Merengue Dancing & History
• What is Merengue?
• Why is it so important for Salsa & Bachata?
• Merengue gets a bad rap
• Benefits of Merengue
What is Merengue?
Merengue is Latin dance on two beats, counted as: “one, two, one, two, one, two…” because of its simple footwork or sometimes counted in 4 beats as in the music. It is an incredibly easy dance to learn and explore, with heavy bass beats telling you when to step.
Merengue originated in the Dominican Republic, and was made the country’s national dance and style of music, as well as a source of national pride. The origin of merengue is lost in history, but one of the more popular myths involves an unnamed general/hero of the Dominican Republic who loved to dance. The hero was wounded in the leg during a revolution, and upon returning to his village, the villagers, sympathizing with him, danced by dragging one of their legs, mimicking the hero’s wounded leg. A more probable origin involves slaves working in sugar beet fields. These slaves were connected to one another by a chain strapped to their ankles, so they marched to the beat of music by dragging one leg as they worked.
From its humble roots, merengue has been transformed in style and instrumentation by musicians all over the world (with predominance in the United States, due to its large Latino population). Like Salsa, Merengue is considered a dance of the people, and is changed accordingly by those who play it; Dominican Republic immigrants in New York, Cubans and Puerto Rican musicians, hip hop and R&B artists.
There also is Connection with other dance & music styes in the Caribbean such as Kompa & Haitian Meringue, there are so many dance styles and music in this area that seem to have all inspired music and dance style ideas off each other coming from a universal background, you can learn more about this on the Kizomba Page .. here >
If you look even further back, this style of dance comes from the Watlz, the father of all modern partner dances read the article here >
Why is Merengue important for Salsa or Bachata?
Merengue, due to its simplicity is a great vehicle to introduce important dance concepts to beginners & all levels of dancers particulary for Salsa & Bachata as the movements are the same you also learn concepts such as posture, hand positioning, hip movement, foot placement, and staying on the beat. These mechanisms are transferable across many of the popular Latin dances, and they definitely apply to Salsa & Bachata. What makes Merengue such a great teaching tool is that its simple beat allows first time dancers to focus on the techniques mentioned above, without having to worry about additional details such as footwork and complex timing. Once you master these basic elements, it will make all future learning much, much easier.
Furthermore, many of the patterns and combinations used in Salsa or Bachata can be used in Merengue and vice versa. Thanks to its beat structure, dancers can use Merengue to practice leading difficult Salsa & Bachata moves without being restricted their counts. Hurray for merengue!
Merengue in the Salsa scene
Merengue is a favourite for beginners and real advanced dancers alike when they want to relax for a song and have some fun. Often played in Latin Parties & band nights that have more traditional Latin music.
Merengue gets a bad rap
However, due to its simplicity, Merengue has also been often mis-understood and looked down on by some Latin dancers as being unchallenging, leading to the saying “I rest during merengue songs.” Usually its because of uneducated dancers who really don't understand how to dance this amazing dance and music correctly to the same standard to other styles they might be learning. While not realising this dance styles has the same roots as the very Latin dance that they like.
Merengue’s simplicity in it steps, is also one of its greatest benefits to a Latin & Salsa social: it is a great way to get the crowd going, with its catchy tunes and upbeat melody; it is an opportunity to throw the rules out the window, goof off, and just enjoy the music.
Dancers of other Latin Dance styles should look upon this dance style to improve their leading techniques and open up their dancing to experiment with their combos. Its also a great chance to dance with someone new who has never danced before which in turn helps more people get into the Latin dance scene and enjoy these dances.
All in all, merengue in an integral part of the salsa scene and should be encouraged.
At Salsa Latina we often teach this in our Salsa Night Fever Parties, come join in the fun >