Learn the Merengue at Arthur Murray Dance Studios
Some dance historians claim that the Merengue originated in Haiti, and was named after the dessert – because it was a light dance that required a great deal of effort (like beating egg whites and sugar into a merengue). What you can’t dispute is that the Meringue is a simple, elegant dance that features complicated framing, turns, and hip and leg movement. When you add Merengue songs, the dance and music create a mood of joy, freedom and sensuality.
At Arthur Murray Dance Studios, our instructors can teach you the basic steps, then help you polish your performance. You can take an introductory lesson with us for only $20. We give students the confidence to express themselves through dance. Our professionals have mastered the Arthur Murray system and can help you master the Merengue.
Merengue – History and Definition
And what is the Merengue? It is a dance that originated on the Island of Hispaniola, which is divided between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Both nations claim to have developed this dance. The Haitian Merengue was performed by slaves, who could not move their legs freely when in a chain gang. Other sources claimed the Merengue was invented by Haitian servants who were mocking their wealthy French owners – who did the dull, and staid minuet. The Haitians took a stuffy court dance, and turned it into an explosion – turns, twists and leg moves.
Most authorities believe the Merengue originated in the Dominican Republic. One story claims that a Revolutionary leader was released from prison, and had an injured leg. His neighbors created the Merengue to commemorate his sufferings – one knee was bent, while the other remained stiff. In the 20th Century, Trujillo, the President of the Dominican Republic, decided the Merengue was the National Dance, and helped spread it from the rural areas to the major cities.
Merengue consists of the following elements – the couple face each other, and hold hands to create a frame. The man, who leads, begins with his left foot, while the lady starts with her right. They hold one leg straight, while the other is bent at the knee. This enables the partners to move their hips in the Merengue’s pattern of turns and twists. One instructional video claims there are 37 separate moves to the Merengue. At Arthur Murray, the teachers won’t make learning that complicated.
Learning the Merengue at Arthur Murray Studios
In the early 1920’s, Arthur Murray discovered a better way to teach dancing. He hired the best instructors, ones who enjoyed communicating with people. Beginners were taught the basics, and then rose to higher levels. There were, and still are, Gold, Silver and Bronze levels.
Instructors are encouraged to excel, and Arthur Murray offers continuing education for their teachers. The teachers who perform well may be encouraged to either pursue a career as professional ballroom dancers or given their own Arthur Murray Studio. When you want to learn the Merengue, go to a dance studio that doesn’t force you into a mold, or rush you through the learning process. At Arthur Murray studios, you can learn at your own pace, and develop your own style.
At this point, you may wonder how to dress for a Merengue class? You can ask the instructor for advice. Ladies, in the beginning, are better off wearing pants. Pants allow both the student and teacher to see how the legs move. Are they following a pattern or not? Skirts can bell out with turns, and obscure the view in the studio mirror.
Shoes are another important item. Dancers do not need to wear high heels, but should purchase dance shoes with flexible, thin soles. All Arthur Murray studios have stores, and the instructor can help you choose the right pair of dance shoes. If the shoes feel a bit uncomfortable, you can get a pair of orthotic insoles from your local drugstore. When you are learning the Merengue, wear comfortable clothes. The pace can be quite fast, and you will work up a sweat. One writer stated in the 1920’s that when students are going to learn the Merengue, the hostess should provide towels for the guests. Absorbent shirts and pants will be just as good.
Since the Merengue is a popular dance at parties, Arthur Murray offers weekly parties, where students can come to practice what they’ve learned. It’s important to take dancing out of the studio and into the ballroom. Furthermore, students get to socialize with other students. The Merengue has a fast beat, and expresses the joy of the Caribbean region – from the Dominican Republic to Haiti and Cuba. At Arthur Murray’s weekly Ballroom social, you’ll grow in confidence as you try out new moves and new partners. The Merengue is a partnership between two individuals, so what can be better than getting together every week to meet new partners, and practice with other students, not just your teacher?
Arthur Murray insists upon having educated, friendly teachers. They know Merengue’s history, and can explain how it created certain dance moves. For example, when American troops were stationed in the Dominican Republic, it was thought that local women preferred a more distant frame – partly because American soldiers were bad boys, and partly because they were clumsy dancers, unable to execute the footwork. Our instructors know the Merengue and can help students understand the background of the dance – to feel it not just in their bodies, but in their hearts.
The Arthur Murray Approach
Our studios understand the difference between a ‘one size fits all’ approach and a dance studio that meets an individual’s needs. The weekly dance socials are a deliberate attempt on the part of the Studio to vary instruction, and provide an alternative to classroom learning. At the end of the school year, we hold an awards ceremony, where we recognize the students who have shown the most improvement. Dance is a powerful form of self expression and communication. At Arthur Murray Dance Studios, we believe human relationships are the foundation of good dance. That’s why we offer group classes, and socials for our students.
For Arthur Murray, we want a lot more for our students than to learn the Merengue. Dance encourages confidence, healthy social interaction, and an overall better quality of life. Who wouldn’t want that for someone you care about? Arthur Murray Dance Studios wants that for all of our students.