Salsa > Salsa vs. Mambo

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by Black Sheep, Apr 10, 2003.

  1. Black Sheep

    Black Sheep New Member

    Salsa History 101,
    I don't mean this in a bad way, but Salsa sucks when compared to Mambo. Let me give you the historical facts which I lived through, before you jump to any defamatory thoughts:
    In March I949, I was looking through the want adds in a Hollywood newspaper, and came across an add for dance teachers with free training and no experience needed. A week later I was in a teacher's training class at Bill Williams dance studio with a dozen other men and ladies. Anita Arkin had recently arrived from New York and was dressed like a gypsy with a colorful full sleeved blouse and several skirts down to her ankles and wearing large looped golden ear rings and a stoic face that never smiled. During our breaks in the training class she took it upon herself to teach me a new dance that was becoming popular among the newly arrrived Puerto Ricans.
    In those post WW II days the best Afro-Cuban dancers were from Puerto Rico, just as the best Lindy dancers were our Harlem Afro-American dancers. The new dance that Anita taught me in 1949 became popular in Southern California around 1954-1955 when the Arthur Murray studios introduced the Cha Cha Cha. Within a year the Mambo also became popular in the Los Angeles area. But whenever I danced with an Arthur Murray teacher, I always had arguments about the rhythm, although the Ladies followed me well enough. The rhythm problem had to do only with two factors: the accent and basic foot pattern. Anita had taught me to accent the second beat (Syncopation) and to step (rock) forward and backward on that second beat, and hold my feet together on the first and fourth beats. Arthur Murray teachers were accenting the first (down) beat and breaking forward (rocking) and backward on that first beat. A seemingly trivial difference, but it eventually some forty years later the Arthur Murray version of the Mambo became called the Salsa, and the authentc Puerto Rican Mambo became history.
    Occasionally I do come across an authentic Mambo dancer, and that's when I whale. But when I try dancing to the Salsa rhythm, the dance loses the excitement; and it becomes bland, it's like eating a burrito without salsa. I don't mean that in a bad way!

    Black Sheep

    [edited by DanceMentor]
  2. Enthusiast

    Enthusiast New Member

    It is unfortunate you had this experience with Arthur Murray. I'm sure there were plenty of Arthur Murray sudios that taught the Mambo correctly.

    In one regard, I have to completely disagree with you. Dancing on the 1 beat has developed as a result of changes in the music. Mambo and Salsa are not the same thing. You might want to try searching on the word "Clave" or "Clave rhythm". Salsa has certainly changed, and along with it the dance has changed. Even New York style salsa dancers dance on the one beat. The only difference is they "break" on the 2. They are still pausing on 4. Everywhere you go these days, nearly everybody pauses on 4.
  3. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    I've checked with a friend of mine who was teaching for Arthur Murray’s back in the 1950's and he says that the standard was for Mambo to break on the 2, as in 2-3-4-(hold 1). As such, I take your experience to be something of an anomaly. That being said, Enthusiast makes a good point – that changes in dancing have evolved largely through and in response to changes in the music. Given the Mambo music of the time, breaking on 1 (and holding 4) would not have fit, so I can see why you would have found this problematic.

    More contemporary music has, however, shifted towards greater emphasis on the 1 beat. This has been accommodated (primarily) through two different strategies. The first, and now widely known as "New York 2" (although also often just as "on2"), is what Enthusiast describes. The other has been a shift to actually breaking on the 1 beat. Both actually retain some historical precedent, since the "2" approach still breaks on the traditional beat whereas the "1" maintains the traditional footwork pattern. (Don't even get me started regarding Cumbia and "3"!)

    It is also interesting to note that Tito Puente, making an unscheduled appearance at the 2nd West Coast Salsa Congress (he'd been in town for something else and hadn't even known the congress was happening) contended that "salsa" was something you put on chips and that the music, and hence the dance, always had been and always would be “mambo.”
  4. MissAlyssa

    MissAlyssa New Member

    I learned Salsa before I learned Mambo so Mambo is difficult for me to follow because of the breaking on the 2. Now I have started to learn my Mambo steps in Salsa rhythm so that I can learn the steps w/o having to think (haha what a shame) and then dance it in Mambo timing when I get the hang of the steps. :] So much controversy over how it's all supposed to be done which doesn't matter unless you are either teaching or competing. :p
  5. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    Just to clear... NY dancing referred to as Eddie Torres style doesn't pause on 4 nor 8. We "slowly" travel right over it in our way to hitting 1 and 5.

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