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Originally from Cuba, the Mambo is enjoyed throughout the world at both the social and competitive dance levels. The mambo is a favorite of ballroom audiences because of its high energy level and infectious rhythms. Popularized in recent years by singers such as Ricky Martin, the Mambo is fascinating and diverse.

Mambo Characteristics

The feel of the Mambo is based mostly on forward and backward movements. The basic components of the dance include rock steps and side steps, with occasional points, kicks and flicks of the feet. Important to Mambo is the distinctive hip movement, hence the meaning of the word mambo: "shake it."

Mambo Action

Some say the Mambo is a flirtacious, sensual dance, sometimes almost raunchy. Mambo dancers appear quite passionate and seem to express that passion with the movements of their hips. Exaggerated hip movements combined with long, flowing movements and sharp, quick steps contribute to the sensuous feel of the Mambo.

Distinctive Mambo Steps

The Mambo uses a 4/4 beat and is similar in rhythm to the slower Bolero. The basic Mambo combination is counted as "quick-quick-slow," with the foot moving on the second beat. On the third beat, the weight shifts to the other foot, returning to the original foot on the fourth beat. Dancers swing their hips through each step, creating a fluid motion and a sensuous atmosphere. A few distinctive Mambo steps:
  • La Cucuracha
  • Manita a Mano
  • New York
  • New York Bus Stop
  • El Molinito
  • The Liquidizer
  • El Mojito
  • Los Giros Locos

Mambo Music and Rhythm

In Mambo music, the rhythm is set by a variety of percussive instruments, including maracas and cowbells. Beginners may be confused by the variety of Mambo rhythms, but variety is what gives Mambo its spice. The tempo of Mambo also varies between musicians, with a wide range of 32 beats per minute to a challenging 56 beats per minute. In the past, Mambo bands would hold friendly competitions to see who could create the best mambo rhythm. Today the dance is making a comeback and is performed in ballroom competitions.

History of Mambo

The Mambo dance originated in Cuba as a mixture of Afro-Caribbean and Latin American cultures. The Mambo is believed to have been named after the voodoo priests who thought they could send dancers into hypnotic states. Initially condemned by the churches and resricted by authorities in some countries, with time the Mambo gained popularity and became the favorite dance style that it is today.
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