Meeting Cuban Pete and Barbara Craddock

During my first few years of teaching, I started to watch any Salsa documentary I could find in the internet (not many at that time).  I sometimes even bought them on VHS cassettes (remember those?)
During that quest of information, I encountered the documentary “Palladium, Where the Mambo Was King“, released in 2002.  Because of this video, I became obsessed  in how the dance evolved during that era (1940-60’s), and the participants of that evolution.

Through this documentary and some other footage, I started to learn about the Palladium Mambo Style, and the different dancers that contributed to it.  Luis “Máquina”, Earnie Ensley, “Killer” Joe Piro, Mike Ramos, Freddie Rios, Augie and Margo Rodriguez, Aníbal and Mike Vázquez, Elita and Michael Terrace, Barbara Craddock, Millie Donay, and Cuban Pete, among a few others…  To me these dancers were like super heroes.  I would just fantasized being at the Palladium dancing to “The Big Three” (Machito, Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez), while reading about their stories and watching some video footage.  I was later so lucky to meet two Palladium dancers at Artistika in Greensboro, NC.  They helped me learning about the Palladium Ballroom, and the different styles danced in that era.

A year later, my dance career took me to the dance at the Stuck on Salsa “All Star Dance Cruise” in 2007.  I arrived a few days earlier to try the Miami dance scene, since I never had the chance during my past visits.  This took me to a weekly social held by one of the local dance companies.  People were dressed pretty casual with jeans, t-shirts, crop tops, etc., which is a very common dress code for socials even today.  However, there was a couple, who was dressed up as they were part of an award show.  They were older, and the dancers would walk by their table recognizing their presence as a sign of respect, but mostly left them to enjoy the night to themselves.

Intrigued by these two personalities, I moved to take a closer look… AND THERE THEY WERE!!!  The one and only… Pedro Aguilar, the legendary Mr. Cuban Pete.  His partner was glamorously dressed in this beautiful evening gown, she looked like a movie star from the golden era, her name Barbara Craddock.  I quickly approached them to introduce myself, and shared what I’ve learned about them, and possibly get some insight.  We talked about “Dancing On Clave”, feeling the music, originality, mambo music and dance evolution, the different issues Mambo dancers have now days, the importance to represent (as dancers) Latin culture with respect and dignity, among many other subjects.  Ms. Barbara Craddock also shared about the “movie” on the works about Mr. Cuban Pete’s life and dance contributions.

I felt so lucky to have this opportunity, and get information from the source.  So very timidly, I got off my chair, bowed to both of them and ask for permission for a dance to Ms. Craddock.  She looked at Pete, not for consent, but with surprise instead, and to my luck she accepted the dance.  Mr. Pete said, “Let’s see what you got.”  As I danced with her, I would remember the pointers I received from Cookie and Margarita.  I was nervous, but I kept telling myself “keeping the correct timing“, “have fun”, “feel the music”, “listen to the Clave”, “not too many turns” and “feed off from her energy.”

At the end of the dance, she smiled and politely said, “Thank you, that was nice.” – I was hoping that was a positive reaction. I escorted her back to their table, where Mr. Pete was waiting.  I looked at him and smiled like a kid seeking for approval from a grownup.  Then he said to me the biggest compliment that you can ever get as a dancer… from him (at least I think so), “Your timing is not that bad.”  My heartbeat raised hard and rapidly, it was probably confusing the dancers at the social getting them off beat.  I felt in heaven!

We talked for almost the entire social, and it seem like time had slowed down while sitting with them and making mental notes of every single word.  As the social was coming to an end, we parted with a big hug.  Similar conversations followed in a couple of other encounters, as I shared with Mr. Pete a few of my ideas on how to overcome the missing Clave/Music-Dancer connection, we suffer in this new Salsa Era.  He was encouraging, and also very critical, which was a good thing.  Until Mr. Cuban Pete’s passing in 2009.

After that, I would only see Ms. Barbara Craddock three more times in different years. During this time, I had developed my “Musicality Workshop”, in which I applied concepts that Mr. Pete had guided me to create.  The main objective is for the dancers to develop a familiarity of basic percussive rhythms/patterns in the music, and how to apply them to their repertoire of steps.  During the class, we jump from one instrument to the next, new steps and dance styles are being presented, along with some historical and cultural principles.

It’s July 7th 2012, and I was teaching my “Musicality Workshop” at the Orlando International Salsa Congress with my very talented partner, Adriana Dwyer.  I had gone over the Clave, its importance and where it came from. The Congas, how to follow the Tumbao during Chacha, and how it evolved from Mambo and Son.  How the Bongocero’s Bell carries the rhythmical Montuno section. Using the Bongos, I explained how adapt the timing of  steps depending on the syncopations.  I finally got to talked about the Güíro, and how we can use it to dance to Charanga music doing Pachanga Style. During this part of the class, I usually talk about the Palladium, and the dancers from that era who paved the way.

The students were loving the class, the room was packed and full of energy.  When for some reason from the corner of my left eye, I caught  a glimpse of a bright red head.  IT WAS MS. BARBARA CRADDOCK!  I immediately paused the class and recognized her presence to the attendees right away.  Everyone gave her an ovation as a sign of respect and admiration.  She got up and started walking towards the small stage, where Adriana and I were teaching.  Being in her 70’s, she approached very slowly, which felt like an eternity to me, probably because of my nervous anticipation.  She reached for my hand, pulled me down and said, “Pete would be very proud of you.”  I almost lost it, but Adriana quickly placed her hand on my shoulder helping to regain my composure.  Then she said, “I have not seen that style of Pachanga since the Palladium.”

After that she went back to her chair, and I can’t remember what happened next to the class, since I was on cloud 9!  We talked a little bit afterwards, and she confessed that she had only come this early (Saturday morning) to Orlando to watch my class.  Also to get in touch with her, because she wanted to help me “spread the word.”

She passed away a few years later, 2015; however, I am still trying to live up to their expectations, and continue “spreading the word”.

The Palladium Groove in NC

Written by Betto Herrera

Sometime in 2006,  I started teaching at Artistika Night Club in Greensborothanks to the owners’ support, Audra Angela Pascale (RIP) and Hugo Pascale.  Both of them were so gracious, giving us the opportunity to start Salsa lessons at their Club, which is still located in Historic Downtown Greensboro. 

Hugo & Audra (+)

Artistika used to attract people from all ages and backgrounds, and our nights were packed with new dancers finding their footings.  Through the years, Artistika has been very supportive of the Latin dance community, giving many instructors the opportunity to start their careers at their locale.  (Note: Artistika has been affected by the pandemic as many other businesses, the community and loyal clientele cannot wait for them to reopen)

On one particular night, I noticed two classy ladies in their 60’s or 70’s at the time, who decided to take our class.  As any aware instructor, I tried my best to pay attention to them, and tailor the material so that they could “keep up”… so I thought.  As we were progressing through the class, I observed that they had rhythm and ability, “even at their age” I thought.  I just noticed them struggling adjusting to the time structure that I was using, En Tiempo (1,2,3,5,6,7), but even with that, both were doing better than the great majority of the class. “That’s cool!” I thought.

Margarita Rosario-Murray and Edna “Cookie” Rosario (+)

The class finally came to an end, and they were smiling (which is always a good sign).  The social dancing started, and the DJ played a Charanga.  Since some people had rushed over to the bar, the floor was not that busy…. except for these two ladies.  Meanwhile, I was talking with a couple of friends on the sidelines, when I witnessed these cute older ladies dancing with real flavor and elegance, radiating energy with each move they did.  To my surprised, they were dancing Pachanga, and when they were doing partner-work, they were breaking On2, but not the regular On2… They were doing the “Palladium Style Mambo”, which uses Contratiempo (2,3,4,6,7,8).  My jaw dropped, I felt like a little kid meeting Mickey Mouse for the first time.  I had only read about the style and the Palladium, but being able to witness the REAL THING, it was just a gift from above.

Margarita and Cookie showing real dance swag!

As soon as the song was over, I ran to talked to them and said “Are you from the Palladium!?”.  They introduced themselves, “Cookie and Margarita”.  They were very surprised I recognized their dance styles, and that I even knew about the Palladium Ballroom.  After asking all the questions I could fit into one breath, they shared with me some stories about their experience at the Palladium, AND they gave me a “little” piece of advice.

“Betto, what you teach and what you dancers are doing now days, it’s very nice.”  Margarita said with a caring voice of wisdom (the tone mothers use, when they are about to give a profound loving message to their children).  “The only thing that I can say is that back at the Palladium, if a Son would play, then we danced Son.  If a Chacha would play, then we would danced chachacha.  If a Pachanga would be playing, then we would dance Pachanga.  And if a Mambo was playing, we would dance Mambo.”  Margarita continued “taking me to school” ever so lovingly, while Cookie nodded her head with the warmest smile.  Lastly, Margarita added very kindly; “Now days, it seems like everyone is dancing the same style… no matter what is playing.”

Margarita on her 21st Birthday

I had just been served the most delicious piece of “Humble Pie”, and not only I digested it, but really enjoyed every piece of it.  They were absolutely right!!! And for their look on their faces, I imagined the thoughts happening in their so-wise heads… “And you know this, and it’s your job to continue our traditions alive!“.   All of the sudden, I felt this huge responsibility falling on my shoulders.  These legends were giving me a golden piece of advice, and an opportunity to build something bigger than my ego.

Their advice led me to learn more about the music, and each dance.  I made it a point to follow their advice, to seek the knowledge from different sources and try to influence as many dancers as possible.  This experience led me to write the article “The Music Speaks“, which was republished in a few Latin Dance Magazines.

Margarita and Cookie (+) on their annual “Picnic for the Salseros and their Families”

In addition, they also took the time to show me how to dance Pachanga-Palladium Style, and the Palladium Mambo.  They inspired me to conduct my Musicality Workshop after a few years later.  AND they got me ready to meet legendary dancer, “Mambo Man”, Mr. Pedro “Cuban Pete” Aguilar (RIP) and his partner Barbara Craddock (RIP)…  But that is another story!

(All Photos provided by Margarita’s Facebook with permission)

The Music Speaks (Originally written in 2007)

Going to a ‘Salsa Club’ the first thing that makes an impact is the great upbeat music that is playing. The girls are spinning back and forth and adding their sensual style to the dancing while the guys are looking cool and smooth leading the ladies into crazy turn patterns. Then a new song comes up, this one is mellow and romantic, but it’s still considered a ‘Salsa’ beat. The weird thing is that even though the style of the ‘Salsa’ music has changed, the dancing style hasn’t. The ladies are still doing all the spinning while the gentlemen are leading their intricate partner work. So what’s wrong with this picture?

Someone might say, “one was a fast ‘Salsa’, and the other was a slow ‘Salsa’”. But what is ‘Salsa’ dancing? Is there a dance called ‘Salsa’? Is there a rhythm called ‘Salsa’? People like Tito Puente and Celia Cruz used to say that ‘Salsa’ is not a new music, and that they played old Cuban rhythms with a new sound. Salsa is a term used by FANIA Records in the 70’s to market a number of Latin rhythms (especially Cuban and Puerto Rican) in New York City and later the world. These different rhythms included Son, Son Montuno, Guajira, Guaracha, Chacha, Cumbia, Bomba, Monzambique, Pachanga, Descarga, Mambo and a few others. Each of these rhythms projects different feelings to the dancers, and their movements would reflect just those ‘feelings’.

Nowadays, new compositions include some of the aforementioned rhythms within the same song. The famous Celia Cruz song titled “La Vida Es Un Carnaval” is a perfect example. The introduction of the song is a Cumbia, the climax being a Mambo, and the ending is a Cumbia once again. Next time this song is played, pay attention to the dancers and see that most of them continue with the same dancing style even after the rhythm has changed.

The ‘Salsa’ Rhythms are such a complex field to be understood by beginner students, and actually advanced dancers are the ones who start hearing the difference(s) between each rhythm and adjust accordingly. The key to understand ‘Salsa’ is to stop hearing and start listening closely to the music. After paying close attention, some notorious differences will be visible (or better said audible) like the speed or tempo of the music, for example. Then begins the understanding of the different styles, like the Jazzy sound that includes strong brass presence and no lyrics, the Charanga sound that has the violin and flute predominance, etc.

Few ‘Salsa’ dance instructors know about the different rhythms, and the way to dance each one of them or how to adapt to each of them. Instructors teach all the steps that are needed (and if you are lucky how they apply to the music or rhythm) ; however, it’s up to the student-dancer to use them correctly and asked questions like “Why and How such steps fits the musical style?”. I.E. the Back Basic Step is the basic for the Son and Cumbia, the side basic step is the basic for the Rumba-Yambu or Guaguanco. (edited 2021)

A common question from beginner and intermediate students is “When are ‘Shines’ used?” The most common answers are “when you feel it” or “when the music tells you to”; however, the answer is a little bit more complex than that. ‘Shines’ or solo-footwork are the way dancers have found to preserve the Afro-Element of this dance. Africans did not involve any type of partner work (i.e. turn patterns) in their dance; also, their music was mainly percussive by using different types of drums. With this piece of knowledge, the correct answer should be, “when the percussion section occurs in the music.” Understanding the history and tradition will help understanding the music and dance.

A great music teacher once advised his talented student that to play one of the most difficult piano solos ever composed, the student must learn all the notes and practice them day and night, and once he is ready to perform, he must forget about reading the music sheet and play the notes by heart. Following the same advice, to be able to ‘Dance’ one must learn all the proper steps and techniques. Then after acquiring enough practice, experience and confidence, let the music speak through you, follow its lead and dance from the heart.

Musicality in Salsa

Photo credit Daleena Spainhour

I took my first “Musicality” workshop with Mr. Mike Bello, the Mambo Fellow (I think 2004 or 2005).  It was a lecture-style workshop about the different traditional rhythms we commonly hear in Salsa.  It was a great class with a lot of new information for me, which I though was very important for any dancer to understand and apply to their dance.  It seeded in me an interest that put me on a journey of over 15+ year to learn more about the music I’ve been exposed since I was a child.

Over the following years, I took a few other “Musicality” classes with a few other instructors. These classes; however, were concentrated more in choreography.  Only one song was used through the class, hitting very specific notes and breaks from different instrumental solos.  The interesting thing that I learned during these workshops, was the approach to the instructor’s personal interpretations of that song.  I left most of these classes with a sense of dissatisfaction, since I was looking to learn more about the music in general, and with dance material that it could be applied to any song.

After a few years of research, practice (bugging any friend musician I knew) and trying a new methodology during my weekly classes, I finally felt ready to do my own rendition.  It was at the Capitol Salsa Congress in 2009, and Mr. Shaka Brown gave me the opportunity to try my new approach to teach “Musicality”.  When I started teaching the workshop, at first people were a bit confused. “Is it a theory class? A Choreo class? Are we going to be sitting or dancing? Will we be playing instruments?”

I had a few people joining after hearing me say, “It’s going to be a little bit different.  Just come and try it!”  Once the class started with my new approach, Instrument Intro – Rhythmical Pattern – Step, or as I called it “theoretical and applied concepts”, some rushed off the class.  I thought, “Oh no, they didn’t like the class, and I am going to end up with an empty room.” To my surprised, those people have gone out to get their friends from other classes, the vendor area, or hotel rooms and brought them into my workshop.  By the end of the class, my room was over capacity.  Many years later, I heard from people who have taken that same workshops for 5+ years in a row, and mentioned that they always get some new information from the class.

In my personal believe, the concept of “Musicality” has a lot of more to offer than just a few pre-choreographed steps.  It’s an opportunity to explore and showcase through movement not just the traditional rhythms within our music genre, Salsa, but also the essence of the dances, where they come from, as well as who and what they represent.

The term “musicality” also gets used to compliment a dance performance, when a team’s synchronicity with the music becomes one body on stage.  Or when a dancer starts free-styling hitting all accents in the music, or when a couple execute moves giving near-by-watchers the illusion that their interpretation must be pre-choreographed.

To help us identify the slight differences of these dance occurrences, we need to start by defining them concretely:

  • Freestyle.  Personal dance improvisation.  It is executed without any preconceived notion, shape or form, at the complete dancer’s discretion.  Most importantly, there does not need to be a direct connection between the dance and the music, as it’s executed without any constrictions.
  • Interpretation.  In dance, it has to do with the spontaneous interaction of the dancer with the music’s tempo, accents, beats and/or breaks.  There is some freedom of form, but there needs to be some knowledge of the dance being executed.
  • Choreography.  This is about the conscious and preplanned moves that have been practiced repeatedly during casual or proper rehearsal sessions.  There is a direct connection between the music and the moves being executed.  Usually there is a stylistic dance motif, which helps with the cohesiveness of the dance number’s identity.
  • Musicality.  It’s the cohesive stylistic embodiment of the music by the dancer(s) with deep understanding of its cultural references.  Meaning that with proper knowledge about the roots of the music , the dance and the culture it represents, the dancer(s) executes moves highlighting the intricate beats, accents, breaks and time signatures of the polyrhythms found in the music.

Clave Change

Have you ever danced to a song, and then all of the sudden, you are dancing on the follower’s count (while leading), or the Leader’s count (while following)??
You have no idea why this happened, but you are certain to have executed everything correctly.

Please let me tell you… It’s not your fault.  The music changed on you… or to be more precise, the “Clave Changed” on you.

Tu No Sabes” by Bio Ritmo is my favorite track that exemplifies perfectly this concept. (Bio Ritmo is a band based in Richmond, VA. Please support artists like these, who are still recording original music!)

Why does this happen?  To tell you the truth, I don’t know completely.  I think there are a few reasons, but to try understanding the “Clave Change” concept, I’m going to share a few concepts and findings of my research:

  1.  This music comes from two different places.  Africa and Europe.
    • European Music uses the Whole Note” (), which in 4/4 last 4 beats in the measure.
    • African Music (at least West African) uses the Clave as a measure or guidance.
    • There are a few types of clave now days… Son, Rumba and 6/8, which are the most popular.
    • In order to line up the Clave “African Percussion” and the Whole Note “European Melodies”, we need 2 whole notes.  This is because Rumba or Son Clave are spread out through 8 beats, or two 4/4.
    • Clave does not change, what changes is the point in which the melody starts.  The melody can start on the 2 side of the Clave, or on the 3 side of the Clave.  In either case, the Clave stays the same. (Please see the illustration at the bottom of the page)
  2. The Traditional Structure of the “Son” lines up with the Three Rumbas and their appropriate Claves.
    • The Cuban Son has three sections (traditionally): Son or Intro, Montuno or Rising, and Mambo or Climax… and they usually go back to the Son at the end.
    • These sections (traditionally) had their own Claves. Son is 3/2, Montuno is 2/3 or 3/2, and Mambo is 2/3 or Cascara.  Now this last point of Cascara can be argued, but just go with it for now.
    • The three Rumbas have their own claves: Yambú is 3/2, Guaguánco is 3/2 or 2/3 (now days is predominantly 2/3), and Columbia is 6/8.
      • Columbia’s 6/8 developed into Katá, which later on developed into Cascara. (Cascara is the rhythm played in the shells of the timbales)
  3. The way music is written and arranged makes the melody go out of alignment with the Clave from different sections of the song.
    • Music composers often develop their compositions in different sections, and then they try to put them together.
    • Most times, these different sections share the same Clave, and sometimes they do not match.  When two sections have different Claves, then an arrangement is made, so that the Claves can match.
    • Please see the illustration for more clarification.

PS: Actually, it’s your fault because you did not pay attention to the music! 😏

The Complexity of Simplicity

Why do we overcomplicate things in dance?  There is beauty in simplicity… a perfectly positioned arm, the breath during a long note, or even a subtle pause of intimacy are usually the most memorable moments.

Dance is special, because it’s a dynamic form of self expression as well as an art form.

Good communicators craft their message using precise and explicit words, saving time and energy without unnecessary embellishment. Their message is direct, intentional and clear.

Painters also use the same method of economy in order to create master pieces.  Take Picasso for example, I once stood in front of his self-portrait at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Upon close inspection, his painting looked unfinished, with his strokes being disconcerting, disorganized, poorly executed and childlike.  Suddenly, I remembered my art teacher’s advice to appreciate composition, so I stepped back.  The more distance between the painting and I, the more realistic the portrait became.  When I was about 15 feet from the painting, his face became a 3D image, jumping out of the canvas.  Every little “flaw” that I was observing from a close range was suddenly very purposeful.  They helped create this masterpiece, which will continue to be studied for many more generations.

In dance often we have the tendency to overdo things.  It’s a common belief that the best dancers are the ones executing the most amount of moves.  From my perspective, all of those moves are distractions. They are just words without a message.  Sometimes BIG words that are poorly applied, and have nothing to do with the mood set by the music.

We forget that dancers are artists first, and being purposeful with each movement helps us compose our story.  The truth is that to become a master in this craft, it takes a whole lot more than a large repertoire of moves… It takes an understanding of composition, music, culture, and oneself.  Inspired by the music, every single movement is intentionally executed.  Dancers tell a story in each dance, and every dance is a unique experience.

Let’s dance by telling our stories, and hopefully inspire the next generation with our compassion and vulnerability.

Technique

“Technique”… It’s a term that gets thrown around quite a lot by dancers from other styles.  They usually bring up the claim of their “technical ability” as a way to belittle our art of Salsa/Mambo dance.

So what is technique?

From Cambridge English Dictionary:
“A way of performing a skillful activity, or the skill needed to do it.”

Martha Graham said this about technique… “Freedom to a dancer means discipline. That is what technique is for — liberation.”  And she also said, “Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.”

Most of the time when I hear about technique, they are usually referring about Ballet, Jazz or Ballroom.  But what about other types of dancing?

  • Do African Diaspora dances not have any technique?
  • Do breaking, popping, afrobeat, waacking, krumping, electric boogaloo, or any of the dances under the Hip Hop umbrella require technique?

I used to rock climb, and I used to hear this from my fellow rock climbers: “I like her/his technique”.

What I’m trying to explain is:

  • Technique provides consistency.  Good technique allows you to be successful at achieving results/goals at a high rate. If A and B produce C for you, a good technique (A+B) will provide the same results (C) for others.
  • Good technique = Safety.  Having an understanding of alignment, balance, control, strength, connection, counterweight, etc. will keep you from injury.
  • Quality without much effort. A good technique is appropriate when it allows anyone to produce similar or same positive outcomes with the least amount of effort possible.  It needs to be efficient and effective.
  • Can be replicated.  By comprehending the systematic approach to a skill, that skill can be replicated by another.  Techniques are methods, which allow us to recreate similar situations achieving expected results.  Meaning that it can be taught or learned.
  • Clarity. The methodological approach needs to create clear results.  In dancing, good technique allows us to convey our message clearly.

Latin Dance has borrowed techniques from many different dances.  Our technique allows us to communicate almost instantly with our partners.  It help Leads to spin the Follows ten times “on a dime”.  It makes our bodies move in beautiful symmetrical contradictions.  Our technique allows us to feel one with the music, with our partner, with the moment… at the same time, it takes us back in time to our ancestors, and the culture we inherited from them.  Our technique makes us feel… I think Martha Graham said it best… passionate and liberated!

Salsa vs Mambo Debate

The 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, 2.5, 3, 5, 6.5, 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.

What is the Muelleo?

Passing on the knowledge entrusted to me by those who fought so hard for this art.

“The energy comes from the earth… Mother Earth, she gives us the energy to move” – Master Pupy Insua. (+)
My late mentor said this to me when explaining the “Muelleo”.
What is the “Muelleo”?
In Afro-Cuban dances, it’s the bending of the knees (demi plié), which allows the dancer to move by pushing into the ground creating and releasing energy between steps/moves/beats. The posture of the torso is slightly tilted forward. It almost looks like “bouncing”, but I rather use the term “hovering”.
In other dance forms they use similar techniques, like “plié and releve”, “grounding”, “foot articulation”, etc. Posture varies accordingly to the style.
The “Muelleo” is the most important element in Afro-Cuban dances. Understanding the concept, and learning how to apply it, can take years of practice, but once you got it… it’s a whole new world.
Something that Pupy also shared with me was that “the best Rumberos study the Orisha’s dances”. AND from my own observations, the best Salsa dancers study Cuban Rumba.
Let’s continue our education of these dances in order to move forward with the evolution/fusion of it. If you want to fuse something, you better know what elements you are using. It’s about traditions, culture, history and artistic integrity.
Let Mother’s Earth feed you with her energy next time you hit the dance floor!

Dancing from the Heart

New Year Resolution… Educate people more!
Counter Body Motion or Cross Body Motion is essential in Latin dance, specially the Afro-Caribbean dances.
Ribcage and hips more oposite directions from the dancer’s center. This fluid motion or grove, creates energy that triggers the movements of the arms and hands, also the bending and straightening of the knees, which eventually helps your feet roll in and out of the floor (foot articulation) when weight shifting.
Everything comes from the center, from micro movement to explosives macro movements… So we dance from the center… We dance from the HEART!
Let’s add more heart to each dance this year!