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History & Technique
Specific Figures


4 beats/measure; 28-32 meas/min and as high as 52 m/m (Merengue music can also be written with 2/4 timing.)

The Merengue is a steady stepping dance that developed in the Caribbean during the 1800s. One story has it originating in the Dominican Republic, where it was danced by a crippled general whose guests respectfully followed his every move, including the dragging of the right leg. This "limp" step gradually became smoothed out, and the dance became quite lively. It is the national dance of both the Dominican Republic and Haiti today. The Haitian style is more subdued and slower; the Dominican style can be extremely fast and is designed for crowded dance floors and little progression.

Round dancers use the slower, more sensual style. It is a very regular Latin rhythm with a "quick, quick, quick, quick;" look, rather than the more drawn out "quick, quick, slow, -;" of rumba. One dancer described the feel of merengue music as "Hep, hup, hep, hup." It is danced ball/flat or edge/flat with a rolling action and a subdued Rumba kind of a hip movement. Step with a flexed knee, take weight and straighten that knee as you release the now unsupporting knee. This shifts the hips to the supporting side: step/hip, step/hip . . . The hips move under a quiet upper body. There is a little knee action, too. If you allow the inside edge of the big toe to brush the floor, this will cause the unsupporting knee to veer in a little, to cross in front of the supporting knee. The knee action chases the hip action, and they can complement each other in a nice, rhythmic way.

Figure Name, Roundalab Phase Level, & Timing

q=quick, 1 beat
s=slow, 2 beats
&=1/2 beat; a=1/4 beat

Steps and Actions That Make Up the Figure

Each description focuses on the man, with the woman's footwork in parenthesis. If a woman's step is not given, it is the natural opposite or follow of the man's. Help: basic dance positions and steps, actions, directions, and abbreviations. Non-standard punctuation: a comma separates two beats of music, a semi-colon marks the end of a measure, and a slash (/) indicates a split beat, two things occurring in a single beat.

Here are some sequences to help you visualize the figure in context.

Basic or Side Basic or Chasse 4


Footprint Step PatternIn loose closed position facing wall, step sd, cl, sd, cl; Rather than thinking "step/hip" (see introduction above) to get the merengue hip action, you can think of dragging the toes of each foot across the floor before you take weight. The man lifts his left heel from the floor (woman right). This moves his hips to the right (hers left). Slide the left toes to the left, step ball, then flat, take weight, and this moves the hips to the left. Lift the right heel, hips move farther left, slide the right toes to the left, and so on. Don't force the hip action; that automatically arises out of the foot action. In the Bartons' Merengue Si, part A begins with a merengue basic 8;; to small steps apart; lady wrap LF in 4; wheel 4 and unwrap to face wall;;
Forward Basic


In closed postion facing line, step fwd, fwd, fwd, fwd; May be danced facing any direction and may be turned to left or right. You may also get the cue, "forward basic 6" or forward basic 8 or any even number.
Mark Time


Footprint Step PatternIn closed position, step in place L (woman R), in place R, in place L, in place R;
Merengue Ibo Forward & Back

1234; 1234;

In closed position, step forward L (woman back R), fwd R, fwd L with left side lead, and tap R behind L (woman L in front of R); step back R, back L, back R, tap L in front of R (woman R in back);
Merengue Ibo Side

1234; 1234;

In closed position, step side L (woman side R), close R, sd L, and tap R behind L (woman L behind); step sd R, close L, sd R, tap L (woman R);
Forward Stair

phase III


In closed position, step forward L (woman back R), close R, side L, close R; May be repeated as in "forward stairs 8."
Side Stair

In CP step sd L (W sd R), cl R, sd L, cl R;
In Geronomo by Auriene, there is basic; side stair; rock turn 8 LF COH;; basic; side stair; rock turn 8 LF wall;;
Side Separation

phase IV

1234; 1234; 1234; 1234;

We begin in a facing position, maybe BFLY Wall, with lead feet free. In the first measure, the man steps side, close, sd, touch; and the woman steps sd, cl, sd, cl; This transition puts you on the same footwork and prepares you to step in opposite directions. Now both will step sd, cl, sd, tch; but the man will be moving to his right (to reverse if he is facing wall), and the woman will be moving to his left (down line). We briefly touch hands in a left-hand star position. During measure 3, both step sd, cl, sd, cl; coming back to face. During measure 4, the man steps sd, cl, sd, cl; and the woman steps sd, cl, sd, tch; separating, man to line and woman to reverse and touching hands in a right-hand star. We have again transitioned and lead feet are free.

May begin facing with the trail feet free, in which case we end in left-hand star, trail feet free. May begin in any facing direction.
In Camerero by Ross, we dance a left turning rock to face wall; side stairs 4 to CP; side separation;;;; circle walk right;;

In Gravity Storm by Fisher, we start the dance facing and with R feet free for both. The side separation begins with the second measure of the standard figure. In the third measure, in R-hand star, both touch, and then the Fishers have a fourth measure that brings them back to facing, the man touches, and we end BFLY Wall, lead feet free, for a snake.
Left Turning Rock


In closed position facing the wall, step forward L (woman back R) with contra action and turn 1/8 LF. Step back R turning 1/8 LF. Step side L turning 1/8, and close R with no further turn. As with many merengue figures, may be repeated indefinitely.

phase III


In SCP LOD, step fwd, fwd blending to loose closed, side, close; The Browns' Merengue Maria has a basic; promenade; basic; glide; twisty vine 8;; to a whaletail;; (these last two are two-step figures)
Promenade Swivels


In SCP LOD, swivel to face and step side L (woman side R), swivel to semi and step forward R, swivel to face and step side L, close R to CP wall;

The swiveling steps (1 & 2) may be repeated prior to taking the last two steps, so you could dance a promenade swivel 6 or 8 (or more).
In Arrasando by Ross we dance a basic; back break SCP; promenade swivels; basic; conga walks L&R;;
Promenade Turn Away

1234; 1234;
In CP Wall (or other facing direction) turn to SCP and step fwd L (W fwd R), fwd R, fwd L checking and turning RF (W LF), recover R to LOP RLOD; fwd L chkg & trng 1/4 RF (W LF) to a back-to-back position M fcg COH, recover R trng 1/2 RF to face, sd L, cl R to CP Wall;

One way to think of this figure is that we begin a promenade in the first measure, and we turn away from partner in the second. Or, it's sort of a stretched out basketball turn in 8 (not really; I'm being whimsical).
In Ven Tu by Ross, we dance a basic to BFLY; new yorker in 4; promenade turn away;; basic; conga walks;

In Merengue Maria by Townsend-Manning we dance a basic; MR whisk; promenade turn away;; lindy catch in 8;;
Lindy Catch

1234; 1234;
Facing partner rock apart L (W apart R), recover R toward W's right side, fwd L beginning to circle RF around behind W, fwd R circling (W recover L, fwd R, fwd L no turn); fwd L circling, fwd R to face partner, (W bk R, bk L) sd L, cl R;

Merengue Roll


In a facing position, wall, step side and forward on the lead, turning LF (WRF) to a back-to-back position. Continue turning and step side and back on the trail to face partner again. Step side joining lead hands, and close trail feet; lead feet free. Do an open break; merengue roll; open break; merenue roll; to conga walks left and right;;
Open Break


In closed position facing line of dance, step forward L (woman back R), side R, rock apart (both step back), and recover to closed position; In Manana by the Chicos, there is an open break; merengue roll to face; conga walks left & right;;
Side Break


In closed position, line of dance, step side on lead and close. Step side again and leave trail foot extended, and recover.
Back Break


In closed position, wall, step side on inside edge of lead foot, then side on inside edge of trail foot, beginning to turn to semi-closed position. An option is to close on beat 2 instead of stepping side. On beat 3, step back into a fallaway position (semi). Step fwd again on trail foot and swivel back to closed position.
Separation or Arm Slide

phase III

1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4;

With hands on partner's upper arms, back away from each other, bk, bk, bk (arms extended toward each other touching finger tips); then step fwd, fwd, fwd, fwd back to loose closed; May also be danced over four measures: move apart 8 steps and together 8 steps.

Footprint Step PatternHere is a diagram showing a 16-step separation:

In El Pero Merengue by the Cibulas, there is a basic; glide to butterfly; arm slide;; riverboat shuffle;; arm slide;; riverboat shuffle;; roll 3 and tap; roll back 3 and tap;

phase IV

1&,2&, 3,4;

In loose closed position wall, step sd/cl, sd/cl, sd, cl; In Shibata's Dancez Merengue, part A starts with a basic; glide; basic; glide;

In Chico's Manana, we have a glide; promenade; glide; promenade;

Conga Walks


In semi-closed position facing line, step side & forward L (woman side & forward R). On beat 2, step forward R and swivel to face . On beat 3, close L. On beat 4, swivel LF (woman RF) and step back on the trail foot on an "a" count and touch the lead heel forward with no additional weight change.

You may also dance this figure more like the Promenade Swivels above: swivel and step side, swivel and step forward, swivel and close, and then dance the "a4" as described.

This is a standard figure as described by URDC.

In Hot Hot Hot by the McGees, we start with conga walks twice;; promenade; 2 side closes; promenade;
Conga Walks Left & Right

phase III

1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4;

In semi line, step fwd L (woman fwd R), step thru, swivel to face and step side, swivel toward reverse and point trail foot RLOD leaning LOD; fwd R, thru L, swivel to face and step side, swivel toward line and pt lead foot LOD leaning RLOD; In Hot Hot Merengue by the Kincaids, part A begins with conga walks left & right;; conga walks forward & back;; merengue basic; merengue glide; basic; glide; twirl to a tamara; wheel;; unwrap; to another basic;
Conga Walks Forward & Back

phase III

1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4;

Facing ptr and wall step fwd, fwd, fwd, point trail foot back leaning fwd she shoulder shimmy; then step bk, bk, bk, point lead foot forward leaning bk; The Shibatas do a basic; conga walks L & R;; conga walks fwd & bk;; basic; glide;
Conga Break


In semi-closed position, line of dance, step fwd, fwd, turn in XLIF she XRIF/rec, touch heel (no wt lead free again); Basic; conga break twice;; circle away and together;;

1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4;

In this figure, we begin in butterfly position and we pretty much march in place for three measures and 12 steps. As we do this, we turn under joined hands, one way and then the other, hands going up and down as we turn, until you end up back in the starting position. I think it is the arms going up and down and twisting as you turn that makes the figure look "snaky."

Begin in butterfly position, man facing wall and woman facing center.  In the first measure of music, step in place four steps.  The man raises lead hands (his left and her right), steps left, right, left, right, and as he does so, he turns to the left 3/4 under those joined hands.  He will turn first to line, to center, and finally to reverse.  While the man does this, the woman steps right, left, right, left, and turns to the right only 1/4.  At the end of the measure, lower lead hands.  At this point, you are side-by-side, left hip to left hip in a sort of hammer-lock position with his left hand in front of her and at her right hip, and her left hand behind his back with his right arm bent behind his back.  Again, she is facing line on the outside of the circle and he is facing reverse on the inside of the circle.  One secret to making the arms work is to hold hands very lightly—really just touch fingers and let your hands turn against each other as you turn.

In the second measure, again take four steps.  Raise lead hands back up again, and both of you turn 1/4 to the right in two steps.  She turns under those lead hands.  Lower your arms and you will be standing back-to-back, he facing center, she facing wall.  Now raise the trail hands (man's right and woman's left), and as you step twice, both turn 1/4 to the right.  She turns under trail hands. Lower the hands and you are side-by-side again but right hip to right hip.  Now the lead hands are at the man's back and the trail hands are in front of her and at the woman's left hip, man facing LOD and woman RLOD.

In the third measure, raise the trail hands again.  She begins to turn 1/4 to the right.  He can briefly look at her through a window formed by the curve of his right arm.  The man puts his head through that window and turns 3/4 to the left, turning under his own right arm, again in four steps, and you end in butterfly wall as you began.

During measure one, both turn under lead hands, during two she turns under lead hands and then under trail hands, and during three he turns under trail hands.

Do a snake;;; basic; conga walks left and right;; and conga walks fwd and back;; (part B of Dancez Merengue)

In Lambamor by Okino, there is a change hands behind the back to BFLY wall;; snake;;;basic;
Inverted Snake

1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4;

Again (see Snake above) we begin in butterfly position facing wall.  Here, we begin with the trail hands.  Raise them and turn 1/4 to the right in four steps: L, R, L, R.  She turns 3/4 to the left under those raised arms: R, L, R, L.  Lower your arms in front of you, and you are side-by-side, left hip to left hip.  Trail hands are in front of the man and lead hands are behind the woman in a hammerlock.  He is facing reverse.  She is facing line. 

In the second measure, he raises his right hand, turns 1/4 right face under it in two steps (she turns 1/4 to right), and lowers hands, quickly raises left hand and turns 1/4 to right under those hands in two steps (she turns 1/4 more), and lowers hands.  Note he has turned under trail hands and then under lead hands.  She turns under no hands.  Both have turned 1/2 to right.  End side-by-side, right hip to right hip, lead hands in front of man, and trail hands behind woman in hammer-lock.  

In the third measure, raise lead hands and turn woman 3/4 to left under lead hands in four steps.  Man turns 1/4 to right.  You can end in open facing position, or you can take lead hands again and end in butterfly.

The Worlocks' A La Playa is a cha, but they have a double cuban in butterfly wall; spot turn to face; inverted snake;;;; and rock side to a quick new yorker;


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