What is the Mambo?

Combine swing and Rumba and you get the Mambo! Made popular by Cuban pianist Anselmo Sacasas in 1944, the Mambo is an upbeat dance that remains popular today for its style, rhythm, and pizazz. If you’re a lively individual inspired by the union of American and Cuban jazz, the Mambo is the perfect rhythmic dance for you to feel the music.

The History of Mambo

In the 1940s Americans became fascinated by Latin American rhythms. The original mambo music, El Guardia Con El Tolete, had its beginning in 1944 as a Rumba with a riff improvisation. The mambo combined American Jazz and the Afro -Cuban beat. Arthur Murray studios became famous for turning out some of the best mambo dancers of the era. As the parent of Cha-Cha and Salsa, the Mambo is an exciting challenge for all dancers.

The Mambo was originally characterized by complicated footsteps but evolved over time. Rosa Carmina and Lilia Prado were among the popular Mexican entertainers to adopt this dance form. Today, it is one of the most sensual Latin American Ballroom dance forms where hip and arm movements, and facial expressions are all a part of the routine. The original Mambo features no basic steps or breaking steps, which was why it wasn’t accepted by several professional dance instructors. It was more of a music that the dancers had to feel in order to merge sound and movement through the body. It was standardized by US professional dance teachers to make it more socially acceptable for the ballroom market.

How to Dance the Mambo

For the most part, the Mambo is danced to up-tempo Latin music with a tempo between 188 – 204 beats per minute. The basic rhythm is a 2 3 4 (1), 2 3 4 (1) pattern. It uses a 4/4 beat similar to the Bolero rhythm. The word Mambo means ‘shake it’, which is what a dancer does on the floor. The feel of the Mambo is on forward and backward movements and includes rock steps and side steps. It also involves occasional kicks and flicks of the feet and a distinctive hip movement. That’s what makes it a flirtatious, passionate dance often bordering on the raunchy. It combines exaggerated hip movements with long, flowing movements and sharp quick steps. The basic step is counted as quick-quick-slow with the foot moving on the second beat. The weight then shifts to the other foot on the third beat and returns to the original foot on the fourth beat.

Some of the distinctive steps of the Mamba include La Cucuracha, El Molinito and The Liquidizer, to name a few. Variety is what gives Mambo music and dance its spice. The tempo varies between musicians from 32 to a breath stopping 56 beats per minute. Thanks to a new breed of Mambo followers, the dance has made a strong comeback to ballroom competitions.