A Description Of Merengue Dancing
Merengue is mainly a club dance set to fast Latin music. It is characterized by dramatically swinging hips and a closed hold position. The couple steps side to side in sets of 8 to 2/4 music, turning clockwise or counterclockwise and features a characteristic hip swing and graceful arm flourishes. It is the national dance of the Dominican Republic and there are a number of popular versions as to the origin of this dance. One story claims the dance originated with slaves who were chained together, and, of necessity, were forced to drag one leg as they cut sugar cane to the beat of a drum.
The second story maintains that a great hero was wounded in the leg during one of the many insurrections in the Dominican Republic. A party of villagers welcomed him home with a victory celebration and out of sympathy everyone dancing felt obliged to limp and drag one foot. The Dominicans themselves maintain Merengue is a combination of two dances, one African and the other the French Minuet, from the late 1700's - to early 1800s.The Black slaves saw the ballroom dancing in the Big Houses and when they had their own festivities started mimicking the "masters’ dances". But the European dances were uninteresting so the slaves added a special upbeat (provided by the drums), which was a slight skip or a hop.
The original Merengue was not danced by individual couples, but was a circle dance, men and women faced each other, holding hands at arms' length. They did not hold each other closely and the original movements of this dance were only the shaking of the shoulders and swift movements of the feet. There was no blatant movement as there is today as ethnic African dances do not move the hips. In fact, African dances consisted of complicated steps and arm movements. Ethnic dance does not have sexual shaking of the hips this is only done in Hollywood movies. Not only is it performed on every dancing occasion in the Republic, but it is very popular throughout the Caribbean and South America. A lot of variety exists in Merengue music. Ideally suited to small, crowded dance floors, it is a dance that is easy to learn and very enjoyable to perform.