A Few Notes On Merengue
& Dan Finch
is called the “cruise ship dance” because of its Caribbean sound
and the ease of doing it. If you can walk, you can merengue. One
step is taken on each beat of music, with Cuban motion.
is an American style Rhythm (or Latin) dance that originated in the
Caribbean and came to the United States in the late 1940s.
are done in combinations of four steps--counted quick, quick,
quick quick or 1234—with one step on each beat of music.
The foundation element is side, close. The merengue basic
in Butterfly or Closed Position is side, close, side close.
Each step is small, taken under the body. Think cruise ship and a
small, packed dance floor.
idea is to get hip action with each step. To do this, you begin the
basic with a side step onto the inside edge of the moving foot. As
weight transfers, the foot will roll flat, the knee of that leg will
straighten and the hip is pushed up and back. At the same time, the
knee of the other leg bends as that foot begins to move and that hip
drops. This creates a subtle hip action. Lead with the rib cage as
the foot goes out. Otherwise, the upper body has little or no
movement. Maintain the same height throughout the dance, keeping the
head up and shoulders relaxed. Watch not to dip the shoulders from
side to side. Think Carmen Miranda balancing a hat full of fruit
while her hips undulate through the merengue.
tips: Keep time with the music, move your hips, let your rib cage
swing, never stop your feet or your hips.
was the star of this past year’s Roundalab convention, as 19 new
figures were added to the Manual of Standards, from phase III up to
and including one new figure in phase VI.
believe the name of the rhythm came from the light and frothy
character of the dance, akin to the confection of sugar and egg
whites that chefs know as meringue.
dance can be dated back to the early 1800s on the island of
Hispaniola in the Caribbean, but how it got started is a mystery.
Several stories have persisted to explain its signature step in which
the lead foot steps and the trailing foot closes to it, almost in a
story has it that the dance originated with slaves who were chained
together and, of necessity, were forced to drag their chained legs as
they walked along cutting sugar to the beat of drums. Others claim
the dance came about when a war hero crippled in action was welcomed
home with a victory celebration. He loved to dance but because of
his injury, all he could do was step with one leg and drag the other.
Out of respect, the townspeople copied his stepping and dragging. True
or not, the legends today are important mostly for the mental
image they evoke to help remember the basic steps.
is possible that the dance originated in Cuba which also has a dance
called merengue. French and Spanish colonists of Hispaniola could
have seen the Cuban dance when they fled to Cuba in 1790 in the wake
of a slave revolt on their island. It was 20 years before the first
of the émigrés returned to their island, raising the question of
whether they took the merengue with them to Cuba or brought it home
to Hispaniola on their return.
is now the national dance of the Dominican Republic. Both the
Dominican Republic and Haiti, which share the island of Hispaniola,
claim to have the authentic merengue, although each country has a
slightly different version of the dance, Haiti’s being slower and
has a wide range of tempos, from 28 measures per minute up to 52
measures per minute. In round dancing, it is played between 28 and
32 measures per minute. It is danced to music with four beats in
each measure. Emphasis can be put on count 1 by taking a slightly
bigger step, adding to the dragged leg feel on count 2.
is danced mostly in Closed Position but like other Latin dances, it
can be danced in Semi-Closed, Butterfly or the variety of open
old is new again. Many of the new figures were danced in 2000 in the
Casey & Sharon Parker Hot Merengue. You will find most of
the new figures in phase III. Some of the new ones—like the
Lariat—copy what you already know from other rhythms. Others are
similar but different—like Open Break, which is an apart, recover,
side close—note the basic “side, close” element at the end. And we have
some that are peculiarly merengue: Promenade Turn Away,
Rock Turn (both phase III) and Side Separation, Promenade Swivels,
Continuous Cucarachas, and Continuous New Yorkers (in phase IV).
exciting—and controversial—figure added this year is the Back To
Back, a 16-count, four-measure, in-place figure, now in phase IV. The
name was the issue, as it has no resemblance to the existing
phase II two-step figure called Back To Back.
we don’t dance many merengues at this point, Mixed-Up Rounds shows
104 merengues in our possible repertoire. As with most things, you
don’t know if you like it, until you try it!
From clinic notes
prepared by Dan
and Sandi Finch , November
in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, May/June/July 2015.