Salsa vs Mambo Debate

Every so often a discussion appears on social media about this subject, and it usually redirects to on1 vs on2.

After studying this dance for many years, I have come to some conclusions.

  1. The premise is incorrect. Mambo is very specific to a dance, that is executed to a specific rhythm. While Salsa does not really specify a rhythm or a dance. Actually, it could be many different rhythms developed in the Caribbean islands, predominantly Cuban rhythms.
  2. On1 vs On2. There is no wrong or right way. These two are optional ways to execute the same basic steps, the same turns and figures. They both use the same structure and techniques, only shifted on the timing of execution because of where the basic starts in the musical phrase. These terms are mainly used in the US to describe the slotted/linear dance style.
  3. There are many different ways to dance what we call Salsa music. There is Son, Changüí, Mambo, Rumba, Pilón, Bomba, Plena… just to name a few. Each style applies to a very specific rhythm. Most times a track will include sections or breaks with these rhythms, and the dancer should adjust accordingly.
  4. There is more than 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 (or EnTiempo). While this is a great guideline to help us understand the phrasing of the music, it’s not the only base used. There is contratiempo (2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8), On Clave (2, 3, 5, 6, 6.5, 8 — 2/3 Son version), Chacha (1, 2, 3, 4, 4.5, 6, 7, 8, 8.5), Rumba (1, 3, 5, 7 or the syncopated &,1, 3, &, 5, 7), Pilón (1, 3, 5, 6.5, 7), etc, etc.
    There are many different ways to connect with the music.
  5. Mambo as a dance and music has changed/evolved or morphed into something different through different times, and regions. There is Cuban Mambo, Palladium Mambo, Ballroom Mambo, NY Mambo (Often referred as On2 or Eddie Mamboking Torres Style). The influence of Jazz of the 50’s in NYC started taking the music in a new direction starting with Machito and his Afro Cubans with Mario Bauzá as their musical director. With this fusion, the dance also started to be influenced with the other dances (lindy hop, swing, tap, jazz, ballet, etc) that were around the city.

This can be as complex or as simple as you need it to be. The important thing is to have an open mind, a good ear and kind heart. People will dance or stylize the dance accordingly to their region, culture, customs, ancestors, heritage, and feelings.

Let’s accept our differences and celebrate the diversity within our latin dance community. After all, this dance reflects the different shades of our complexion.