This dance is part of the family of Chachacha and Cuban Rumba. Its step construction is almost identical to that of the Rumba, but the music is much faster and does occasionally change its musical emphasis. 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. Mambo music was invented during the 1930s in Havana by Cachao and made popular by Perez Prado and Benny Moré. 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. 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. The Mambo dance that was invented by Perez Prado and was popular in the 1940s and 50s Cuba, Mexico City, and New York is completely different to the modern dance that New Yorkers now call ‘Mambo’, which is also known as Salsa “on 2”.
The original mambo dance contains no breaking steps or basic steps at all. The Cuban dance wasn’t accepted by many professional dance teachers. Cuban dancers would describe mambo as “feeling the music” in which sound and movement were merged through the body. Professional dance teachers in the US saw this approach to dancing as “extreme,” “undisciplined,” and thus, deemed it necessary to standardize the dance to present it as a sell-able commodity for the social or ballroom market.
The modern dance from New York was popularized in the 70s by Eddie Torres and his contemporaries who were 1st or 2nd generation Puerto Rican immigrants. This style is not danced to Mambo music, for which it is poorly suited, but instead to Salsa music. 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.
The Eddie Torres version of Mambo (or Salsa On 2) was started with the back break and not the forward break. So, arguably, the forward break is on 6 in comparison of Cha cha cha & Ballroom version of Mambo which forward breaks on 2.