Reggaeton- a Dummy’s Handbook!


Walk into any bar or club in Mexico and you’re guaranteed to experience reggaeton. It can be quite a shock to begin with, but don’t worry, we have a couple of Mexican professionals to shed the light on the secrets of mastering the art of reggaeton…

You may find yourself going loco, doing the ones and twos to the usual commercial EDM hits when – BOOM! Suddenly, the whole night takes an unexpected turn. A deep, thumping and relentless baseline curiously turns the dance floor into a hot and steamy pit of pure, unadulterated filth. If you are unaware of reggaeton, then such a situation can lead to a very awkward and uncomfortable experience!

Raggaeton is definitely the mainstream club music of choice in Mexico. In the UK, however, it is still seen as a novelty, a sound that oozes exoticism, from a land far away. Perhaps it hasn’t taken off quite as much here because us British are rather conservative when it comes to expressing ourselves and we tend to be too concerned about our image, holding back in order to blend in, and avoiding offence.

Macumba La Casa De La Salsa y Ritmos Latinos
Macumba La Casa De La Salsa y Ritmos Latinos, Cancun

My first, true experience of the reggaeton dance was in a club in Barcelona. The euro-trashy beat switched and, without warning, I was transported to unfamiliar territory. The Spanish love a bit of reggaeton and they most certainly know how to dance to it – unlike me, who clearly hadn’t received the dummy’s guide to reggaeton, as I foolishly attempted to mimic those around me.

At first sight, reggaeton is pure sex. Let’s not beat around the bush, to pardon the pun; but when that unmistakable bassline starts pumping, the whole room, unashamedly, gets down and dirty; dry humping and twerking like there’s no tomorrow.

In order to avoid embarrassment, like me thrusting the air in Barcelona, I’ve asked two professionals, two real McCoy Mexican reggaeton gurus, to help explain this frisky craze.

Firstly, the most important aspect is the music, more specifically, the central, unmistakably reggaeton baseline. It is known as the the ‘dembow riddim’, first created by Jamaican dancehall producers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The aggressive snares and underlining bass drum, set to a 94 bpm rhythm, is the perfect recipe that sends the heart racing, sweat going and blood flowing.

On a night out, the top three songs – as suggested by my Mexican amigos – are:

Trying to describe the groove of such music is quite difficult. Dancing to reggaeton can be intimidating and particularly uncomfortable if you don’t enjoy getting close and personal with someone else. Our reggaeton gurus have attempted to put into words some top tips when dancing to this feisty beat.

Firstly, they suggest you allow the beat to flow down into your body. Take away your egotistical consciousness that’s constantly worried about your image and just let the beat take you. Music and dance stem from spiritual rituals, where people would congregate together and let their bodies be free, hysterically moving in such a way that follows a tune. Reggaeton is exactly the same.

 “Feel the music and let everything go” “Shake your butt, hips, shoulders, chest, head, clap and click”

Myself and my amazing Mexican friend and Reggaeton guru.
Myself and my amazing Mexican friend and Reggaeton guru.

Of course, not all at the same time! There is a particular rhythm that you should naturally follow. When they say “shake your butt”, they really do mean to twerk twerk twerk! Whether against a physical object* or an invisible one, you work your way up and down, gyrating the hips and popping your hips and butt at various speeds!

As an observer, you can’t help but to notice the high levels of pure sexual enjoyment of such dancing, on the faces of everyone involved.

“Sex with your clothes on”

“The man touches key body parts while the woman seductively shakes and bops”

It may sound very seedy, especially with the choice of words, but being part of a reggaeton night is utterly amazing and very eye opening! Personally, I love it and I am always fascinated by the huge array of diverse moves on offer. Sure, it can become a little too vigorous at times, and maybe after a couple of hours you begin to find the beat annoying. However, reggaeton is infectious and it’s extremely difficult to prevent the beat from taking over.

Reggaeton will most definitely rid anyone of dancing like a robot. Just be careful of who may be watching…

“I would never disrespect my parents by allowing them to watch me twerking against a man to reggaeton”!

*Indeed, the object often is another person. I am assured, by students, that the woman has the power when dancing. The man follows, very intimately, the woman’s tempo and moves with her body.


BA Modern Languages student (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese), currently working and researching in Cancun, Mexico. I live to travel and there is nothing I love more than moving to a new country, immersing myself in the language and culture. I have lived in Spain, Italy and Mexico. I love writing about my personal experiences when travelling. I am also very interested in UK politics.

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