excerpted from a posting by Carmen Vazquez
Merengue, the national dance of the Dominican Republic, is a combination of two dances, the African and the French Minuet, from the late 1700′s to the early 1800′s.
The original merengue was not danced by individual couples, but was a circle dance, with each man and woman facing each other and holding hands – at arm’s length.
They did not hold each other closely and the original movements of this dance were only the shaking of the shoulders and swift movement of the feet. There was no blatant movement of the hips as there is today, as native African dances do not move the hips.