How to dance mambo steps

Mambo Dance Steps - Dance Poise

Mambo dance steps involves a bit of sensual Cuban dance moves. It is one of the most popular form of dances in United States. Mambo dance moves are similar to Salsa, but a bit crisper and difficult. If you want to break into a mambo, read on to learn this dance steps.

Mambo was widely popularized in Cuba by Prado Prez, in the 1940s. When Perez Prado and his orchestra toured United States in 1951, he created a craze on the New York dance floors with his mambo and came to be known as the mambo king. Mambo was second only to the rumba, another Cuban-African dance which spread in the United States like wildfire. Mambo became a popular dance form in dancing competitions in the dance halls of New York. Dancers twist and turn and throw their partners, arms, legs and hands in air when swaying to the mambo rhythms.

Mambo dancing is basically a 4/4 steps dance form. There are no movements on the first step of every 4/4 beat. This is followed by quick-quick-slow beats. When moving forward and backward, dancers sway their hips, which looks like a fluid motion flowing with the music. The fast-stepping mambo gave rise to another form of dance known as the ‘cha-cha’ dance.

Mambo is easy to learn but these basic steps may take little time to master.

Mambo Dance Moves

  • Stand facing your partner. Place your feet together.
  • Place the right hand on your partner’s waist and extend your left hand, palm facing up and arm bent to your side.
  • Hold your partner’s hand in a loose grip and wait for the music to begin.
  • Do not move when you hear the first beat. On the second beat, step back with your right foot. On the third beat, shift the body weight to your left foot.
  • Step forward with your right foot and bring both feet together on the fourth beat. The body weight has to be shifted on the right foot again.
  • After pausing for the fifth beat, shift your weight to your left foot and step forward on the sixth beat.
  • Shift the weight back to your right foot on the seventh beat and on the final eight beat shift your weight back to your left and step back, bringing your feet together again.

The female partner dances on the exact opposite dance moves of the male partner. She has to follow her man’s lead, dancing backward when he moves forward and moving forward when he dances backward.

Drag Around Mambo

If you wish to jazz things a bit, then you may try the “Drag-Her-Around” mambo moves, also called the cross-body lead. The lead faces the wall and at the end of the move the follower faces the wall. This is a three step dance, where the weight is shifted on the same feet, similar to the basic mambo steps. The variation in this form is the 180 degree pivot turn that is performed after the first weight shift. The lady partner just follows her lead and takes the steps forward and across the leads left side. She also performs the 180 degree turn but she breaks it up in two 90 degree turns in the second and final step.

Crossover Break

The crossover break is a stylish variation, when both the lead and follower keep their hands connected. Their feet turn one-quarter away from each other. They move into the ‘ballroom’ position, that is, the ‘fifth position’. The weight should be completely placed on the rear foot.

Mambo dancing is very energetic and full of life. It has been widely popularized today after the initial cool down brought about by Ricky Martin in the 1990s. This Latin dance is the one from where the term ‘shake it’ was first coined, due to the hip movements involved. The dancers appear passionate about each other and one can feel the intensity of emotions flowing through their bodies while dancing a mambo. Try the dance steps to liven up your spirits as Lou Bega rightly says in his song:

Mambo mambo eh eh
The babes are all around me
Mambo mambo eh eh
Dancin all night long
Mambo mambo eh eh
The babes are all around me
Mambo mambo eh eh
To the break of dawn

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Mambo Tutorial - For Beginners

Mambo is one of my favorite dances – It’s spicy, rhythmical, and full of energy! Because of its high energy and rhythmical movements, it tends to be a fan favorite at dance competitions and dance television shows. Although this dance is tons of fun to do, it can be quite a challenge to get down. It requires a good musical ear, controlled body movements, isolations, and lots of energy. This post will be a great introduction to this fun dance, and I hope it inspires you to learn more!

Below is a look into what I will be covering in this post:
· History and Characteristics
· Musical Information
· Dancing the Basic
· Dancing with a Partner

History and Characteristics

In the early 40’s, Mambo developed from the influence of Cuban Haitians and American Jazz music and was first introduced at a Havana nightclub by Perez Prado. Later in the ’40s, Mambo arrived in New York and quickly gained popularity. It was taught in dance studios, nightclubs, and resorts. Some of Mambo’s greatest influencers were musicians, Tito Puente, Tito Rodriquez, and Xavier Cugat, and dancer/choreographer, Eddie Torres. Mambo is an energetic dance that is characterized by its staccato movements, Cuban Motion, and rhythmical body action throughout!

Musical Information

Mambo music hit the scene in the 1930’s and became popular by the late 40’s with hits like Mambo # 5 by Perez Prado! Check it out here:

Mambo is the fastest of the American Rhythm dances, ranging from 44-51 measures per minute (MPM). To give you something to compare that to, Cha Cha is 30 MPM! Because of its speed, we generally take three steps in four beats of music and follow a “quick quick slow” rhythm. What’s challenging for most is that we step on beats 2, 3, and 4 and hold on beat 1. Most people want to begin dancing on “1”, so often, people struggle to stay on time when first learning to dance Mambo.

Check out this video to learn a quick tip to improve your timing:

To learn more about the history of Mambo music, check out this article:

Dancing the Basics

When dancing the Mambo, like the other rhythm dances, you will begin with your heels together with a slight turnout of the toes. In dance, we typically maintain contact with the floor – in other words, your feet slide from one step to the next. In Mambo, you will always step with the ball of your foot first while keeping your toes on the floor, then roll through your foot until it’s flat. Of course, when you become more advance, there are always exceptions to this rule, but for now, practice keeping your toes on the ground. Now, let’s get moving, beginning with a break step. A break is when you take a step in any direction and then return to your starting point, which will be in the opposite direction of the first step. This is also known as a rock step in other dance styles. In Mambo, we break forward, backward, and to the side throughout the dance.

Trish and Abe dancing Mambo at Dance Competition

Below I will break down the basic step for leaders and followers. Keep in mind that the steps are the exact same in the basic for both roles, but the leader will begin forward on “2” and the follower will begin by stepping back on “2”.

Leaders: Beginning with your left foot, step forward on count 2, replace your weight back to your right foot on count 3, then take a small step back with your left foot on count 4. Now, repeat to the back with your other foot – step back with the right foot on count 2, replace your weight to the left foot on count 3 and take a small step forward with your right foot on count 4. Don’t forget to hold on count 1. To simplify, you will dance a forward break on the first measure and dance a back break on the second measure.

Followers: Beginning with your right foot, step back on count 2, replace your weight forward to your left foot on count 3, then take a small forward step with your right foot on count 4. Now, repeat to the front with your other foot – step forward with the left foot on count 2, replace your weight back to the right foot on count 3 and take a small step back with your left foot on count 4. Remember to hold on count 1. To simplify, you will dance a back break on the first measure, and a forward break on the second measure.

Check out this quick tip video on Footwork in the Basic Step for a helpful visual:

As mentioned earlier, Mambo is characterized by its strong Cuban Motion. Cuban Motion is a body action that is created by bending then straightening one knee at a time each time you take a step along with dancing your upper body in opposition to your hips. To make your Mambo look like a dance rather than just steps, you will want to apply this technique to your basic. This technique does not come over night and will require lots and lots of practice. Here are a couple quick tip videos on this body action, but I do recommend going to your local studio and taking lessons to learn more!

This first video simply talks about the bending and straightening of the knees in Merengue: https://www.

This next video goes more into detail about how the rib cage works in Mambo:

Dancing with a Partner

Now that you have practiced the Basic step, let’s learn to dance with a partner! Below, I will break down how to get into a closed hold with your partner.

With your weight poised forward over the balls of your feet, begin by facing your partner about a foot apart and with the follower slightly offset to the right of the leader. If you are leading, place your right hand on your partner’s right shoulder blade, then lift your left arm until your elbows are even with your arm bent at a 90 degree angle and your hand curved towards your partner at about her eye level. If you are following, you will rest your left arm gently on top of your partner’s right arm and follow the curve of his arm to his shoulder. Place your right hand in your partner’s and lightly clasp. Make sure to keep your arms and elbows in front of your body with a slight forward poise to create a positive connection which will make it easier to lead and follow.

In this position, practice dancing the Basic Step, and when you feel comfortable, add music 😊 Here are some good Mambo songs to practice as well:

I hope you have enjoyed this post and are ready to learn more! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Thank you for reading!

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