Encyclopedia of Dance: Merengue


Expressive merengue music will not let you stand still. The incendiary dance provokes and beckons, calls to join the temperamental and sensual pas.

Merengue is an extremely popular dance in Latin America. His homeland is the Dominican Republic. This dance is very attractive for beginners, since the coordination between the movements of the arms and legs is less important here than in other Latin American dances. It was the ease in mastering the basic movements of the merengue that contributed to the popularity of this dance far beyond the borders of the Dominican Republic and Latin America. Merengue is danced all over the world. In many schools, before starting to learn the dances of the Latin American ballroom program, they study the merengue, since, having mastered its basic steps, it is easier to move on to more complex combinations of other dances.

History of occurrence dance

There are several versions of the origin of merengue. One version attributes the composition of the dance music to the Dominican composer Juan Bautista Alfonseca. The second version connects the appearance of the dance with the victory of the Dominican troops over the Haitians, in honor of which the triumphant melody sounded, which inspired the appearance of the dance. The third version is considered the most plausible. According to her, the merengue dance comes from Cuban music and the Cuban upa habanera dance, one of the movements of which was called merengue. They also note the influence that the culture of the neighboring island of Haiti had on the dance.

The characteristic movements of the dance gave rise to other versions of the origin of the merengue. According to one, the dance was invented by slaves tied in a row with chains and forced to pull one leg. Another version is associated with the national hero of one of the many revolutions in the Dominican Republic. Wounded in the leg, the hero was forced to limp and pull his leg. Grateful compatriots, imitating him, did the same during the dance.

In the 19th century, merengue became one of the most popular dances in the Dominican Republic and in the Caribbean. Not a single celebration and not a single dance festival is complete without this dance.

What is merengue?

merengueMerengue movements are sensual, erotic in nature. An important role in the dance is played by elements of improvisation and flirtation. Merengue is a pair dance, but quite often there are solo elements in it, as an opportunity to demonstrate your skills to your partner and others.

The main movement of the dance is a walking step to the beat of the music. The number of steps depends on the desire of the dancers. The main difficulty for beginning dancers is that the merengue step requires the opposite movement to the right.

The dance uses a large number of figures, such as rotation of the body and hips, movements of the shoulders at an ever accelerating pace. The partner and the partner are in a waltz-like position and perform the main steps «paso de la empalizada» to the side. The couple can then perform a «merengue for the ballroom» figure — turning clockwise or counterclockwise. Musical accompaniment is carried out to music in size 2/4 or 4/4.

The merengue costume includes a wide variety of decorations.


Several types of merengue are known. The most popular of them are:

  • salon merengue (merengue de salón)
  • curly merengue (merengue de figura)

In both types of merengue, the couples did not separate during the dance, but the second type of dance is characterized by many figures and dance decorations.

In its original form, the dance consisted of three parts: paseo, merengue and jaleo. But the first, slow part quickly disappeared, and the main part increased from 8-12 bars to 38-48. The third part — haleo — included exotic rhythms.

There is also a folklore merengue — «tipiko», this dance is now an integral part of the Dominican national show programs.

Features of merengue

The main feature of the dance is the constant bodily contact of the partners. Even when the dancers perform individual steps, they never let go of each other’s hands. Dancers can perform merengue both tightly clinging to each other, and at arm’s length. Dominicans prefer to dance the merengue more apart from each other in order to be able to demonstrate their individual skills. In other Latin American countries, on the contrary, the couple dances close to each other, emphasizing the sensual nature of the dance.

From a musical point of view, a merengue feature is a change in tempo towards acceleration, the final part often sounds much faster than the initial one.

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