How to Dance Merengue Step by Step

Merengue dancing is light and playful, making it a great dance for beginners and experts alike. It has just a few steps, focusing on weight shifting and hip-swaying to produce movement. While the merengue’s steps may seem simple, it’s the hip movements that are essential for giving the dance its flair. Learn how to dance the merengue with professional dancers Ernesto Palma and Crystal Rodriguez in these free Howcast dance videos.

History of the Merengue

The merengue is an extremely storied dance with roots as old as the Dominican Republic itself. In fact, the merengue is the country’s national dance, first appearing during the 1700s. Myths surround the exact creation of the dance, but it was likely made by African slaves that meshed their dance styles with the French Minuet.

The dance didn’t become popular, however, until the 1800s, at which point it became a staple dance at almost every social occasion in the country. While the merengue originally emphasized quick feet and shoulder movements, it eventually transitioned into the hip-swaying movements that are so iconic today.

How to Merengue

The merengue is exceptionally easy to learn and only requires a basic understanding of weight shifting to dance correctly. The only tricky aspect is understanding how to move your hips—but that’s easily mastered with practice and will let you start merengue dancing with flair!

Body Position

There should be a decent amount of space between two partners. A man’s left hand will extend out at the shoulder level to meet a woman’s right hand. The man’s right hand will be placed in the middle of a woman’s back, while the woman’s left arm will be above this and resting on the man’s right shoulder.

Counting

Counting the merengue is simple, because each step lasts for one beat. It is counted across eight beats, with each count consisting of a single step. Because of this, it can be counted as easily as: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Each count will have you shift weight between your legs, which means you can also just count the merengue as: 1, 2, 1, 2 repeatedly if you’d like.

How to Do the Merengue Basic Steps

Now that you know how the dance works, it should seem easy to learn. There are no fancy steps, and all you need to do is shift your weight on every count! Here’s how to do the Merengue Basic Steps:

  • Leader starts by stepping in place with their left foot, follower will step in place with their right foot.
  • Leader then shifts weight to their right foot by swaying their hips, follower mirrors by shifting weight to their left foot.
  • Leader will shift weight over to their left foot again, follower will shift weight to their right foot. 
  • Leader should shift weight onto their right foot, follower will shift weight onto their left foot. 
  • The dance now repeats, with constant weight shifting from foot to foot. With each shift, you should sway your hips to move naturally. This is essential to performing the dance well and looking good at the same time!

Start Merengue Dancing!

We hope this guide helps you learn how to merengue dance! To learn even more merengue moves and techniques, explore the rest of the videos in this series below. 

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Stepping Out Studios

Stepping Out Studios is a dance studio specializing in all forms of partner dance. We have been in business for 27 years and were voted "Top 2 in the country and #1 in the East." We teach all levels and all styles of partner dance (Latin, Ballroom, Tango, Swing, Country Western, etc.) seven days a week. We offer introductory lessons, private lessons, group classes, wedding packages, practice sessions, and weekly parties.