Dance Tidbits – Merengue

Merengue is the national dance of both the Dominican Republic and Haiti. It has existed since the early 1900’s. It is also the name of my favorite pie. Merengue could possibly have gotten its name because the people who started this dance were slaves who worked in sugar beet fields. Meringue is also a confection made of sugar and egg whites whipped into a light and frothy texture. Because of the short, precise rhythms of the music being quite quick or fast, with the upper body being kept upright and turns being slow, the music and dance could have resembled the recipe directions for creating the tasty treat – Merengue or Meringue. The dance and confection both surfaced around the same time.

Two popular versions of the origin of Merengue have circulated. One story is that the dance started with slaves, who were chained together, and because of this, they were forced to drag one leg as they cut sugar to the beat of the drums. The second story tells of a great soldier who was wounded in the leg during one of the revolutions that the Dominion Republic so often endured. The villagers welcomed their hero home with a victory celebration and out of sympathy and respect, everyone who was dancing felt it was only proper to limp and drag one foot too.

As the Merengue grew in popularity, the style started to be altered slightly. In the United States the dance had more motion and took on more Cuban/Latin characteristics resembling Cha Cha Cha, Rumba, Mambo and Salsa. Ballroom Merengue is slower and has modified hip action.

Merengue is very popular in the Caribbean and South America and is considered one of the standard Latin American/Caribbean dances. You never know when a little Merengue could put you over the top in a competition because you are the only one who knows how to do it correctly. Now wouldn’t that be sweet!

Happy dancing,

Thought of the Week: “It’s about being the best person YOU can be…and then the world starts changing slowly for the good of man.” Freddie Brock



Shane Meuwissen is the Media Specialist for Fordney Foundation.  He is a former dance instructor who know works with his company Slow Motion Dance Videos capture the beauty of dancing. If you would like to learn more about Shane and his video work, visit his website