The Merengue is the national dance of the Dominican Republic, and is also one of the standard Latin American dances. It is essentially a combination of two dances: the African and French Minuet, from the late 1700's through the early 1800's. Though its true origins are unknown, there are two popular stories circulating among the Dominican people. One is that the slaves were the ones who formed this type of dance as they cut sugar to the beat of drums while being chained together by one leg, as the other leg was forced to be dragged. The other story alleges that a hero of one of the many revolutions in the Dominican Republic was wounded by the leg and was welcomed by his village with a great celebration. The villagers participating in this celebration thus felt obliged out of sympathy to also limp and drag one foot, just as the wounded hero did. Both stories explain a characteristic of this dance, which resembles a sort of limping and dragging of one foot movement. 51 The original Merengue was not danced by couples as it is currently, but was a circle dance with each couple facing each other. Additionally, there was no blatant movement of the hips like in modern Merengue.
Though this dance's origins are still unclear, it is known to have existed since the beginnings of the Dominican Republic. The Haitians also have a similar dance, called Meringue. Merengue was able to gain much popularity in the Dominican Republic by the nineteenth century. This genre of dance can be seen at nearly every dancing occasion in the Republic. 52
The music that accompanies the Merengue is very dynamic. In ballroom Merengue, the music is generally slower. However, in clubs and restaurants with dance floors, the music is generally quick paced, usually ending in a bright and fast Jive. 53 Though the tempos are varying, most of the Dominicans enjoy a sharp quickening of pace towards the end of the dance.
The Merengue was first introduced into the United States in the New York area, but did not become widely known until several years after its initial introduction. 54