Both Haiti and the Dominican Republic claim the Merengue as their own invented style of dance. According to Haitian lore, a ruler of their country had a lame son who liked to dance. In order that this beloved son would not feel sad about his affliction, the people of Haiti took to dancing as though they all were lame. The Dominican’s version is that the dance originated at a fiesta that was given to honor a war hero. When the brave warrior rose to dance, he limped on his wounded left leg. Rather than make him feel bad, all the men began to favor their left legs as they danced.
For generations in both countries, the Merengue was taught and danced with these back stories in mind. When couples would dance the Merengue, the man favored his left leg and the lady favored her right leg. They would flex their knees a bit more than usual and at the same time lean the body slightly to the same side.
Haitians and Dominicans alike refer to the Merengue as their “singing dance.” When you consider the exhilarating brightness of the staccato rhythm, this is quite understandable. The Merengue is danced in place to Latin music.