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By Mark Rogers

Merengue is the music and dance that powers the Dominican Republic. The steps aren’t that hard to learn – they were famously dumbed down for slow-footed American soldiers stationed in the D.R., who were told the steps resembled marching in place underwater. Merengue music is in quick 2/4 time and four beats or steps will complete a full turn with your partner. While the tempo of the music can sometimes reach a rapid pace, it’s important to remember to keep a certain dignified air when you’re dancing the merengue. My fiancée is always telling me, “Hey, papacitio – don’t make faces.”

Merngue dancingThere’s an interesting tale about how the merengue was born, although I have no way of knowing how true it is. Back during the D.R.’s fight for independence, a wounded soldier joined a group of dancers. As he limped along to the beat, other dancers imitated his movements in order not to make him feel conspicuous. Voila! The merengue was born from this act of kindness.

As music trends have changed, merengue has morphed into various styles, including merengue- disco, merengue-techno, merengue-rap and merengue-house.

If you just can’t get enough merengue, make tracks for the Merengue Festival in the Dominican Republic. The festival is held every July and August on the malecon (seaside promenade) in Santo Domingo. For two months there’s dancing everywhere to top bands and DJs as the
infectious beat takes over the capital.

For the quintessential merengue sound, check out this VIDEO by Elvis Crespo, singing his hit, Suavemente.