History of Merengue

Since the 1930’s the Merengue has been recognized as the national dance of the Dominican Republic, and its island sharing neighbour Haiti. When browsing through the internet it was interesting to find as many different stories and folklore about the history of merengue as there were websites. There is no single “authoritative” version of merengue’s origins. However, here are two traditional adaptations of the origin of the Merengue.

One legend states that the dance originated with slaves who were chained together and were forced to drag one leg as they cut sugar to the beat of drums. The second story claims that a great hero was wounded in the leg during one of the many revolutions in the Dominican Republic. A party of villagers welcomed him home with a victory celebration and, out of sympathy, everyone dancing felt obliged to limp and drag one foot. Also it is possible the dance took its name from the confection made of sugar and egg whites because of the light and frothy character of the dance.

What is Merengue?

Merengue is danced on every dance floor in North American and in all Latin dance clubs. As well, it is a very popular dance throughout the Caribbean and is considered one of the standard Latin-American dances.

There is a lot of variety in Merengue music with tempos ranging from moderately slow to ridiculously fast. Merengue music is written in 4/4 time (4 beats to a bar of music) calling for four dance steps to a bar of music. In Merengue you move on every beat!

With its short precise steps, merengue is ideally suited to small, crowded dance floors, it is a dance that is easy to learn and fundamentally a “fun” dance. The basic step goes as follows: The Man waits to start with his weight on the right leg. On the first beat, count 1, the man steps to the side onto his left foot and changes weight onto it. On the next beat, count 2, he closes the right foot in with a weight change, returning to the starting position. The women’s steps are the natural opposite starting with her weight on the left and the transfer of weight to the right on count 1. There are three basic movements to the Merengue – the Side Basic Movement, the Forward Basic Movement and the Back Basic Movement.

Resources
  1. www.salsa-merengue.co.uk