Do you want to learn how to dance Merengue?
The Merengue is a sensual Latin dance with a history dating back to the African slaves of the nineteenth century.
It is fair to say that Merengue doesn’t have as much as a following of other Latin dances for a very outdated reason.
Even though it is now considered a popular social dance in the Caribbean, for a long time it had a stigma attached to it.
The African-inspired drumbeat of the Merengue music meant it was viewed as improper.
How to Dance Merengue
With risqué lyrics, Merengue only became popular due to the west becoming more secular with its ideals.
It became the official dance of the Dominican Republic, but why did it beat Bachata to become the official dance?
History of Merengue
Of the two popular stories as to how Merengue began, the most popular is rooted in the history of slavery.
Allegedly, the dance originated with the leg dragging due to slaves being in chains as they cut sugar to the beat of drums.
Another story about the origins of the dance is that a great hero of a Dominican Republic revolution had been wounded in the leg.
During celebrations, his dancing involved a dragging leg, which other citizens decided to imitate out of sympathy.
Merengue is in fact named after the sweet dessert food due to the light and frothy character of the dance and its short and precise rhythms.
In Haiti, it’s also known as Mereng, where it’s also considered a staple in its culture and history.
Many Dominicans never cite the aforementioned stories as the origin of Merengue but from a program shown on TV known as “SANTO DOMINGO INVITA”.
It’s most likely true that many Dominicans were exposed to the dance through this well-known TV show, but the origins date back further than many Dominicans realize.
Merengue is basically a combination of two dances; an African tribal dance and the French Minuet, from the late 1700’s – early 1800’s.
The African slaves were influenced by the aristocratic dances they were exposed to whilst working on plantations and imitated some of the moves performed by their masters.
They provided their own knowledge of dancing and performed what could be viewed as a more enjoyable and fun translation of high society dancing. Learn from this book to get the full story!
How to Dance The Merengue
The original Merengue was not danced by individual couples but was a circle dance, each man and woman faced each other and holding hands – at arm’s length.
They did not hold each other closely and the original movements of this dance were only the shaking of the shoulders and swift movement of the feet.
How to Dance The Merengue: Solo
March in place on every beat. If you’re following, start marching with your right foot.
If you’re leading, start marching with your left. For every count of the beat, march 1 step.
You don’t need to pick your feet up very high—about 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm) is all you need to march in place.
Bend both knees slightly as you pick your feet up. To give yourself a little bounce, keep your knees bent as you make each movement.
Try not to lock your knees up, or you might look stiff. The merengue is all about fluid, even motion. Keeping your knees bent will also help you keep your steps going in one fluid motion.
Shift your weight to the foot you’re stepping down on. For each step that you take, naturally, let your hip fall down in time with your feet as you shift your weight.
You don’t need an excessive hip shaking or gyrating—just that natural hip movement that takes place when you shift weight. Your hips may move slightly up and down as you sway back and forth.
This motion will come naturally to you as you practice the movements more.
Listen to merengue music to feel the rhythm. Merengue music is all in 4/4 time, so it’s easy to apply to almost any song.
Fernando Villalona, Juan Luis Guerra, Eddy Herrera, and Toño Rosario are all artists with great merengue music you can listen to and practice with.
You can also find merengue mixes on YouTube with hours and hours of songs playing continuously.
How to Dance The Merengue: With Partner
Face your partner and stand about 3 inches (7.6 cm) apart. The merengue is a pretty intimate dance, so you’ll want to start out with someone you know pretty well.
Start by facing each other and then move in closer so there isn’t much distance between the two of you.
Put your hand on your partner’s shoulder blade. Lift both of your arms up to about shoulder-height.
If you’re the leader, put your right hand on your partner’s left shoulder blade, and if you’re the follower, put your left hand on your partner’s right shoulder blade.
Grab your partner’s freehand with your other hand. Now, put your free arm up in an L shape at about shoulder-height.
Grasp your partner’s free hand in yours for a secure hold.
If you’re the leading partner, you’ll raise your left hand. If you’re the follower, you’ll raise your right hand.
Travel across the floor in a circle. With this basic marching step, start moving back and forth, left and right.
If you’re the leading partner, rotate slowly in a 360-degree turn.
Take a full 8 beats to do the turn, and try not to rush your movements.
If you’re feeling groovy, take 16 counts to do the turn instead of 8.
Famous Merengue Songs
After you’ve mastered your Merengue steps, familiarize yourself with the world-famous Merengue songs?
See these world-famous Merengue songs below
- Abusadora – Oro Solido
- Esa Muchacha – Los Hermanos Rosario
- Bailar – Deorro ft. Elvis Crespo
- La Bilirrubina – Juan Luis Guerra
- You Burned Me – Chino and Nacho
- Es Mentiroso – Elga Tañón
You shouldn’t have any trouble impressing your friends and family with these Merengue rhythms.
How to Dance Merengue
The Merengue is one of the most popular Latin dances that most westerners aren’t aware of. It has links with the Bolero, as many Latin dances do, but this dance has a more African beat.
In actual fact, Merengue is probably the most fun dance to try out if you’re willing to give it a go.
It may be difficult to find lessons or tutors where you live, but if you have access to one, or thinking of traveling to the Dominican Republic you should definitely give it your all!
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