No other dance from south of the (U.S.) border has ever attained the instantaneous popularity than the zestful Mambo did when it was first introduced from Latin America. The extent of the Mambo’s reach can be observed by the widespread use of its rhythm by Tin Pan Alley. Love ballads were written to a slow Mambo beat, novelty songs to a fast Mambo beat, and rock ‘n’ roll numbers were being tailored to the tempo. Across the nation, dancers who had never progressed beyond the Foxtrot and Waltz were clamoring for Mambo instruction.
The popularity of the Mambo was almost entirely the work of Cuban bandleader Perez Prado. During the early 1930s, Latin style dance bands were coming increasingly popular with American audiences and filling the airwaves with Rumbas, Sambas and Tangos. Then, in the early ’50s, Prado recorded the song, “Mambo Jambo,” and the fun was on.
The Mambo can be danced according to the individual dancer’s temperament. Conservative dancers can stay in a closed position, while the more daring can perform steps that break apart and completely separate themselves from each other. Spins and turns are quite popular with Mambo dancers.