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Mambo

American Style Rhythm

The Mambo dance originated in Cuba where there were substantial settlements of Haitians. In the backcountry 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 not a folk dance in Haiti called the "Mambo."

The fusion of Swing and Cuban music produced this fascinating rhythm and in tum created a new sensational dance. The Mambo could not have been conceived earlier since up to that time, the Cuban and American Jazz was still not wedded. The "Mambo" dance is attributed to Perez Prado who introduced it at La Tropicana nightclub in Havana in 1943. Since then other Latin American band leaders such as Tito Rodriquez, Pupi Campo, Tito Puente, Machito and Xavier Cugat have achieved styles of their own and furthered the Mambo craze. The Mambo was originally played as any Rumba with a riff ending. It may be described as a riff or a Rumba with a break or emphasis on 2 and 4 in 4/4 time. Native Cubans or musicians without any training would break on any beat.

Mambo first appeared in the United States in New York's Park Plaza Ballroom - a favorite hangout of enthusiastic dancers from Harlem. The Mambo gained its excitement in 1947 at the Palladium and other renowned places such as The China Doll, Havana, Madrid and Birdland.

A modified version of the "Mambo" (the original dance had to be toned down due to the violent acrobatics) was presented to the public at dance studios, resort hotels, and at nightclubs in New York and Miami. Mambo happy dancers soon became known affectionately as "Mambonicks".

The Mambo craze did not last long and today the Mambo is much limited to advanced dancers. Teachers agreed that this is one of the most difficult of dances. One of the greatest contributions of the Mambo is that it led to the development of the Cha-Cha.

The Mambo is enjoying a renewed popularity due to a number of films featuring the dance as well as a man named Eddie Torres. Eddie is a New York dance pro and Mambo fanatic who has launched a crusade to make sure the dance reigns in the ballroom once again. Torres has become the leading exponent of the style, steadily building a reputation as a dancer, instructor, and choreographer. He has become known as the "Mambo King of Latin Dance". Torres is determined to reintroduce dancers to what he believes is the authentic nightclub style of mambo dancing, which in the 1990's is increasingly known as Salsa.

Most people treat Mambo as a very fast dance. In essence, it is a slow and precise dance that doesn't move very much.

Dance histories supplied by Diane Jarmolow of the Ballroom Dance Teachers College and reprinted with permission.