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Jenny and Toby

Merengue

American Style Rhythm

Merengue originated in the Dominican Republic in the early 19th century, and it is the only dance from that country to have made a significant impact on the United States. Merengue bands from the countryside typically included a vocalist backed by an accordion, a metal scraper and a double-headed tambora drum played with a stick, elements which are mimicked in today's more modern orchestrations.

Legend has it that the dance got its characteristic look from an old hero who had returned from battle with a wounded leg. While dancing, he couldn't help but limp to one side. Whatever the true origins of the dance, it is, in fact, characterized by a strong "dragged-leg" feeling on every second step. An uptempo dance, Merengue is noted for its Cuban Motion and side-to-side swinging feel.

Merengue was played in New York as early as the 1940's, gradually becoming a part of the Latin scene. The music has more recently evolved into an international phenomenon, with bands such as Juan Luis Guerra's 4.40 popularizing its simple, easy-to-follow beat. Merengue is in 2/4 time, with 55 to 60 beats to the bar.

Dance histories supplied by Diane Jarmolow of the Ballroom Dance Teachers College and reprinted with permission.