Merengue dance is the national dance of the Dominican Republic. Merengue dance has existed since the early years of the Dominican Republic.
There're 2 popular versions of the of the origin of the Merengue, the Dominican national dance. First story says that a great person was hurt in the leg during one of the many revolutions in the country. A dancing 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 other story says the dance originated with slaves who were coherent together and, of necessity, were forced to drag one leg as they cut sugar to the beat of drums.
In the middle of the 19th century, in the Dominican Republic the Merengue dance was very popular . Not only is it used on every dancing occasion in this country, but it is very popular throughout the South America and Caribbean, and is one of the standard Latin American dances.
The Merengue dance was introduced in the New York area.
Ballroom Merengue is more rules based. Ballroom Merengue has not captured the imagination of ballroom dancers as has Mambo, Cha-Cha and Rumba. That's why, Merengue music is played sporadically, if at all, during ballroom dances. Instructors tend to spend a fair amount of time and energy in teaching Cuban hip action as an integral part of all Latin ballroom dances. Also, the emphasis is on posture and fair distance between the dance partners when in dance hold.
Moves and Steps
The basic Merengue step is taking small steps to the side with the partners holding each other in closed dance position. The closed dance position is danced in open embrace or if the couple so desire in close embrace.
The side step basic is called paso de la empalizada or stick-fence step. Ballroom dancers may call it a chasse, the chase (with one foot chasing the other to the side). Even though dancing in closed dance hold is called Merengue de salón, or dance hall Merengue, it is nevertheless a spot dance and the side steps are very small. Dancers must always take care not to invade the dance space of others.
This is done by gently turning the side walking step, or even turning gently in one spot.
Solo turns (one partner turning) are sparing used in Merengue. When they are used, the solo turns are gentle walking two-hand or one-hand turns. Two-hand turns can result in complicated figures - a style called figure Merengue or Merengue de figura.
After its introduction in the Dominican Republic, Merengue music remained controversial and relegated to the lower classes and Dominicans of African origin until the 1930s when dictator Rafael Trujillo used Perico Ripiao (a style of Merengue music) bands playing Merengue music for his presidential campaign.
Later, a wealthy member of the upper class the capital, Santiago, commissioned one Luis Alberti a write compose a Merengue song for a daughter's fifteenth birthday. The result was Compadre Pedro Juan a song that became so popular, it became a Merengue anthem.