dancers-33395_150The origins of the Mambo

The Mambo grew from the Danzon, a Cuban national dance, but not before serious influence by the Cuban Haitians, (in Haiti, a Mambo in a Voodoo Priestess) and American Jazz. The first known Mambo was presented in 1943 in Havana and many Latin American Orchestras of the time picked up and developed their own style. Just a few years later, it gained momentum and popularity in New York, and enjoyed a fairly long run of success. In more recent years, due to successful “Mambo” songs and movies, this dance has become popular once again.


Danced in 4/4 timing the music has 4 even beats to the bar. Sometimes described as a fast Rumba, the emphasis will often be on the 2 and 4 beats. The combination of Swing/Jazz and Latin music has however made this music quite distinct.

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 a fast and spicy dance characterized by strong Cuban motion, staccato movement and expression of rhythm through the body. The dancer holds on counts 1 and break on count 2. Mambo also features press lines, many swivels and spins. The Mambo frame is the same as the Rhythm frame.

Although native Cubans or untrained dancers may break on any beat of music, the formal version danced in the ballrooms breaks on the 2 count. The Mambo is a spot dance that is spicy and exciting. A variety of moves that include turns, breaks, and spins are used.

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.
Musical Information
Time signature: 4/4
Tempo: 47-51 measures per minute
Timing: 234(1)
Beat value: 1-1-2