Both Haiti and the Dominican Republic claim Merengue as their own. According to Haitian lore, an earlier ruler of their country had a lame son who liked to dance. In order that this beloved prince would not feel self-conscious about his affliction, the entire populace 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 returning war hero. When the brave warrior rose to dance, he limped on his wounded left leg. Rather than make him feel self-conscious, all the men present favored their left legs as they danced.
In both countries for many generations, the Merengue was taught and danced with these back stories in mind. When couples got up to dance the Merengue, the man favored his left leg and the lady favored her right leg; while flexing their knees a bit more than usual and at the same time leaning the body slightly to the same side.
Haitians and Dominicans alike refer to the Merengue as their “singing dance;” this is understandable when you consider the exhilarating brightness of the staccato rhythm. The Merengue is danced in place to Latin music.