Monday, September 28, 2009

Magical Merengue Moments

It's been quite a while since I last danced the Merengue so when Eric Tan of Classic Dancesport said that he was starting a Merengue class at the Kuala Lumpur Dancers' Association (KLDA) on Friday evenings, I took the opportunity to join the class as a sort of refresher and also for the fun of it. The Merengue is a happy and lively dance and is one of the easiest social dances to learn. Because of its simple rhythmic structure, the Merengue is a dance you can dance immediately the first time you learn it. It is the national dance of both the Dominican Republic and Haiti and is very popular in the Caribbean and South America. Dominican immigrants to the United States in the early twentieth century also helped to spread the popularity of the dance in the USA.

The commonly used time signature for the Meringue is 4/4, meaning there are 4 beats in a bar of music. The tempo can be very fast, up to 40 bars per minute but it is normally played at 29 - 32 bars per minute. Depending on the figures, the Merengue can be danced in closed position with the man's right leg in between the lady's legs, or in open position. A dance step is taken on each beat of music. Although the tempo may be fast, the upper body is kept upright and stately and figures are usually danced to four-beat counts. Partners may walk sideways, forward & back or circle each other in small steps. Variations include body drops, underarm turns, alternate underarm turns and the more advanced and intricate moves like the double-hand turns & pretzels.

The main characteristic of the Merengue is the Merengue action which is a movement of the hips due to the weight change from one foot to the other when stepping on alternate feet. Often described as being seductively attractive, the Merengue action should however be natural and not appear exaggerated. The Merengue action is also used in some figures in the Latin American dances, like for example in the Chicken Walks in the Jive and the Plait in the Samba. In both these figures the man walks back with a Merengue action while the lady does the Chicken Walks or Plait moving forward. The next time you organize a social event, remember to play some Merengue music and listen to the squeals of delight as the couples Merengue on the dance floor!

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