Merengue to Salsa
You will need to have understood and naturalised two merengue tutorials:
- Lower Body
Action - all sections
- Changing Phase
- all sections
To have an idea
of what we're going to achieve, you might find it useful to view some
of the Salsa: Level One content, primarily the clips of:
four main aspects you should grasp.
- Dance structure
- changing phase
In merengue, phase changes are performed by the lead and can occur
at any time. Its open structure allows phase changes to be used with
In salsa, phase changes are performed by both partners and occur on
the same beat. Learning to changing phase on specific beats repeatedly
takes a little more time to naturalise.
- Lower Body
Action - tempo range
The merengue tempo range begins at a lower count and has a lower average,
so you can employ the pedalling action to a greater extent. Salsa
is more up-tempo, so there is less time to use a full hip action.
If you're used to the rhythmic patterns and instrument ranges of merengue,
you may need to spend some time ear training or acclimatising
to salsa, especially with respect to clave and conga patterns. In
salsa, knowing the role of the clave, and being sensitive to the music's
resulting two-bar phrases are essential in identifying your rhythmic
Merengue is an asymmetrical dance because the same leg tends to be
used at the beginning of each bar of music, whereas salsa is a symmetrical
dance because a different leg is used at the beginning of each bar.
This difference in symmetry has an impact on choreography and the
manner in which turns are performed.
Taking the example of dancing on beat one (as in Salsa: Basic Steps).
a regular phase change
- Solo, on the
spot, without music, vocalising a count to four.
Practice changing phase at the end of every bar of music i.e.
on the count of four. This implies three weight changes:
one per beat for the first three beats, followed by a null weight
- Solo, merengue
walk, without music, vocalising a count to four.
The same practice except the three weight transfers in place are substituted
with travelling steps in any direction, usually forwards and
backwards first. Phase change still occurs on the count of four.
You are now doing the salsa walk.
- Solo, to merengue
The above two (salsa walk and on-the-spot) practices separately then
combined, to slow merengue music. Increase the tempo of the music
as you become more proficient. Try not to cheat. Apply as much of
the pedalling action as possible on your steps, it will help you develop
power as speed increases.
in phase, without music, to a count.
Similar to practices 1 and 2.
in phase, to merengue music.
For a more in-depth exploration of rhythms in salsa, see our Salsa:
Ear Training tutorials.
Listen to the
conga track: tumbao without clave 144bpm (in Salsa: Ear Training). Alternatively
you could use a chachachá, slow son-montuno, or
slow salsa at approximately 140bpm. Most of these genres have two rounded
ringing sounds at the end of the bar of music. These are the double
open tones played on the conga, the first of which is on beat four.
salsa walk to the conga pattern (called the tumbao moderno),
such that your phase change occurs on the first of the two open tones
i.e. beat four. Your three steps should fall in between the open
tones of the rhythm.