How to dance merengue with a partner

How to Dance Merengue: A Beginner Dance Guide

Do you want to learn how to dance Merengue?

Merengue by Javier

The Merengue is a sensual Latin dance with a history dating back to the African slaves of the nineteenth century.

It is fair to say that Merengue doesn’t have as much as a following of other Latin dances for a very outdated reason.

Even though it is now considered a popular social dance in the Caribbean, for a long time it had a stigma attached to it.

The African-inspired drumbeat of the Merengue music meant it was viewed as improper.

Table of Contents


How to Dance Merengue

With risqué lyrics, Merengue only became popular due to the west becoming more secular with its ideals.

It became the official dance of the Dominican Republic, but why did it beat Bachata to become the official dance?

History of Merengue

Of the two popular stories as to how Merengue began, the most popular is rooted in the history of slavery.

Allegedly, the dance originated with the leg dragging due to slaves being in chains as they cut sugar to the beat of drums.

Merengue exhibit by timsackton (CC BY-SA)

Another story about the origins of the dance is that a great hero of a Dominican Republic revolution had been wounded in the leg.

During celebrations, his dancing involved a dragging leg, which other citizens decided to imitate out of sympathy.

Merengue is in fact named after the sweet dessert food due to the light and frothy character of the dance and its short and precise rhythms.

In Haiti, it’s also known as Mereng, where it’s also considered a staple in its culture and history.

Many Dominicans never cite the aforementioned stories as the origin of Merengue but from a program shown on TV known as “SANTO DOMINGO INVITA”.

It’s most likely true that many Dominicans were exposed to the dance through this well-known TV show, but the origins date back further than many Dominicans realize.

Merengue is basically a combination of two dances; an African tribal dance and the French Minuet, from the late 1700’s – early 1800’s.

The African slaves were influenced by the aristocratic dances they were exposed to whilst working on plantations and imitated some of the moves performed by their masters.

They provided their own knowledge of dancing and performed what could be viewed as a more enjoyable and fun translation of high society dancing. Learn from this book to get the full story!

How to Dance The Merengue

The original Merengue was not danced by individual couples but was a circle dance, each man and woman faced each other and holding hands – at arm’s length.

Africans in Dominican Republic

They did not hold each other closely and the original movements of this dance were only the shaking of the shoulders and swift movement of the feet.

How to Dance The Merengue: Solo

March in place on every beat. If you’re following, start marching with your right foot.

If you’re leading, start marching with your left. For every count of the beat, march 1 step.

You don’t need to pick your feet up very high—about 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm) is all you need to march in place.

Bend both knees slightly as you pick your feet up. To give yourself a little bounce, keep your knees bent as you make each movement.

Try not to lock your knees up, or you might look stiff. The merengue is all about fluid, even motion. Keeping your knees bent will also help you keep your steps going in one fluid motion.

Shift your weight to the foot you’re stepping down on. For each step that you take, naturally, let your hip fall down in time with your feet as you shift your weight.

Merengue danceroom by COD Newsroom (CC BY)

You don’t need an excessive hip shaking or gyrating—just that natural hip movement that takes place when you shift weight. Your hips may move slightly up and down as you sway back and forth.

This motion will come naturally to you as you practice the movements more.

Listen to merengue music to feel the rhythm. Merengue music is all in 4/4 time, so it’s easy to apply to almost any song.

Fernando Villalona, Juan Luis Guerra, Eddy Herrera, and Toño Rosario are all artists with great merengue music you can listen to and practice with.

You can also find merengue mixes on YouTube with hours and hours of songs playing continuously.

How to Dance The Merengue: With Partner

Face your partner and stand about 3 inches (7.6 cm) apart. The merengue is a pretty intimate dance, so you’ll want to start out with someone you know pretty well.

Start by facing each other and then move in closer so there isn’t much distance between the two of you.

Put your hand on your partner’s shoulder blade. Lift both of your arms up to about shoulder-height.

If you’re the leader, put your right hand on your partner’s left shoulder blade, and if you’re the follower, put your left hand on your partner’s right shoulder blade.

Grab your partner’s freehand with your other hand. Now, put your free arm up in an L shape at about shoulder-height.

Grasp your partner’s free hand in yours for a secure hold.

Merengue College Dance by COD Newsroom (CC BY)

If you’re the leading partner, you’ll raise your left hand. If you’re the follower, you’ll raise your right hand.

Travel across the floor in a circle. With this basic marching step, start moving back and forth, left and right.

If you’re the leading partner, rotate slowly in a 360-degree turn.

Take a full 8 beats to do the turn, and try not to rush your movements.

If you’re feeling groovy, take 16 counts to do the turn instead of 8.

Famous Merengue Songs

After you’ve mastered your Merengue steps, familiarize yourself with the world-famous Merengue songs?

See these world-famous Merengue songs below

  • Abusadora – Oro Solido
  • Esa Muchacha – Los Hermanos Rosario
  • Bailar – Deorro ft. Elvis Crespo
  • La Bilirrubina – Juan Luis Guerra
  • You Burned Me – Chino and Nacho
  • Es Mentiroso – Elga Tañón

You shouldn’t have any trouble impressing your friends and family with these Merengue rhythms.

How to Dance Merengue

The Merengue is one of the most popular Latin dances that most westerners aren’t aware of. It has links with the Bolero, as many Latin dances do, but this dance has a more African beat.

In actual fact, Merengue is probably the most fun dance to try out if you’re willing to give it a go.

It may be difficult to find lessons or tutors where you live, but if you have access to one, or thinking of traveling to the Dominican Republic you should definitely give it your all!

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How to dance merengue -

Merengue - the most dynamic pair of Latin American dance that has ever been danced in discos. In Russia, it is danced not so long ago, and it appeared here thanks to the efforts of Latin American students who regularly held parties in the name of 'friendship of peoples'.

It would seem that couple dances are forever in the past, it is not customary to dance like this at modern discos. It's rare to see couples twirling slowly, usually in the early morning, when tired DJs put on some romantic tune. Latin American discos are quite another matter. At such parties, they usually dance in pairs.

Couple dances have a special charm: when partners are so close to each other, an acquaintance is made, and further relationships can continue if the parties mutually wish. There are three ways to dance merengue. The first - bien pegado - when the partners, circling around the dance floor, press against each other so tightly that they seem to be a single whole. Another merengue can be danced in pairs, but not so close; this method is suitable for partners who met not so long ago and are still embarrassed to make closer contact. And finally separado - at a considerable distance, without physical contact. In this case, the presence or absence of a partner is completely unimportant; this style of dance came from those countries where the dancing people are not familiar with the merengue culture, and therefore do not know that they are losing a lot.

Is it difficult to dance merengue? Basically, not much. Some can learn his movements the first time. They are really easy. Shall we start?

Starting position - as in a waltz: the gentleman hugs the lady by the waist, she is by his shoulders, the partner's left hand and the partner's right hand are extended and locked into a lock. The distance between the dancers depends, first of all, on how comfortable it is for them to perform the dance movements.

Music is played and the partners begin to take steps, following the rhythm. The lady moves back, the gentleman directs and turns her. It is possible, while moving, to stay in place, it depends on how much space there is on the dance floor. The legs are slightly bent at the knees, the foot of the lady's right leg is between the feet of the gentleman, the inner sides of the partners' thighs are in contact. All these movements are performed to the music during the verse, and when the break or chorus begins, they usually begin to make turns. It all depends on the skill and imagination of the dancers. You can linger a little in place, forcing your partner to go to the side and thereby make a turn. You can also start the turn yourself, then you will wrap around yourself, and your partner will go around you in a circle. In merengue, it is quite easy to do all this, since the main step is stepping from one foot to another, it is not easy to stray, unlike other dances, where it is sometimes problematic to guess the moment convenient for turning so that the partner does not lose the step.

You can improvise in the dance as much as you like, there are no restrictions on this, the only requirement is not to get out of rhythm. Therefore, merengue is so popular at discos and parties, in order to dance it, you do not need to be a professional.

Some useful tips for beginners:

  1. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes. Dance in low-heeled shoes, the merengue is a pretty fast dance, and it's pretty hard to keep your feet in stilettos. Clothing requirements are minimal - it should not interfere with your movement. The only caveat is that fluttering flirty miniskirts will create a lot of problems for you if you decide to spin a little.
  2. The dance floor should be neither very slippery nor very rough, and your shoes should glide easily on the floor.
  3. Select music. Do not dance to too slow or too fast tunes, or to songs where the rhythm changes (slows down or speeds up) unexpectedly and for a short time. The music will guide you if the rhythm is clear.
  4. Starting training, if possible, dance with a partner of the same height as you, in this case you will avoid problems that arise when turning.
  5. Most importantly, feel free to experiment! Having learned a couple of basic steps and turns, many stop there. From such people you most often hear that the merengue is a surprisingly boring dance, and that there are better dances. To prevent this from happening, come up with new movements yourself.

If you have ever learned ballroom dancing before, you will probably have to forget a lot of what you learned in dance school. Merengue is not a sports or ballroom dance, it does not need to make sudden movements, memorized figures performed automatically look out of place. The simpler and more natural you move, the better it looks from the outside. Don't forget that merengue (just like rumba, tango, and any other Latin American dance that you learned in your ballroom classes) is a folk dance and continues to be so to this day.

To learn how to dance merengue well, it is not necessary to attend dance lessons. Come to the club and watch the dancing couples, memorize the movements. And when you are invited to dance, feel free to repeat everything that you remember. But if you don’t find a partner, it doesn’t matter, practice at home in front of a mirror, and on your next visit to the disco, feel free to invite yourself. Want to start learning merengue right now? Below you will find three short video clips filmed during the annual 'Calle Ocho' Latin Music Festival in Miami. These videos are only ten seconds long, but even during this time you can get an idea of ​​​​the movements in the meringue.

Merengue - how to dance correctly

Merengue is one of the simplest social dances in Latin America. The rhythm and tempo of the music is quite fast, but at the same time, the movements are quite relaxed. Everyone who begins to memorize the basic merengue steps is puzzled - how to dance correctly. The most interesting thing is that beginners usually look at their feet or at their feet in order to do all the steps in the right order. The habit of looking at the floor is formed very quickly and is difficult to eradicate, and in meringue, eye-hand contact is very important. Knowing this, we decided to tell you how to dance correctly.

Correct lead: frame

In closed dances (partners are in a close position face to face) it is very important to maintain the correct position of the hands. It's called a "frame". The frame implies some tense construction of the partners' hands, which is maintained during the entire dance. In the closed position, the partner's elbow should be on top of the partner's elbow, while the girl puts her hand on the man's forearm or shoulder. Partners keep a straight line from elbow to wrist so that there are no "gaps" between their arms.

The frame must also be in an open position, the tension from the wrist to the elbow and from the elbow to the shoulder, as well as the precise fixation of the elbows, ensures the correct lead and guarantee that the partner will catch all the impulses and perform the element that is required of her. In order to correctly complete the closed frame, you must:

  • stand straight;
  • tighten the stomach and buttocks, stretch the top of the head up;
  • straighten your shoulders back;
  • raise the right elbow;
  • fix the right hand on the partner's right shoulder blade.

Practice and confidence

At first, many dancers have some uncertainty in their movements, fear of mistakes, embarrassment, discomfort from increased attention. Leading partners experience special stress, as the confidence of their impulses determines the entire course of the dance. We recommend a lot of practice, working out all the smallest elements, even when you are sure that you know them well.

Self-practice of movements in front of a mirror will help you get used to the look of your body during the dance, notice shortcomings and correct them. In addition, practice helps in the development of muscle memory, when the body, by inertia, executes commands given by music and brain impulses.

Dancer in the center and center in the dancer

Your body movements should start from the center of the body, not in the arms. Both leading and following start from the body, from the point of balance, and the hands only help to keep a stable connection with the partner and transmit signals. Perform balance exercises, for example, the “swallow”, known to many since childhood, will help develop coordination and learn to feel balance. Perfectly help to improve the coordination of the body exercises from yoga "for balance", for example, "tree pose" or "warrior pose".

Soft hands

When dancing, hand grip plays an important role. Insufficient grip and sluggish "pasta" fingers not only look ugly, but also contribute to breaking the pair's bond during turns and movements with strong inertia. The grip of the hands must be strong, but at the same time soft and plastic, otherwise, by “grabbing” your partner, you will not only not be able to give him a signal, but both will feel discomfort and tension.

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