Mambo is danced in a syncoped way, that means, on the first beat of each tact no step is carried out. Instead on these beats a weight shift with simultaneous bending of a knee takes place, what leads to the typical hip sway. This is emphasized in contrast to Salsa strongly pithy, i.e. accentuated and directly. The basic step begins on the second beat, whereby the gentleman steps forwards with the left, the lady goes back with the right foot. All steps are carried out relatively small and if possible speedily.
Mambo is danced in 4/4-time with 45 beats per minute on the average.
Past and Present
Originally Mambo wasn't a term describing a dance but an Afro-Cuban word for polymetric. It bases on rituals of enslaved Africans from the Congo. Mambo has its origins in Son and Danzon. First in the refrain of Son, new kinds of rhythms were finally getting independent. The confrontation of Cuban folk music with Jazz had a formative influence on the characteristics of modern Mambo.
In 1939 a composition named "Mambo" denoted the new dance. During the second world war Mambo was brought to New York City by Cuban musicians and spread over Europe from 1955. "Rio Mambo" by Perez Prado was the definitive breakthrough of the dance. The Mambo orchestra Machito was known as well.
The Mambo-style is a kind of Rumba Swing. Because of its complicated rhythm it soon was replaced by Cha-Cha-Cha and Mambo based Cuban Rumba choreographed in Great Britain.
Fallen in oblivion for decades in 1987/88 Mambo had a rebirth with a series of films. "Dirty Dancing", "Mambo Kings" and "Salsa" brought Mambo back to stage in an erotic manner - and let it disappear as soon as it came into being.
For European dancers Mambo isn't easy to learn. Its erotic component is particularly expressed in the successful Salsa dancing style.