History of Dances

Mambo

Can Mambo recapture the glory of its golden days? Can the flashy Cuban dance step find a new following in the 1990's?

The Mambo dance originated in Cuba where there were substantial settlements of Haitians. In the back country 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 "Mambo" dance is attributed to Perez Prado who introduced it at La Tropicana night-club in Havana in 1943. It 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 night-clubs in New York and Miami. Success was on the agenda. 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 night-club style of mambo dancing, which in the 1990's is increasingly known as Salsa.

"It's a great time for Latin American dances," says Torres. "The Mambo is hot now, like it was in the '50's. It is a dance with many influences -- African, Cuban, Jazz, Hip-Hop, even some ballet. You'll never run out of steps."

Popular Mambo songs include "Mambo Italiano", "Papa Loves Mambo", "Mambo #5", "I Saw Mommy Do The Mambo", and "They Were Doin' The Mambo". 'Dance City', the superb CD album featuring Hernandez and the Mambo Kings Orchestra, stands on its own as one of the best recordings of its kind in years, an energetic big band-style session that recalls the glory days of Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez.