When Mambo and Cha Cha were Kings : Dance styles of a Bygone Era

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Vintage Clips aren’t just for the lindy hoppers!

Dances, such as the Mambo and Cha Cha are constantly changing and evolving.  Many of the basic steps or rhythms may stay the same, but the aesthetic choices dancers make when executing those steps transform over time in relation to their music and cultural context.  In the 1950s and early 1960s, Mambo and Cha Cha were the Kings of the social dance floor.

There is something compelling and quite familiar about the early styles of Mambo and Cha Cha when you come from a Lindyhop background.  First of all, they both stem from an Afro-Caribbean beat and are heavily laden with jazz improvisation.  And on the heels of the Swing Era, Mambo and Cha Cha became the worldwide popular dance of choice for a new generation of young adults and teens.  In contrast to the more codified, controlled, sexy, and slinky ballroom style of Mambo or Cha Cha, I believe I am attracted most to the sense of raw and wild abandon that these social dancers evoke.

Regardless of your position on how and why the dances changed over time, it’s always good to look back and find something to be inspired by…

So here are some clips of Vintage Mambo and Cha Cha during the 1950s and 1960s:

Spirit Moves – Mambo


Palladium Dancers – The Place to see and be seen dancing the Mambo


West Side Story – Mambo!


Harlem Mambo


Perez Prado Mambo


Bruce Lee does the Cha Cha


El Negro Zumbon – Silvana Mangano


Mambo (1954)


G. Meccia (1961)

By |2012-02-01T08:29:08-08:00January 31st, 2012|Latin Dancing, Dance History|0 Comments

About the Author:

Shani Brown discovered swing dancing in the late 90s as she eased out of gymnastics into a new physical activity. When she moved to Orange County in 2000, she discovered a whole new world of Balboa and Lindyhop - and she's been obsessed ever since! When she's not hitchhiking to dance events across the country, she's probably got her nose in a book...And when she's not dancing, she's probably talking about dancing or watching dancing and being a typical dance-geek.

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