How to dance merengue ripiao

Perico Ripiao – When Dominicans dance Merengue on a bottle –

Dominican Republic, English


I can’t say, that I’m a lucky guy, but this day I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to see something very special at ‘El Conuco’ in Santo Domingo. It was November 26, 2019 and I had dinner in a restaurant in the Dominican capital city. Luckily, it was one of the most typical Dominican restaurants of the city with traditional decoration, staff in folkloric clothing and typical Dominican dishes. But the best thing about all this was this specific day itself. Later I found out, that the November 26 is the ‘National Merengue Day’ and that it’s even an ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity‘.

To honor this specific day with its traditional music and dances, the employees of the restaurant wore traditional Dominican clothes and showed some Merengue dances. Not the normal dances you’d expect, but on a bottle. Yes, ON a bottle, not with a bottle!

I remember, that I danced myself already very often WITH a bottle, but never ON a bottle. Most of the times, these bottles I danced with contained alcoholic beverages, that let me dance more than usual. But that specific dance the couple demonstrated was something I didn’t expect to see that evening. Almost as good as dancing on a bottle was the finisher of another dance with several pirouettes for the poor lady:

Dominicans call this dance ‘Perico Ripiao’. I haven’t seen before anyone dancing as wild but controlled as these two people. Thank you, dear coincidence, that I was at the time on the right place and could see it with my own eyes!

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Phil Harmony Image Tagged bailar Merengue, baile folklorico, baile folklorico dominicano, Dia nacional del Merengue, Dominican Republic, El Conuco, folkloric dance, Merengue, National Merengue Day, Perico Ripiao, perico ripiao dance, perico ripiao dominicano baile, perico ripiao merengue, Republica Dominicana, santo Domingo 3 Comments


Phil Harmony

As an alumnus of Innovation, Marketing and Tourism, Phil specializes in UX/UI-Design to create great user experiences. With many years of work and study experience in Latin America and Europe, he speaks five languages fluently. Thinking like a tinkerer and content creator, he is always looking to shape new and unique experiences to inspire others to realize their dreams.

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A History Of Merengue: Popular Music of the Dominican Republic - perico ripiao & merengue tipico

Merengue: Popular Music of the Dominican Republic

By Sydney Hutchinson

An overview of the basic styles of merengue, from tipico - perico ripiao - to orchestral.

Merengue is a Caribbean dance and music style in 2/4 time. Usually associated with the Dominican Republic both because of the huge international popularity of Dominican merengue and because of the increased visibility of Dominican immigrants in the United States, other types of merengue were also developed in Haiti, Colombia, and Venezuela in the 19th century. Today, merengue is considered the national music of the Dominican Republic.

Three Styles of Merengue

  1. Perico Ripiao / Merengue Tipico
  2. Merengue de Orquesta
  3. Merengue de guitarra - coming soon

Part I: Perico Ripiao / Merengue Tipico

Three main types of merengue are played in the Dominican Republic today. Though similar rhythmically, they are distinguished by their instrumentation and repertoire. Perico ripiao, which is usually called merengue típico in the DR, is the oldest style still commonly played. It originated in the northern valley region around the city of Santiago called the Cibao, a rural, agricultural area, so some merengueros call it the "country music" of the DR. It first appears in the historical record in the 1840s, when moralists tried to ban the music because of its suggestive lyrics and the sensual movements of merengue dancers. The music's very name suggests controversy: "perico ripiao", literally "ripped parrot", is said to be the name of a brothel where the music was originally played. Of course, efforts to censor the music were unsuccessful and largely counterproductive, since its popularity has continued up to the present time.

At first, merengue típico cibaeño (traditional Cibaoan merengue) was played on stringed instruments like the tres and cuatro, but when Germans came to the island in the late 19th century trading their instruments for tobacco, the accordion quickly replaced the strings as lead instrument. The two principal percussion instruments, güira and tambora, have been part of the ensemble since the music's inception, and are so important that they are often considered symbolic of the whole country. The güira is a metal scraper believed to be of native Taíno origin, while the tambora is a two-headed drum of African origin. Together with the European accordion, the típico group symbolizes the three cultures that combined to make today's Dominican Republic.

One important figure in early merengue was Francisco "Ñico" Lora (1880-1971), who is often credited for quickly popularizing the accordion at the turn of the 20th century. Lora was once asked how many merengues he had composed in his lifetime and he answered "thousands", probably without much exaggeration, and many of these compositions are still a standard part of the típico repertoire. He was a skilled improviser who could compose songs on the spot, by request. But he has also been likened to a journalist, since in his precomposed songs "he commented on everything with his accordion" (Pichardo, in Austerlitz 1997:35). His compositions discussed current events such as Cuban independence, World War I, the arrival of the airplane, and US occupation of the Dominican Republic. Among Lora's contemporaries are Toño Abreu and Hipólito Martínez, best remembered for their merengue "Caña Brava". This popular song was composed in 1928 or 1929 as an advertisement for the Brugal rum company, who were then selling a rum of the same name. Brugal paid Martínez $5 for his efforts.

Merengue experienced a sudden elevation of status during dictator Rafael Trujillo's reign from 1930 to 1961. Although he was from the south rather than the Cibao, he did come from a rural area and from a lower class family, so he decided that the rural style of perico ripiao should be the Dominican national symbol. Like any dictator, he was a megalomaniac who constantly required fuel for his ego, and he ordered numerous merengues to be composed in his honor. With titles like "Literacy", "Trujillo is great and immortal", and "Trujillo the great architect", these songs describe his virtues and extol his contributions to the country. Trujillo's interest in and encourangement of merengue created a place for the music on the radio and in respectable ballrooms. Musicians like Luis Alberti began to play with "big band" or orquesta instrumentation, replacing the accordion with a horn section and initiating a split between this new, mostly urban style and mostly rural perico ripiao. Today, New York City Latino radio is still dominated by orquesta merengue (covered in part II).

Típico musicians continued to innovate within their style during the latter half of the twentieth century. Tatico Henríquez (d.1976), considered the godfather of modern merengue típico, replaced the marimba with electric bass and added a saxophone (it was used before, but infrequently) to harmonize with the accordion. A prolific composer, Tatico's influence cannot be overestimated: nationally broadcast radio and television appearances brought his music to all parts of the country, leading to widespread imitation of his style and dissemination of his compositions. Today, these works form the core of any típico musician?s repertoire. Other innovations from this period include the addition of the bass drum now played by the güirero with a foot pedal, a development credited to Rafael Solano. Many of today?s top accordionists also began their careers during this period, including El Ciego de Nagua, Rafaelito Román, and Francisco Ulloa.

In the 1990s, most groups maintained the five-man lineup of accordion, sax, tambora, güira, and bass guitar, though a few new innovations have been made. Some younger band leaders have also added congas, timbales (played by the tamborero), and keyboards to their groups in an attempt to close the gap between típico and orquesta and increase their listening audience. The most popular artist at present is El Prodigio, a young accordionist respected by típico musicians of all ages. Though he has become famous for recording his own compositions in a modern style, he is also able to perform all the "standards" of the traditional típico repertoire and is a talented, jazzy improviser. New York-based groups like Fulanito have experimented with the fusion of típico accordion with rap vocals. Young artists such as these have been able to bring merengue típico to new audiences.

Merengue típico songs are generally composed in two parts. The first section is rhythmically straightforward and is used to introduce the song's melodic and lyrical material; here, verses are sung and the only improvisation heard occurs at the end of song lines, when the accordion or saxophone fills in. The second section is dominated by improvisation, more complex rhythms, and hard-driving mambo, or the part of the song where melody instruments (sax and accordion) unite to play catchy, syncopated riffs or jaleos which help motivate and stimulate dancers. Típico rhythms include merengue derecho, or straight-ahead merengue, which is the kind of fast-paced 2/4 time merengue most of us are used to hearing, usually used in the first section. Pambiche or merengue apambichao is similar but usually slower, and can be recognized by the double slap rhythm on the tambora. Guinchao is a third rhythm combining the first two that is commonly heard in the second section of a merengue. Típico groups do not have to limit themselves to merengue as they can also play other traditional rhythms from the Dominican Republic and elsewhere, though this was more common in the past than at present. Mangulina and guaracha are now seldom heard; the latter is a clave-based style in 4/4 originally from Cuba, while the former is a 6/8 dance native to the DR. Paseo was a slow introduction to a merengue song during which couples would promenade around the dance floor in stately fashion.

-> Part II: Merengue de orquesta

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History of merengue

Merengue is one of the Latin American dances of Dominican origin, also popular in the USA. Its melody is cheerful, consisting of two periods of sixteen bars each. It consists of an introduction (jaseo) and interludes (jaleo).

Merengue dance school is now quite popular in the US and Europe. The melody came to us from the shores of Puerto Rico two centuries ago. It was first performed after the victory of the troops of the Dominican Republic over Haiti. Somewhat later, this musical direction spread almost everywhere, gained fans and replaced other rhythms.

At first, the performance took place using the most accessible folk instruments: tresa (three-string guitar), cuatro (four-string guitar) and Dominican bandurria. At the end of the last century, the Dominican Republic was "honoured" by the diatonic accordion, which replaced the bandurria and guitars. But at the same time, the melodic possibilities of the accordion limited the music a little, and therefore the merengue hardly undergoes any changes.

The first such dance was the embrace of a man and a woman, who made movements in different directions and made turns to the right or left. This was called "salon merengue" (merengue de salon). The partners here have never been separated. But there was another kind of dance - "figured" (merengue de figura). While performing it, the dancers did a lot of "decorating" movements, but also without separating the couples.

The dance was divided into three parts: paseo, merengue and jaleo. The first part (paseo) soon disappeared, the second increased, and the third (haleo) changed due to the inclusion of exotic rhythms in it and after a while separated from the merengue. Despite huge popular sympathies, high society did not accept the new genre for quite some time due to its African roots. Other Dominican rhythms were not rejected by the aristocracy, as they were mainly ritual dances practiced in villages, away from high society. This dance, performed by black slaves, caused such a reaction from the nobility because it was danced in the salons.

Vulgar lyrics were another cause of disfavor on the part of the wealthy classes. In 1875, President Ulises Francisco Espaillat (Espaillat, Ulises Francisco) organized a campaign against this direction. But belatedly, since merengue had already left the big cities by that time and became popular in the countryside. At the beginning of the last century, this direction began to be revived. Many wanted to hear their favorite tune in the salons. For this, the texts had to be rid of vulgar expressions. The radio played its role in popularizing the dance.

And this direction became known again. But in the cities they tried to diversify it, writing decent texts, and in the villages they continued to play as before. "Salon" and "perico ripiao" became very different. There was even a third option - pambiche (pambiche). It was the same merengue, only much slowed down, adapted for American sailors (the period of occupation of the Dominican Republic by American troops). Now you can learn to dance merengue anywhere. He has his own dance school Moscow is no exception. Come!

Directions - Territory of street salsa

1. Salsa, casino style - this dance direction is the main one.
2. Bachata (Dominican, urban, sensual).
3. Merengue - seminars.
4. Rueda de casino - for senior students only.
5. Salsa Troika (the ability to lead two partners in a dance) - only for students of the senior group.


Unlike most schools, ARRIBA DOS practices an individual approach to each student.
We know very well how different people come to social dancing, and how difficult it is sometimes for those who have never danced before. And therefore, even when studying in a group, each student works exclusively according to his own program, compiled only for him.
In the process of training, we practice a constant change of partners, students of the older group, as well as two teachers, regularly attend classes for beginners.
As for the dance itself, numerous "salsa historians" have broken many spears, arguing for decades about its origin.
For sure, it can only be argued that one of the predecessors of the casino (casino) is a dream (son), and the distant ancestor is country dancing.
Liberty Island is considered to be the birthplace of casinos, although there is an opinion that the palm belongs to Latin American emigrants who settled in the USA in the 50s, in particular, in New York. And from there the dance came to Cuba.
Whatever it was in reality, but it was in Cuba that this style of salsa was finally formed, and it was from there that its triumphant march across the planet began.


"ARRIBA DOS" is almost the only school in Russia where the ability to lead two partners in a dance is raised to the level of an art. There were always enough people who wanted to demonstrate this skill somewhere on a crowded club dance floor, but in most cases such a performance looks not only ridiculous, but also unsafe. Both for others and for the "dancers" themselves.
For almost two decades, we sometimes literally bit by bit collect bundles and individual elements, patiently practice interaction in the classroom. This is a serious discipline that requires the dancers to first of all understand what they are doing, as well as a good "base" and accuracy.


Today there are at least a dozen different styles of this dance in the world.
Each such direction has its founders, "popularizers" - schools that promote this style on the dance market, as well as crowds of fans.
Bachata is native to the Dominican Republic. The style still practiced by its inhabitants is only remotely similar to the most popular styles in Europe at the moment. Hence its corresponding name, Dominican bachata (bachata dominicana).
However, it is not at all a fact that once in the Dominican Republic, you will be able to enjoy a real "bachata without impurities" - the dance that local animators sell to tourists who are thirsty for the exotic is more like a product typical of European club dance floors.
In our school you will get acquainted with the three most popular styles - Dominican, Urban and Sensual.


According to the official version, merengue has existed and has been popular for 170 years, and the first merengue song was written in the year the Dominican Republic was founded in 1844. There are two legends regarding the origin of this dance.

The first asserts that the merengue is a cheerful dance of slaves tired in shackles (it is because of the shackles and fatigue that there is some lameness when moving).
According to the second legend, this is how the manner of dancing of a certain lame general looked like, who was very popular with the people, and therefore all his admirers considered it their duty to copy it in dance, as a tribute to an outstanding person. There is also an opinion that both of these legends do not meet the advertising and marketing purposes of most dance schools, and therefore they are hushed up due to their unattractiveness.
But let's get back to the merengue, which quickly won the sympathy of the Dominican society and gradually replaced other dance rhythms.
For such long years of the existence of the dance in the merengue, certain changes could not but occur, in connection with which, at the moment, there was some confusion in the terminology. According to one version, there are currently three main styles of merengue.
First - Merengue Tipico.
It is generally accepted that this is the very original merengue, which was formed back in the middle of the 19century and still popular today. He is, perhaps, one of the record holders for "life expectancy" on stage, radio and in the hearts of people. The only major innovation that influenced this style was the replacement of guitars with harmonica at the end of the 19th century, which happened under the influence of a wave of German immigration to the Dominican Republic.

The second is Merengue de Orquesta (although the Dominicans themselves often call this style Merengue Tradicional).
It was formed in the first half of the 20th century, during the reign of the dictator Trujillo, who allegedly loved merengue very much and introduced it into the salons of the nobility and the middle class. The name speaks for itself - this merengue is performed by large orchestras, congas, trumpets, saxophones, bass, keyboards and bows were introduced into the arrangements. However, the key guira and tambora have not gone away.

And finally, the third and most common style of merengue, which has been formed quite recently. In the early 2000s, a new generation of musicians from the Dominican Republic could not help but be influenced by such trends as rap, hip-hop, R'n'B, Dancehall and Dembow, which rather changed the arrangements and style of the merengue, making it more rigid and electronic in sound. .
This style became known as Mambo de Calle (street mambo), also sometimes called Merengue de Calle and Merengue Urbano.
According to other sources, the dance was divided into “salon merengue” (merengue de salón), which was the following: a man and a woman, hugging each other, made movements in different directions and made turns to the right or left.

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