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A difficult dance originally featuring wild acrobatic moves, the Mambo is performed to a 4/4 beat. It is rhythmically similar to the slower bolero, though it has a more complex pattern of steps. As in many Latin dances, the dancers don’t move on the first beat. The combination that follows is described as “quick-quick-slow” or “step, rock, close, pause.” The foot moves (steps) on the second beat. On the third beat the weight shifts (rocks) to the opposite foot. On the fourth beat the foot returns to its original position (close), and the sequence repeats after a pause on the 1, (sometimes counted as 5). Dancers swing their hips through each step, creating a fluid motion and a sensuous atmosphere. The word “Mambo,” meaning “conversation with the gods,” comes from West Africa. The dance is a descendant of the traditional Cuban danza of the 18th century--which was itself a Cuban version of the European contra dance--and the Afro-Cuban Rumba. The Rumba, a dance developed from West A...

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