Origins of Merengue
The Merengue is the national dance of the Dominican Republic, That is the only fact that we have concerning its origin other that it was probably born in that country and/or Haiti, the neighboring island, There are many tales of its conception. Stories are told of a Dominican Republic soldier that was wounded in one leg and could only shuffle sideways with a pronounced limp. The others, not wishing to offend the hero, copied him out of sympathy. Another story tells of shackled slaves working in the sugar fields cutting down the cane. They had to take small side steps as they worked down the rows. However it came to be, this dance was very popular in the Dominican Republic in the mid 1800’s. It is not clear just when this dance was introduced into the U.S. but it has enjoyed limited but constant success for many years.
Danced in 2/4 timing the music has two clear even beats to the bar that are played in a Marching rhythm. However, different styles allow for a various number of beats within each part of the bar.
This dance is fun and is probably the easiest dance to learn. Its basic movement is made up of simple side steps that progress in a counter-clockwise direction around the floor. It can be danced with a strong Cuban motion, and in fact, can be a good beginning for students that are being introduced to this style of hip motion. Various turning movements and changes of rhythms can be used, but the Merengue continues to “March” around the floor. Merengue is characterized by its marching rhythms and Cuban motion.
Tempo: 55-60 or 29-32 measures per minute
Timing: 1234, 5678
Beat value: 1-1-1-1, 1-1-1-1
Tips to Dancing Merengue : There are three common mistakes to dancing the Merengue:
1-Shaking or twisting the hips. In order to achieve Cuban motion the hips should move up and down naturally as a result of the bending and straightening of the knees.
2-Tilting the upper body back and forth like an inverted pendulum. Instead the shoulders should remain level during the dance.
3-Not getting the hip action. As each knee bends, the same hip must be allowed to drop. You can’t dance correctly if you shuffle your feet. Instead, you must make complete weight changes with each step.