Mambo is a Latin dance from Cuba and was invented by musician and composer Arsenio Rodriguez. This “Latin American” dance is said to have originated in Cuba. Apparently, it is said that Mambo as a dance form was created as an alternative to Rumba. In addition, this dance is said to have become popular in countries such as Cuba and Mexico. There are no breaking steps or basic steps in the original mambo dance. Many dance instructors rejected the Cuban dance. Mambo is classified by Cuban dancers as “feeling the music,” in which the body combines movement and sound. Professional dance instructors in the US considered it necessary to standardize the dance in order to present it as a marketable good for the social and ballroom markets because they considered this method of dancing as “extreme” and “undisciplined”. Puerto Rican dancer Pedro Aguilar, also known as “Cuban Pete,” and his wife rose to fame in the 1940s as the best mambo dancers of the era, performing frequently at The Palladium in New York. By Life magazine and the legendary Tito Puente, “Cuban Pete” was praised as “the greatest Mambo dancer ever.” For his mambo dance moves, Pedro Aguilar was given the names “Cuban Pete” and “el cuchillo.” Furthermore, this dance form also became extremely popular in the United States of America during the 1980s.

a. History/origin of the Mambo dance:

It is said that it was in the 1930’s, that a musician named Arsenio Rodriguez first developed this dance form in Cuba. It was further developed by a composer called Pedro Prado in the 1940’s and 1950’s.  Furthermore, this Cuban dance which possessed no structure was “Americanized” i.e. given a structure in the 1980’s so as to cater to the market which then favoured the more structured social/ballroom form of dancing.

George Vascones, the leader of the Bronx, New York, dance group known as the Latin Symbolics, popularized the modern mambo dance in the late 1960s and early 1970s. George Vascones carried on the mambo dance tradition that had begun in the “Palladium era” 20 years prior. Eddie Torres, Angel Rodriguez of the RazzM’Tazz Mambo Dance Company, and other people—many of whom were New York Puerto Ricans of the second generation—followed it in the 1980s. Although salsa dura is more frequently used than mambo, this style is occasionally danced to (old-school salsa). Because the basic step’s break or direction change happens on count two, it is known as “mambo on 2.”

b. Mexican and Rumberas movies- Mambo dance:

Pérez Prado relocated his music from Havana to Mexico, where both the music and the dance were adopted. The original mambo dance featured free-form movements and intricate footwork. The Rumberas movies featured a lot of this look. During that time, Ninon Sevilla, Maria Antonieta Pons, Tongolele, Meche Barba, and Resortes were all well-known dancers.

c. Costumes used in the Mambo dance:

Since this dance style involves both male and female the costumes used will vary accordingly and they are as follows:

1. For women:

The attire worn includes a short multi-layered ruffle that at times also exposes the midriff of the performer to add to the sensuality that this dance style possesses.

2. For men:

The attire worn includes colourful deep V-neck shirts and pants to go along with it.

c. Music played in the Mambo dance:

The music for this dance form involves the use of musical instruments such as piano, violin, and flute i.e. a wind instrument clarinet, saxophone, double bass, tumbadoras, guiro, and timbales which help produce rhythmic melodies.

d. Training availability and technique involved in Mambo dance:

In terms of the basic technique, this dance generally uses a 4/4 beat. It involves the performer moving his/her foot on the second beat while, on the third beat the weight is transferred to the other foot. Finally, it is on the fourth beat that the weight is transferred back to the foot used in the second beat. In addition, to what is referred to as “quick-quick-slow” foot movement the performers also make use of hip movements to provide this dance form with fluid motion as well as make it extremely sensuous. As for training centres/schools, there are many available all around the world today since this extremely “seductive” dance has gained a lot of popularity over the years.

Image credits : Flickr


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