4 beats/measure; 28-32 meas/min and as high as 52 m/m (Merengue music
can also be written with 2/4 timing.)
The Merengue is a steady stepping dance that developed in the
Caribbean during the 1800s. One story has it originating in the
Dominican Republic, where it was danced by a crippled general whose
guests respectfully followed his every move, including the dragging of
the right leg. This "limp" step gradually became smoothed out, and the
dance became quite lively. It is the national dance of both the
Dominican Republic and Haiti today. The Haitian style is more subdued
and slower; the Dominican style can be extremely fast and is designed
for crowded dance floors and little progression.
Round dancers use the slower, more sensual style. It is a very
regular Latin rhythm with a "quick, quick, quick, quick;" look, rather
than the more drawn out "quick, quick, slow, -;" of rumba. One dancer
feel of merengue music as "Hep, hup, hep, hup." It is danced
ball/flat or edge/flat with a rolling action and a subdued Rumba kind
of a hip movement. Step with a flexed knee, take weight and straighten
that knee as you release the now unsupporting knee. This shifts the
hips to the supporting side: step/hip, step/hip . . . The hips move
under a quiet upper body. There is a little knee action, too. If you
allow the inside edge of the big toe to brush the floor, this will
cause the unsupporting knee to veer in a little, to cross in front of
the supporting knee. The knee action chases the hip action, and they
can complement each other in a nice, rhythmic way.
Figure Name, Roundalab Phase
Level, & Timing
q=quick, 1 beat
s=slow, 2 beats
&=1/2 beat; a=1/4 beat
Steps and Actions That Make Up
Each description focuses on the man,
with the woman's footwork in parenthesis. If a woman's step is not
given, it is the natural opposite or follow of the man's. Help: basic dance
positions and steps,
actions, directions, and abbreviations. Non-standard punctuation: a
comma separates two beats of music, a semi-colon marks the end of a
measure, and a slash (/) indicates a split beat, two things occurring
in a single beat.
Here are some sequences to help
you visualize the figure in context.
|Basic or Side Basic or Chasse 4
loose closed position facing wall, step sd, cl, sd, cl; Rather than
thinking "step/hip" (see introduction above) to get the merengue hip
action, you can think of dragging the toes of each foot across the
floor before you take weight. The man lifts his left heel from the
floor (woman right). This moves his hips to the right (hers left).
Slide the left toes to the left, step ball, then flat, take weight, and
this moves the hips to the left. Lift the right heel, hips move farther
left, slide the right toes to the left, and so on. Don't force the hip
action; that automatically arises out of the foot action.
||In the Bartons' Merengue Si, part
A begins with a merengue basic 8;; to small steps apart; lady wrap LF
in 4; wheel 4 and unwrap to face wall;;
|In closed postion facing line, step fwd,
fwd, fwd, fwd; May be danced facing any direction and may be turned to
left or right. You may also get the cue, "forward basic 6" or forward
basic 8 or any even number.
closed position, step in place L (woman R), in place R, in place L, in
|Merengue Ibo Forward & Back
|In closed position, step forward L (woman
back R), fwd R, fwd L with left side lead, and tap R behind L (woman L
in front of R); step back R, back L, back R, tap L in front of R (woman
R in back);
|Merengue Ibo Side
|In closed position, step side L (woman
side R), close R, sd L, and tap R behind L (woman L behind); step sd R,
close L, sd R, tap L (woman R);
|In closed position, step forward L (woman
back R), close R, side L, close R; May be repeated as in "forward
|In CP step sd L (W sd R), cl R, sd L, cl R;
|In Geronomo by Auriene, there is basic; side stair; rock turn 8 LF COH;; basic; side stair; rock turn 8 LF wall;;
1234; 1234; 1234; 1234; 1234;
|This figure has some ibo timing in it. In
the first measure, the man steps side, close, sd, touch; and the woman
steps sd, cl, sd, cl; This transition puts you on the same footwork and
prepares you to step in opposite directions. Now both will step sd, cl,
sd, tch; but the man will be moving to his right (to reverse if he is
facing wall), and the woman will be moving to his left (down line).
During measure 3, both step sd, cl, sd, cl; coming back together to
butterfly. During measure 4, both step sd, cl, sd, tch; separating man
to line and woman to reverse. Finally, the man steps sd, cl, sd, tch;
and the woman steps sd, cl, sd, cl; back to loose closed position.
|Left Turning Rock
|In closed position facing the wall, step
forward L (woman back R) with contra action and turn 1/8 LF. Step back
R turning 1/8 LF. Step side L turning 1/8, and close R with no further
||As with many merengue figures, may be
|In semi line, step fwd, fwd blending to
loose closed, side, close;
||The Browns' Merengue Maria has a
basic; promenade; basic; glide; twisty vine 8;; to a whaletail;; (these
last two are two-step figures)
|In semi-closed position, line of dance,
swivel to face and step side L (woman side R), swivel to semi and step
forward R, swivel to face and step side L, close R; The swiveling steps
(1 & 2) may be repeated prior to taking the last two steps, so you
could dance a promenade swivel 6 or 8 (or more).
|In a facing position, wall, step side and
forward on the lead, turning LF (WRF) to a back-to-back position.
Continue turning and step side and back on the trail to face partner
again. Step side joining lead hands, and close trail feet; lead feet
||Do an open break; merengue roll; open
break; merenue roll; to conga walks left and right;;
|In closed position facing line of dance,
step forward L (woman back R), side R, rock apart (both step back), and
recover to closed position;
||In Manana by the Chicos, there
is an open break; merengue roll to face; conga walks left & right;;
|In closed position, line of dance, step
side on lead and close. Step side again and leave trail foot extended,
|In closed position, wall, step side on
inside edge of lead foot, then side on inside edge of trail foot,
beginning to turn to semi-closed position. An option is to close on
beat 2 instead of stepping side. On beat 3, step back into a fallaway
position (semi). Step fwd again on trail foot and swivel back to closed
|Separation or Arm Slide
|With hands on partner's upper arms, back
away from each other, bk, bk, bk (arms extended toward each other
touching finger tips); then step fwd, fwd, fwd, fwd back to loose
closed; May also be danced over four measures: move apart 8 steps and
together 8 steps.
Here is a diagram showing a
|In El Pero Merengue by the
Cibulas, there is a basic; glide to butterfly; arm slide;; riverboat
shuffle;; arm slide;; riverboat shuffle;; roll 3 and tap; roll back 3
|In loose closed position wall, step sd/cl,
sd/cl, sd, cl;
||In Shibata's Dancez Merengue, part
A starts with a basic; glide; basic; glide;
In Chico's Manana, we have a glide; promenade;
|In semi-closed position facing line, step
side & forward L (woman side & forward R). On beat 2, step
forward R and swivel to face . On beat 3, close L. On beat 4, swivel LF
(woman RF) and step back on the trail foot on an "a" count and touch
the lead heel forward with no additional weight change.
You may also dance this figure more like the Promenade
Swivels above: swivel and step side, swivel and step forward, swivel
and close, and then dance the "a4" as described.
This is a standard figure as described by URDC.
|In Hot Hot Hot by the McGees, we
start with conga walks twice;; promenade; 2 side closes; promenade;
|Conga Walks Left & Right
|In semi line, step fwd L (woman fwd R),
step thru, swivel to face and step side, swivel toward reverse and
point trail foot RLOD leaning LOD; fwd R, thru L, swivel to face and
step side, swivel toward line and pt lead foot LOD leaning RLOD;
||In Hot Hot Merengue by the
Kincaids, part A begins with conga walks left & right;; conga walks
forward & back;; merengue basic; merengue glide; basic; glide;
twirl to a tamara; wheel;; unwrap; to another basic;
|Conga Walks Forward & Back
|Facing ptr and wall step fwd, fwd, fwd,
point trail foot back leaning fwd she shoulder shimmy; then step bk,
bk, bk, point lead foot forward leaning bk;
||The Shibatas do a basic; conga walks L
& R;; conga walks fwd & bk;; basic; glide;
|In semi-closed position, line of dance,
step fwd, fwd, turn in XLIF she XRIF/rec, touch heel (no wt lead free
||Basic; conga break twice;; circle away and
1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4;
|In this figure, we begin in butterfly
position and we pretty much march in place for three measures and 12
steps. As we do this, we turn under joined hands, one way and then the
other, hands going up and down as we turn, until you end up back in the
starting position. I think it is the arms going up and down and
twisting as you turn that makes the figure look "snaky."
Begin in butterfly position, man facing wall and woman
facing center. In the first measure of music, step in place four
steps. The man raises lead hands (his left and her right), steps
left, right, left, right, and as he does so, he turns to the left 3/4
under those joined hands. He will turn first to line, to center,
and finally to reverse. While the man does this, the woman steps
right, left, right, left, and turns to the right only 1/4. At the
end of the measure, lower lead hands. At this point, you are
side-by-side, left hip to left hip in a sort of hammer-lock position
with his left hand in front of her and at her right hip, and her left
hand behind his back with his right arm bent behind his back.
Again, she is facing line on the outside of the circle and he is facing
reverse on the inside of the circle. One secret to making the
arms work is to hold hands very lightly—really just touch fingers and
let your hands turn against each other as you turn.
In the second measure, again take four steps.
Raise lead hands back up again, and both of you turn 1/4 to the right
in two steps. She turns under those lead hands. Lower your
arms and you will be standing back-to-back, he facing center, she
facing wall. Now raise the trail hands (man's right and woman's
left), and as you step twice, both turn 1/4 to the right. She
turns under trail hands. Lower the hands and you are side-by-side again
but right hip to right hip. Now the lead hands are at the man's
back and the trail hands are in front of her and at the woman's left
hip, man facing LOD and woman RLOD.
In the third measure, raise the trail hands again.
She begins to turn 1/4 to the right. He can briefly look at
her through a window formed by the curve of his right arm. The
man puts his head through that window and turns 3/4 to the left,
turning under his own right arm, again in four steps, and you end in
butterfly wall as you began.
During measure one, both turn under lead hands,
during two she turns under lead hands and then under trail hands, and
during three he turns under trail hands.
|Do a snake;;; basic; conga walks left and
right;; and conga walks fwd and back;; (part B of Dancez Merengue)
In Lambamor by Okino, there is a change hands behind the back to BFLY wall;; snake;;;basic;
1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4;
|Again (see Snake above) we begin in
butterfly position facing wall. Here, we begin with the trail
hands. Raise them and turn 1/4 to the right in four steps: L, R,
L, R. She turns 3/4 to the left under those raised arms: R, L, R,
L. Lower your arms in front of you, and you are side-by-side,
left hip to left hip. Trail hands are in front of the man
and lead hands are behind the woman in a hammerlock. He is facing
reverse. She is facing line.
In the second measure, he raises his right hand, turns
1/4 right face under it in two steps (she turns 1/4 to right), and
lowers hands, quickly raises left hand and turns 1/4 to right under
those hands in two steps (she turns 1/4 more), and lowers hands.
Note he has turned under trail hands and then under lead hands.
She turns under no hands. Both have turned 1/2 to right.
End side-by-side, right hip to right hip, lead hands in front of
man, and trail hands behind woman in hammer-lock.
In the third measure, raise lead hands and turn woman
3/4 to left under lead hands in four steps. Man turns 1/4 to
right. You can end in open facing position, or you can take lead
hands again and end in butterfly.
|The Worlocks' A La Playa is a cha,
but they have a double cuban in butterfly wall; spot turn to face;
inverted snake;;;; and rock side to a quick new yorker;
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