HISTORY

Mambo originated in Cuba where there were substantial settlements of Haitians.  In the back country of Haiti, the “Mambo” is a voodoo priestess who serves the villagers as counselor, healer, exorcist, soothsayer, spiritual advisor, and organizer of public entertainment.  However, there is no folk dance in Haiti called the “Mambo”.

Mambo is a fusion of Swing (American jazz) and Cuban music.  The actual dance is attributed to Perez Prado who introduced it at La Tropicana nightclub in Havana in 1943.  The original dance had to be toned down (too athletic and acrobatic) in order for the general public to be able to do it.   A modified version was presented at dance studios, resort hotels, and night clubs in New York and Miami.  The Mambo craze of the 1950s did not last long; and today, Mambo’s appeal is limited to advanced dancers.  However, Mambo did give rise to two other dances:  Cha Cha (in the 1950s) and Salsa (in the 1980s).

DANCE CHARACTERISTICS

  • Mambo is generally a fast and spicy dance. The steps are small, precise, and largely in place to avoid becoming wild and frantic.
  • Steps should be staccato and striking.
  • The “basic” step generally consists of 6 steps done in a “quick-quick slow; quick-quick slow” rhythm.
  • Strong Cuban Motion is used with expression of rhythm throughout the body.
  • The dancer’s feet “hold” (no movement) on count 1 and then “break” (move) on count 2.
  • The footwork is generally “Ball Flat” throughout the dance. Ball Flat is a term indicating that the ball of the foot is the first part of the foot to come in contact with the floor and will receive the pressure from the weight change before the rest of the foot. The weight is then transferred to the Flat of the foot as the weight change is completed.
  • Since count 1 is the downbeat of the bar, the body should express this beat through strong hip and rib cage action, even though there is no weight change on count 1.
  • Mambo features many swivels and spins.