Merengue Defined


Date added to ADN: Tue, February 21, 2012
Originally Published: Sun, January 01, 2012
by The AccessDance Network (About the Author)

The national dance of Dominican Republic in the Caribbean region, merengue is a dance style derived from Latin American music. It is a combination of two dances, the African and the French Minuet.

HISTORY
Merengue has a very interesting history. There are two legends of how this dance came about. The first story tells of chained slaves who were forced to tug one leg. The other story shares of a hero whose leg was injured during a revolution in the Dominican Republic. It was said that he was welcomed by the villagers with a celebration, and everyone danced limping and dragging one foot to show sympathy to the wounded hero. The merengue became very popular in the country by the mid-nineteenth century. It was used on every dancing festivity and its popularity spread across South America and the Caribbean, becoming one of the standard dances of Latin America. This dance originated from a blend of two dances in the 1800s, the African and the French Minuet. The slaves mimicked the steps of their masters but found it boring so they added an animated step, which was a slight hop danced to the beat of the drum. Originally, it was a circle dance with the men and women facing and holding each other's hands, at arm's length. The dance was characterized by the shoulders shaking and fancy footwork, with no emphasized hip movement.

DANCE STEPS
In performing the merengue, the male dancer must hold his partner's waist with his right hand and the other hand at her eye level. This dance consists of three basic movements combined: the side basic movement, forward basic movement and back basic movement. Merengue, being written in 4/4 time, the dancers move on very beat. Every move is comprised of eight steps. This dance is distinguished by its Cuban motion (side to side motion), its marching rhythms, and "dragged legs" on the first and fifth count. Couples who dance merengue take small steps enabling them to circle each other and move freely around the dance floor.

TYPE OF MUSIC
Musical instruments like saxophone, tambora drum, box bass and accordion were traditionally played to accompany merengue. Eventually, larger orchestras were developed to play the music bigger dancehalls. Today, the use of hi-tech electronic instruments was promoted to adapt to the changing times. They also emphasized on playing the saxophone, giving merengue music more of a big band style. Tempos in dancing merengue vary but the rhythm of "1-2-3-4" beat remains. Usually, the tempo in merengue music becomes fast-paced at the latter part because this is what Dominicans enjoy.

If you're looking for a dance that is truly fun and exciting, routines that encourage and enhance creativity…you'll find it in merengue. It's not just a dance that is so much fun; it definitely is easy to learn.


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