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Merengue is a type of lively, joyful music and dance that comes from the Dominican Republic. Origins are traced to the second half of 18th century, but are still disputed.

The ballroom version of merengue (merengue de salón), in its easiest form looks as follows.

With monotonous thumping 1-2-3-4 bass drum beat, all steps are on one beat and have a characteristic limping appearance. Sometimes this step is called "paso de la empalizada" (pole-fence step). There are also legends about a limping war hero (or El Presidente of a bana republic himself, in some versions) who had to step in this way while dancing because of wounds, and polite (or clueless) public imitated him.

Partners hold each other in closed position and do walks sideways or circle each other, in small steps. They can further switch to a double handhold position and do separate turns never letting go each other's hands. During these turns they may twist and tie their handhold into intricate pretzels. Other choreography is possible.

Although the tempo of the music may be frantic, the upper body is kept majestic and turns are slow, typically four beats/steps per complete turn.

In social dancing the "empalizada" style is replaced by exaggerated Cuban motion, taught in chain ballroom studios for dances of Latin American origin (mambo, cha cha, rumba, salsa).

Club merengue evolved significantly from ballroom style. The main differences are much more erotic, suggestive way of dancing and much less serious attitude. All "ballroom" figures are danced, in addition dancers may dance in separation, similarly to shines known in salsa. Merengue shines are much more suggestive or silly.

Above & below are two short sample tracks. Please use the controls to pause and play each track individually to get a feel for this type of music.

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