, i.e. turn patterns with some sensual movements.
Bachata dominicana is the first one. The traditional one from Dominican republic, there is a lot of footwork. The music is typical.
Sensual Bachata is more recent (20 years now) It started with Jorge Escalona alias Korke (from Korke y Judith) in Spain. That’s why it’s very popular in Europe. A lot of body waves, isolations, smoothless in the movement.
Personally I prefer sensual bachata but I like both. In most of the songs, you have parts for sensual movements and for Dominican footwork.
Futhermore, you have other styles like : Bachata Moderna (with more turn patterns influenced by salsa) Recently, fusion style which mix different styles together like hip hop influence for example.
So, I think that’s good to know how to dance both and experiment other styles to be able to dance on every kind of songs 😉
Dominican is a lot more footwork based. Sensual uses body isolations a lot more and Dominican doesn’t use it anywhere near as much.
Popularity wise, it depends where you are. In my city, sensual is extremely popular whereas there aren’t even Dominican bachata classes available.
I like Dominican a lot more. I think it’s more fun and I enjoy traditional bachata music more than any remix that’s used for sensual
I like how everybody else said things on point 😀
The only think I would add is that, in simple terms it’s also about the music.
Dominican Bachata music has a loooooot of flavor. It’s really hard (a lot of syncopation, rhythm changes although in the D.R. they don’t care about this and just dance which is awesome, instrument focus, etc…)
“Sensual” Bachata music (right now everything else that isn’t “dominican/traditional” is considered Sensual/Fusion) begins to be boooooring because of all the main stream remixes which cut a lot of that flavor.
When you take a raggaeton which is really basic in it’s musical form (music theory) and just slap on it a bongo, guira and maybe some guitars…. it looses a lot of flavor.
I love Fusion Bachata (I called it Fusion because I am not a purist, and I went from hip-hop styles to ballroom and then decided on Bachata and Salsa) because I can do whatever I want. I can incorporate a lot of footwork if I want, I can do isolations, waves, hell… I can even add a flip if I want 😀 (just kidding… don’t do flips in social).
Dominican Bachata is hard to dance at socials because 90% of the people don’t know how to dance it and only do some footwork patterns. And dominican bachata is not about only footwork… It’s about the flavor, the hips, the musicality, the connection etc.
What you see on youtube about Sensual Bachata, those hot looks, sexy moves etc… it’s 90% of the time fake. Being an artist myself (look up our youtube channel www.youtube.com/mariuselenaofficial where we have over 200 free lessons, or just google Marius&Elena Bachata) I can say that today’s dance industry requires everybody to act like the are in love and do the nasty all day long… hahaha .
That’s just marketing, and 90% of the time is fake. But that’s what it sells. If you strip Sensual Bachata of it “hotness” an just actually do the move without that fake “perfect relationship” you will see a lot of “awesome dancers” being “intermediate dancers”. BUT people love it so … everybody does it.
Instead, in dominican bachata you can actually dance without being in “a perfect relationship” and you can see in 3 seconds if somebody is faking their level.
The marketing nowadays focuses on selling so… you get the idea.
In short :
The difference is what everybody said (and also take into consideration the music).
More popular? “Fusion” Bachata because of the on going marketing of that “sexy/hot/perfect life”
Which one I like? I like more the “Fusion” because I can add something from all the dance styles I know 😀
Hope this helps.
Hugs and Kisses to everybody 😀