Merengue. Two beats, two steps. Gotta love it! Merengue, in its true form, is the national dance of the Dominican Republic. If you’re looking to learn a fun easy dance, it’s gonna be Merengue. Some describe it as a step to the side followed by dragging the other foot (in a sort of floppy manner) to close.
This simple dance has humble beginnings. There are two versions.
One tale has the Dominican slaves bound together by the ankles. Singing as they worked, they were forced to step and drag their feet along.
The other story tells of a returning war hero who was injured and was left with a limp. The village honored his arrival with a celebration.
Not wanting him to be embarrassed by his injury, the whole village dances with a slight limp. Either way, it’s an uncomplicated dance.
Here’s a sample of some Merengue music so you can practice your moves. And, yes, I am aware that the music sample includes a video of dancing skeletons. I think they’re cool.
Here’s a reason to learn it…it’s the easiest dance to practice moving your hips.
American style Merengue, as taught in group classes and studios, uses more hip action.
All of the Latin and Rhythm dances use hip action, sometimes called Latin or Cuban motion. It’s kind of difficult to think about creating a nice, rolling, side-to-side movement while you’re working on learning your steps.
As a fun easy dance, there’s not much to learning Merengue steps. When you’re dancing Merengue put some thought into moving those hips. You’ll find it’s a cinch to incorporate that style into your other Latin and Rhythm dances making you look and feel better on the dance floor.
Here’s another reason to learn Merengue.
Because the basics are so simple to pick up, you’ll be getting into underarm turns, spins, and other variations much sooner than with other dances.
As a leader, you’ll need to commit the leads to memory to be effective. The lead for turns and spins will be the same regardless of what dance you’re doing. A follower will practice responding to the signals and add feminine style.
Finally, because it’s a fun easy dance to lead and follow, Merengue is a good dance to keep in your ‘back pocket’.
A dance that you keep in your ‘back pocket’ is the one that you do with people who don’t know how to dance.
Imagine you’re at a wedding, dancing and having a ball. (That’s a different scenario from weddings in the past, where you sat the whole evening watching others having fun.)
The bride’s grandmother comes over and says, “You’re a great dancer. Will you dance with me?” “Of course,” you say as you take her hand and lead her to the floor.
The DJ is playing a Hustle. You know, “Celebration” by Kool and The Gang. Unsure if she does the Hustle, you decide to go with your favorite fun easy dance and you bust out a little Merengue-type action.
She’s doing fine so you try an underarm turn. Nice and slow, keeping the beat. One-two, one-two, over and over.
After a little rotation and a few more turns, the song is over and Grandma is delighted. She thinks she just had a dance with Fred Astaire!
You could do the same thing with Foxtrot, Rumba, Cha Cha, Swing, etc. You get the idea.
If you’re dancing with someone who isn’t familiar with what you’re doing, you can still dance together, just K.I.S.S.
Give Merengue a try and you’ll be dancing all night long!
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