Salsa / Mambo
Mambo: Mambo is one of the five core competitive dances in American Rhythm category of dances. It is very similar to Salsa, in fact Salsa evolved from Mambo. Perez Prado is thought to have introduced Mambo at La Tropicana nightclub in Havana in 1943. Mambo Mania hit when Prado recorded the song, "Mambo Jambo." The dance appeared in the United States in New York's Park Plaza Ballroom, a favorite hangout of dance enthusiasts from Harlem. The Mambo gained in popularity and in the 1950's was taught in dance studios, resorts, and nightclubs in New York and Miami.
Salsa: In more recent times Mambo has also evolved into Salsa, a street-version of the original dance. One of America's most popular partner and social dance styles today, this sexy, fast-paced, energetic dance has exploded in the United States. Salsa is not easily defined. Who invented salsa? The Cubans, Puerto Ricans? Salsa is a distillation of many Latin and Afro-Caribbean dances. Each played a large part in its evolution.
Regardless, we must give credit to Cuba for the origin and ancestry of creation. Add Són of the Cuban people, which was a mixture of the Spanish troubadour (sonero), and the African drumbeats and flavora and a partner dance flowered to the beat of the clave. This syncretism also occurred with variations in other countries like the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Puerto Rico, among others. Bands of these countries took their music to Mexico City in the era of the famous films of that country, and, shortly after, a similar movement to New York occurred.
New York coined the term "Salsa", but it did not create the dance. The term became popular as a nickname to refer to a variety of different music from several countries of Hispanic origin: Rhumba, Mambo, Cha Cha, Cumbia, Merengue, to name a few. Many of these dances have maintained their individuality, as well as being mixed to create "Salsa."
Salsa draws all ages and ethnicities of Americans because of its social aspects, its popular and stylish music as well as its passionate, sexy character. It is not for the "shy" or weak of heart, and definitely sets the suave, macho men apart from their ultra-feminine, hip swaying female counterpart.
Salsa vs Mambo: Musically, the main difference between Mambo and Salsa is that Mambo music holds on the one beat and Salsa music hits on the one beat. The steps are much the same. Mambo tends to be sharper in the footwork, more time is spent in closed hold and the man breaks on 2. Salsa tends to be sexier, characteristically it has little kick like embellishments, more time is spent in a two handed or apart position and the man breaks on 1.
Whether you call it Mambo or Salsa, the small steps are taken ball of foot first with the knees flexible to allow for the hip action known as Cuban motion.