Salsa Dancing From Coast to Coast

On The Art Of Mambo!

 El Chocolate Caliente in Cuba-final

The Conga Drums: Heartbeat of The Mambo!

I suppose because I became aware of this music, which is now popularly known as “Salsa,” when it was universally called “Afro-Cuban” music I continue to think of the dance form as Mambo.   This dance, though perfected in New York City, is obviously an extension of the Danzon the national dance of Cuba.  The accelerated tempo of the Mambo and the complexity of the turns in partners dancing reflect the complexity and break neck pace of the milieu in the great American City where this style of dancing reached its apotheosis.

The First couple are New Yorkers, the male is Puerto Rican and the female is my daughter Makeda, an all Afro-American girl whose roots go back twenty generations or more in this country.  Yet she dances as if her heritage is Afro-Latin.  The dancing here is in a club and completely improvised.Makeda’s mastery of the Mambo is a function of several factors and confirms what anthropologists have long argued regarding the fusion of cultures.  First of all Makeda is a trained dancer who has formally studied various genres of dance ranging from classical ballet, modern dance, Afro-Cuban, Puerto-Rican Bomba, Haitian traditional dances, Congolese dance, etc. 

And secondly, she grew up among Afro-Indio peoples from the Caribbean and South America, and developed a love for their cultures from cuisine to music, and especially dance!  And finally, she was raised in a household where the music was played and her father played the conga drums and danced the Mambo.  All of the influence contributed to her mastery of Afro-Latin Dance.  She dances with some of the best musicians and dancers of the genre. 

As the reader can see from my pictures of Latin dancers in far away San Francisco, her New York City approach to the dance has become the dominant trend in the genre.  I was surprised to find such skilled dancers in Frisco, and I have attempted to capture their grace, passion and elegance in these poignant images.

Live At Club Caribe:  In Spanish Harlem!

In spanish Harlem With Keda 187

Makeda: Queen Of the Mambo Dancing with Armando

Popi Chuela!

Scenes from New Years Eve and other 180

At Gonzalez Y Gonzalez!

 

Moving In Sync

In spanish Harlem With Keda 205

Dancing As One

 

The Mambo In Black Harlem!

Blackhispanic Mambo in Harlem 011

In The Ballroom Of the Adam Clayton Powell Building

 

They Come At All Ages

Blackhispanic Mambo in Harlem 045And And Shake their Groove Thang!

 

In The Mission District Of San Francisco!

Last Days in San Francisco 435

Dancing With Elegance

 

On the Dance Floor Age Nor Race Matters!

Last Days in San Francisco 365

Only The Exquisite Ectasy Of the Dance!

 

But Whether In New York

Scenes from New Years Eve and other 168

 

OR In San Francisco

Last Days in San Francisco 378

The Mambo Is Mui Caliente!!

 

Last Days in San Francisco 442And And Graceful Beyond Descriptio

 

In the Mambo

Scenes from New Years Eve and other 146The Men Control The Dance

Whether Playing the Conga Drums Or Dancing

Openineg night at the Chimney Club 103

The Mambo is Intoxicating!

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Photo’s and Text by: Playthell Benjamin

* Excerpted from his forthcoming book “The Art Of Mambo”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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