Merengue dance originated in the Dominican Republic and is a very lively dance that can be picked up quite easily by beginners. This Merengue dancing style is a ‘4 beats-step dance’ and was created to be performed to the rhythm of the Merengue dance music. Merengue has gained popularity around the world, particularly in Latin American countries, and is now recognized as an important cultural heritage. It has also influenced other genres of music and dance, such as salsa and bachata.
In addition, Merengue dancing involves the performers starting off using a ‘closed’ position (i.e couple facing each other holding both hands), who then switch to an ‘open’ position (partners are standing apart, facing in the same direction holding one hand or not holding hands at all).
What is Merengue known for?
The Merengue is recognised as a component of the Dominican community’s national identity. It actively participates in many facets of people’s daily lives, including their education, social events, and even political campaigns. By presidential proclamation, National Merengue Day was established on November 26 in 2005, officially recognising the customary practice. Every year, festivals celebrating the merengue are held in Dominican Republic cities like Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata.
The Merengue draws people from various social classes, which aids in fostering respect and harmony among individuals, communities, and groups.
Furthermore, this dance is said to have evolved over the years into other forms such as the Modern Merengue and Merengue Tipico.
a. What is Merengue? Merengue Dance Origin and History:
Merengue originates from a historical fact stating that this dance form was developed by observing labourers working in the field in Dominican Republic. Furthermore, it so happened that these labourers were bound to each other by a chain which was then strapped to their ankles. It is these strapped ankles that then compelled the workers to walk by dragging along one leg. Thus, it was this “dragging of the leg” movement used by the slaves on the field that was then developed into a dance form which was called “Merengue”.
b. What kind of dance is merengue?
Merengue is a lively and upbeat dance that originated in the Dominican Republic. It involves a two-step movement and a hip swaying motion to a fast-paced tempo accompanied by instruments such as the tambora, guira, and accordion. Merengue is one of the most popular Latin dances worldwide and an integral part of Dominican culture and identity. It brings people together, evokes joy and celebration, and represents the spirit of the Dominican people.
c. The Costume Used in the Merengue Dance:
Since this dance style essentially involves both males and females the costume worn varies accordingly as follows:
1. For women:
The attire for female merengue dancers would include shirts that reveal the midriff, short skirts made from flowing fabric or a long pant possessing a slit that originates from the thigh area, and a pair of shoes.
2. For men:
The costume for male merengue dancers includes an open-collared type of shirt, dark slacks or jeans, and a pair of shoes.
d. Is Merengue fast or slow?
Merengue is a fast-paced dance style with a tempo of 120 to 160 beats per minute. The lively music and rhythmic movement make it a popular choice for social gatherings and celebrations. Despite its speed, merengue is easy to learn and enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels. Its energetic and lively nature has made it a popular dance style worldwide and a symbol of joy, celebration, and togetherness in Latin American culture.
e. Merengue Dancing Music:
The musical instruments used in the music produced for the dance style include an accordion, a bass guitar, guira, Dominican Tambora, piano, guitar, saxophone, trumpet, congas, trombone, and tuba. In addition, accompanying the vibrant music is a traditional Merengue song. Apparently, the first Merengue song for this dance style was written in 1844 and the lyrics are as follows:
Thomas huyó con la bandera
Thomas huyó de Talanquera
Si hubiera sido yo, no me habría huido,
Thomas huyó con la bandera
Which when translated into English literally means
Thomas fled with the flag
Thomas fled from Talanquera
If it had been me, I wouldn’t have fled,
Thomas fled with the flag
f. Training availability and Merengue Dance steps:
In terms of technique, this dance involves the use of a “closed position” in which the lead performer using the right hand holds the waist of the follower.
At the same time, the leader with the use of the left hand holds the right hand of the follower. Couples dance in circles while making flirtatious gestures as they move in opposite directions. In addition, this dance style also requires the performers to bend their knees slightly to the left and to the right which results in the hips moving towards the right and left as well.
It is a dance that is typically taught to students when they are young. Observation, participation, and imitation are the three main methods of passing on knowledge and skills about the practice. Furthermore, the above-mentioned intricate dance steps are carried out in complete harmony with the energetic beats of the music produced. If you are looking to learn how to Merengue dance, there are many training centres/schools available all around the globe, since this “vibrant” dance style like salsa has rapidly gained popularity over the years.