Merengue, the dance, is said to have originated in the early 1800's. It is thought to have originated as a blend of the African Dance and the French Minuet. Since these slaves liked a little more fun in their dancing they added some upbeat drum music along with a somewhat more animated dance step.
Since it started out as a circle dance it was not danced by couples. Men and women, holding hands, faced each other, and at arm's length continued the dance. The dance consisted of some shoulder shaking and fancy foot work not the sensual hip action as most would think. Tribal dance did not have sensuous movements at all. There was no hip movement as in the merengue dance of today.
The merengue dance style we know today is said to have originated because of a leg problem. One version says it originated because the slaves were chained together and this caused the one leg to drag. The other version says that a hero badly wounded his leg in a revolution. When he was welcomed home in a grand celebration no one wanted to make him feel bad so they all danced as if their leg was hurt also thus the foot drag was originally started.
Merengue can be danced slow or fast as there is no real set tempo for the music to be played. There is fast merengue which is a vigorous workout and has less hip action. Down to the slower and more sensual, close dancing and hip gyrating merengue. Plus all the varieties in between, It is a fun dance, easy to learn and can be danced in tight quarters. This is why the merenegue has become so popular in recent years in the Latin countries and all over the world. Latin dance clubs are springing up in many non-Latin areas just because of this hot little dance and the contagious music it accompanies.
One of the most loved and influential artists in Dominican Republic and the Latin music community is Juan Luis Guerra. A composer and singer/songwriter whose songs often present the social issues of the country in a witty and poetic way. His special way of combining sophistication and traditional Dominican musical style had made Juan Luis Guerra stand out as one of the best artists of the time. His romantic songs, strong Christian beliefs, and humor combine to make his style special and unique. He calls his style "Mamborengue". Even with all his fame he is still very modest about his success. He does not appear often in concert.
Juan Luis Guerra won four Grammy's at the 2007 Latin Music Awards held in Las Vegas, USA. He received Song and Album of the Year, Best Tropical Song of the Year and Merengue Album of the Year. The Latin Academy of Recording Artists honored Guerra as Person of the Year.