Hello Dancers! Please, bear with me as I make my points of clarification: Whether or not salsa actually does stink is still somewhat open to question. Having conducted a mambo workshop, I can say for a certainty that anyone who learns the dance timings of rumba (that is to say, dancing on the claves of rumba) will find salsa dance timing a far less satisfying experience. Mambo and its sister form of rumba, the Cuban son, are more elegant, both in look and feel, than salsa. Even today, when I see young Puerto Ricans in the island, good dancers, dancing salsa, I can’t help but think what a shame it is that they will most likely never know mambo, as just a change of dance timing can transform good dancers into extraordinary dance teams. My introduction to latin dance came on the west coast and, accordingly, the dance timing that I learned first was salsa. Salsa, by the way, is the invention of Puerto Ricans in the Bronx, who, after the withering of Cuban musical influences in New York (late 1950s – early 1960s), dressed the rhythm of plena (pleh-nah), from the musical and dance experience of their culture, in the trappings of Cuban music. Salsa reigns supreme on the west coast, as there is very little Cuban influence there, while the population of Central and South Americans swelled beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s. One of the most popular forms of music and dance in those south of the border areas is cumbia (koom-beeyah). While cumbia is quite different musically from the plena of Puerto Rico, it has the same rhythmic structure and, not surprisingly, the same dance timing. It is no accident that Colombianos and others with cumbia in their musical heritage have taken to salsa like fish take to water. The rhythms of rumba (rrroom-bah) were imported into Haiti and Cuba in the 18th and 19th centuries. They are based on African traditions of pantheistic ceremony. While African religious ceremonial dances are known, they were performed only by men. Secular or social dancing between men and women was unknown in Africa until that idea was brought there from Europe. The term “rumba”, by the way, comes from the Bantu-Congolese word “lumba”, meaning to “get down” or to affirm. Because Cubans are famous for their confusion over “Ls” and “Rs”, we are left with the term rumba. Cuba, at the turn of the 20th century witnessed the secularization of rumba in the form of the changui (chahn-gwee), a predecessor of the Cuban son (sohn) and other popular forms of Cuban music that we know today, including variations of son known as guajira (wah-hee-rrrah), guaracha (wah-rrrah-chah), and guaguanco (wah-wahn-koh), as well as mambo (mahm-boh) and its cousin, the son montuno (sohn mohn-toon-oh). The changui was the dominion of the lower-class population of former slaves. It emerged as their answer to the Cuban danzon (dahn-sohn), the popular music and dance of the European elite in Cuba. The precursor of the danson, the French contradanza (kohn-tra-dahn-sah), was brought to Cuba in the middle 19th century by French refugees fleeing from the Haitian uprising. The French got it from the English, where it was known simply as the “country dance”. Not being much given to the English language, they heard it as “contradanza” (referring to dancing in opposition or facing each other). In the first half of the 20th century, Cuba rapidly became a playground for the eastern seaboard of the United States. In the evenings, tourists danced to danzones played in the hotels by musical aggregations known as charangas (chah-rrrahn-gahss). The charanga was composed principally of classical instruments (violin, cello, base violin, piano, flute, clarinet, timbale, and, on occasion, saxophone) played by trained musicians, many of whom also played in the Havana symphony orchestra. By day, these same tourists were charmed by the lively rhythms of street-musician “conjuntos” (kohn-hoon-tohss) playing accordion, tres (trehss – a double-stringed guitar-like instrument tuned in thirds), trumpet, and a panoply of African percussive instruments. As you can imagine, tourists were soon requesting those more up-tempo rhythms for their evening’s entertainment. As a result of that popular social pressure for fusion of the two musical genres, a “montuno” (a sequence of repetitive up-tempo musical riffs cycling on an eight-count pattern) was tacked on at the end of the danzon. That ending musical interlude came to be known as the “mambo”, after the title of a piece composed by Orestes Lopez (the older brother of legendary Cuban bass violinist Israel “Cachao” Lopez) and first aired on Havana radio in 1939. Hence, danzon-mambo was born (although in Cuba it was generally known as danzon-moderno). In time, dancers urged musicians to drop the danzon altogether and to just play the mambo. In the late 1930s – early 1940s, the leading exponent of mambo was the legendary charanga of flautist Antonio Arcano (Ahrrr-kahn-yoh), which he dubbed “La Primera Maravilla del Siglo” (the first marvel of the century), more generally known by Cubans as simply Arcano y sus Maravillas (Arcano and his marvels). And marvelous they were, arguably the greatest assemblage of musicians on the planet – ever. Included in that group were the brothers Lopez, Orestes and Israel. In that same era, the undisputed leader of the conjunto style of music was the legendary band leader, composer, and master of the Cuban tres, Arsenio Rodriguez. He, too, incorporated the montuno into a musical style that he made famous, the son montuno (with the same rhythmic structure as mambo played by a charanga). Because what was happening in New York in the 1940s was big band sound, with its emphasis on horns and percussion, it was the son montuno of Arsenio Rodriguez that exploded onto the latin music and dance scene in that place and time. It is this musical genre that is today known in the United States as mambo. Thus, only the name “mambo” made the 90-mile crossing from Cuba. The original mambo (which I prefer for its amazing rhythmic syncopations) stayed behind. The four principal latin dance timings are mambo (including son montuno), son (including guaguanco, guajira, and guaracha), salsa, and cha cha. While there are six claves (clah-vehss – drum syncopations based on an eight-count musical refrain composed of two measures of music in 4/4 time) associated with the pantheistic ceremonial music of Africa known generally as rumba, there are only two dance timings that are used for dancing to the popular music that has come to us from that religious ceremonial tradition. In the parlance of ballroom dance, those two dance timings are the “quick quick slow” version of rumba (the dance timing used for dancing to a mambo or to a son montuno) and the “slow quick quick” version of rumba (the dance timing used for dancing to a son, guaguanco, guajira, or guaracha). I like to refer to these two dance timings simply as mambo and son, respectively. The dance timing for cha cha is only a minor variation of mambo dance timing, wherein two quick steps (the “cha cha”) replace the mambo transitions of counts 4 and 8 of the eight-count (two-measure) musical refrain. Those of you who are interested in a detailed explanation of each of the four principal latin dance timings can bring up my thread “Latin Dance Timings” in this forum, or, if you let me know of your interest, I can send to you, as an e-mail attachment, a convenient chart in Word 6.0 format. Yes, as you can see from the foregoing discussion, mambo and salsa have completely different musical origins, as well as distinct dance timings. I would also point out that the “pause” to which you refer is not really a pause (that is to say, where motion stops), but a transition between musical counts, wherein the foot is moving to step on the musical count immediately following the transition count. This transition is necessitated by the fact that three steps are taken in each four counts of music and it applies to all of the principal latin dance timings except cha cha, in which two quick steps ( the “cha cha”) replace the transition. You are correct in stating that that the transition counts for both salsa and mambo are counts 4 and 8 of the 8-count musical refrain. Again, regardless of dance timing, if the motion of dance is stopped during transition counts, the dance takes on a markedly choppy, awkward and generally unaesthetic appearance. This is most noticeable among novice dancers of salsa, owing to the structure of that particular dance timing. Yes, Art brought this simplified “two steps in four musical counts” version of mambo from Cuba to New York, either because he did not understand the dance himself, or because he felt that he could not easily teach it to his students (I don’t know which). At any rate, as a club dancer, I have always regarded as tragedy the fact that this completely contrived artifact has been proffered as “mambo” within ballroom dance circles over the past 50 years. I can assure you that Art’s “mambo” has never been seen in Cuba! The real thing (three steps in four musical counts), in the parlance of ballroom dance, is nothing more (or less) than a high octane version of “quick quick slow” rumba. I also learned salsa dance timing first. However, I was fortunate to learn mambo from Eddie Torres in New York. I tell salsa-literate newcomers to mambo that their salsa background might put them at a disadvantage, as it is not an uncommon experience to have to “unlearn” salsa in order to learn mambo (I know I did). Anyway, it appears that you are exactly the person I need to translate salsa routines to mambo.