Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Cuban Connection

My article of July 9 entitled "Should Dance Figures Be Named After Persons?" in which I mentioned the Aida and Kiki Walks has elicited quite a few responses from my visitors via comments, emails and phone calls. Thankfully, all the responses have been positive. One regular visitor, Alan Liew called me to say that he found the article interesting and informative. Alan however pointed out that the picture that accompanied the article shows the dancers doing the Spiral Turn and not the Aida. Yes, Alan, the picture taken circa 1950 is that of Pepe Llorenz executing a Spiral Turn with his regular partner Suzy Riviera. Llorenz and Riviera were very well known dancers in Cuba back then. I was unable to find a picture of Llorenz dancing the Aida with Aida (his wife, after which the figure is named).

Speaking of Cuba, it is worthwhile to note that Cuba's contribution to the world of social and competitive dancing has been immense. The popular dances like the Rumba, Cha Cha Cha, Mambo and Salsa have their roots in Cuba. These dances, except maybe for the Mambo have caught on around the world. The Mambo remains a popular dance in the United States of America. In the US, there is a classification of dances known as the American Rhythm dances which consists of the Rumba, Cha Cha Cha, Mambo, East Coast Swing and Bolero. American Rhythm dance competitions are regularly held there. The Mambo has a catchy rhythm and fun character, and songs like Mambo Number 5 by Lou Bega or Mambo Italiano by Bette Midler really gets you in the mood for dancing the Mambo.

The Mambo dance was first introduced by Perez Prado at the La Tropicana Night Club in Havana, Cuba in 1943. The dance appeared in the United States during the mid-1940s in New York's Park Plaza Ballroom and it soon became a craze there. Interest in the Mambo however fizzled out in the 1950s, but the dance is now enjoying a resurgence in popularity in the US due to a number of movies featuring the Mambo as well as the efforts of a man named Eddie Torres (picture above). Known as the "Mambo King of Latin Dance", Torres created the modern version of the Mambo in the 1970s. The modern version that Americans today call Mambo or 'breaking on 2' is completely different from the Mambo that was created by Prado. The original style of the dance contains no breaking steps, whether on 1 or 2.

Related Posts

> Should Dance Figures Be Named After Persons?

> Swing, American Smooth & American Rhythm Dances


sah90 said...

you sure know many type of dance.

Joseph Lim said...

Mambo is fast Rhumba abd Bolero is slow Rhumba, the latter with rises and falls to keep the movement going.

Joseph Lim said...

There is another Latin American dance, which apparently was rather popular there at one time, called "Beguine". It even inspired Cole Porter to compose that well known song "Begin the Beguine". There are still many piano music sheets printed today with the word "Beguine" on top. Many dancers including experienced dancers mistook the beguine rhythm to be rhumba and dance to the rhumba, but although sounds somewhat similar to the rhumba is different from the rhumba.

Joseph Lim said...

On the matter of Latin American dances,in some of his movies Fred Astaire danced solo to what sounded very much like Samba music, but it was not called Samba but Carioca. On the matter of Fred Astaire, who was the better dancer - him Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly? Unfortunately both gone now plus other great Hollywood top dancers including Cyd Charrise and Ann Miller.

Dancesport Malaysia said...

Dear Joseph,

1) The Mambo and Cuban Bolero were derived from Cuban Son music, hence the connection.

2)Yes, I remembered the Beguine and the song "Begin The Beguine". Many dancers would dance the Square Rumba to Beguine music.

3) Who is the better dancer - Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly? That's a tough question to answer! It is just like asking "Who Is The Better Latin American Dancer - Donnie Burns or Bryan Watson?" Please read my Article 16 of August 25 2008 entitled "Michael Phelps the Greatest Olympian, Donnie Burns The Greatest Dancer?"

Joseph Lim said...

In Verdi's grand opera named "Aida" (known for its extravagant and huge cast) Aida was the name of the Ethopian princess who was a slave in ancient Egypt and in love with an Egyptian army captain or commander.

Joseph Lim said...

On whether Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly was the better dancer, it sure is a difficult choice to make, but, without any discredit to the late Mr Astaire, I think Gene Kelly was better because certain of the movements in his dances seemed extremely difficult but he danced them so well and robust

Joseph Lim said...

Dear Sir

I would put Michael Wentink on the same league as Donnie Burns and Bryan Watson; I don'know why his name never appeared on the top 1, 2or 3in any year, maybe he was never interested in so competing? Karen Hardy (Bryan's partner before Carmen Vincelj) has her own dance school and Matthew Cutler and Nicole are still dancing together and both are teaching there (I did not get this information off the net but is 100%reliable and correct)