The Mambo began on a note of controversy, the one about whether or not it was considered decent and not a sexually suggestive mating ritual as some prudes considered it to be. Of course, this happened in a different time. The suggestiveness of the mambo, even the way it is danced today, comes nowhere near to being as suggestive as the dirty dancing that young people do together at high school proms all over the country. People started dancing to the original mambo in Cuba in the 1930s and 40s. It started as movement to mambo music, which was how the dance got its name. People “felt” the music and moved to it however the feeling inspired. The mambo became popular in the 1940s and 50s in New York City.
This exciting new dance got the attention of filmmakers, musicians, dancers, and journalists all over the country partly because of its controversy. Some of them liked the expressive wildness of the dance. Others did not like it so much. David Garcia tells of a Venezuelan psychiatrist, Raul Ramos Calles, one of many Latin American professionals, academics, and writers who rejected the mambo. He said the dance had no musical value and “consider[ed] it an insidious form of both black American vulgarity as well as North American cultural imperialism and, as such, a threat to the racial and cultural integrity of their nations” (Garcia 505). However, that did not affect the dance’s popularity in other Latin America areas such as Cuba, where it originated, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.
Because the original Mambo had no real choreographed steps, professional dance instructors did not like the dance. Dancers just moved to the sound and beat of mambo music. Everybody felt the music in their own distinct way and many people interpreted the music in a vulgar way, or that is what some people thought. That is until Eddie Torres developed the Mambo on 2 or the New York Style Mambo in the 1970s.