Learning to dance can be daunting for a variety of reasons, but the old adage, “If you can walk, you can dance the Merengue,” really holds true and opens up the wonderful world of Latin dance to even the most uncoordinated of dancers. Not only is it easy to master, but this fun and exciting style can quickly make you look like a pro on the dance floor.
A little bit of history
Often considered the national dance of the Dominican Republic, the origins of the Merengue are not as clear cut. One story suggests that the style was created when a returning war veteran, General Maringie, danced awkwardly after his leg had been injured in battle during one of the country’s many revolutions. The villagers who threw a celebratory welcome home party, felt obliged to mimic his limp in sympathetic support for their hero.
The alternate history of the dance is that it grew out of the African slave communities of the Caribbean and that the distinctive footwork resembles the steps of people who were chained together and therefore forced to drag one leg as they cut sugar to the beat of drums. In fact, the original Merengue was not a couple’s dance, but was performed in a circle with everyone facing each other and holding hands at arm’s length.
Originating among the lower classes, the Merengue rocketed in popularity throughout society when it was adopted as a national dance. As the United States took over administration of custom’s house in 1905, the country reinforced its cultural identity through the exhilarating music and movement of the Merengue. It then swiftly spread through America like wildfire and remains just as popular today.
Whatever the truth of its roots, the good news is the Merengue is one of the easiest Latin dances to master, making it an ideal introduction for beginners. It’s a ‘spot dance’, which means you don’t travel all around the dance floor.
There are few turns, making it the perfect choice for crowded nightclubs. The basic Merengue step is a small side-to-side shuffle by both partners in a closed hold. Gentle turns and side walking are common features, and the only thing you must be aware of is to not invade your partner’s space. As you master the basics – remember: if you can walk, you can Merengue –you can start adding the distinctive footwork, Latin hip action and fluid upper body movements to stylise this majestic dance.
Compared with other Latin compositions, Merengue music is written in 4/4 time and is less frenetic, although it is still vibrant and upbeat. As well as being slower and therefore less daunting, it has good appeal to beginners for its clear beat and constant rhythm.
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