Below is a brief history of Salsa and Spartan Mambo. Understanding the history of the dance makes you a more educated dancer and can help you gain a greater appreciation for the dance vs someone who just knows how to do the steps.

1800s-1900s – Development of Rumba Cubana

  • Salsa music and dance has its origin in Cuba
  • “Afro Cuban” music and dance is a combination of Spanish guitar & vocals, African rhythms, and traditional Native American dances
  • Many salsa songs include Afro Cuban sections or have Afro Cuban influences and the style is gaining popularity in recent years

A couple dancing the Guaguanco:

Alberto Valdez, one of the popularizers of Afro in the salsa community:

1938 – First Mambo Written

  • First Mambo written in Cuba by Orestes and Cachao López
  • Mambo means “Conversation with the gods” or “storytelling”. More recently, the term has come to be synonymous with On2 salsa
  • Mambo moved to New York City in the 1950s, and gained popularity in the US

A classic mambo piece:

Mambo was popular in the US in the 1950s, especially in New York:

The Palladium Ballroom was a legendary night club in New York where all the best mambo dancers danced:

Eddie Torres the “Mambo King” is famous for popularizing On2 salsa as well as popularizing Palladium-style mambo in modern times:

1930s-1950s – Cuban Son

  • Cuban Son is a close cousin to salsa in both music & dance
  • It developed from an earlier dance style called “Danzon”
  • Cuban Son eventually developed into Timba or “Cuban Salsa”

Cuban Son dancers:

Timba or Cuban-style salsa:

1950s – Origin of Cha Cha Cha

  • Originated in Cuba and gained popularity in New York and the US
  • Combination of Cuban Danzon and Mambo
  • Distinctive “cha-cha-cha” rhythm

Cha cha piece by Enrique Jorrin, the originator of cha cha:

Cha cha as danced in the Ballroom world is highly stylized, with crisp body movements:

Jeremy & Daniela of Colombia dance a more traditional cha cha (with some Colombian acrobatics thrown in):

1955 – Birth of Pachanga

  • An upbeat and playful music genre developed in Cuba in the 1950s
  • Heavy flute, violin, and trumpet instrumentation
  • Often incorporated into salsa dancing and choreography

Jorget Alcocer demonstrates the Pachanga:

Los Pachangueros pachanga duo:

A pachanga/salsa fusion performance by Adolfo Indacochea & Carla:

1960-1970s – Birth of Salsa

  • With the US embargo of Cuba, New York becomes the center for Latin American music
  • Early salsa musicians are Puerto Ricans living in New York (“Nuyoricans”) as well as Cubans and other Latin Americans
  • Salsa means “sauce”, and the the music is a mixture of different music styles (Cuban Son, Cha Cha, Mambo, Pachanga, Jazz) as is the dance (Mambo, Cha Cha, Pachanga, Afro Cuban)
  • The most popular salsa group of the era is the Fania All-Stars, composed of the top musicians of the Fania record label. In 1973, Fania sells out a concert at Yankee Stadium

The Fania All-Stars performing at Yankee Stadium:

1980s-1990s – Development of Salsa Dance

  • In the 1980s, salsa music spreads to countries around the world including Japan, Europe, and all of South America. The 1970s & 1980s are the height of popularity for salsa music
  • Salsa dance also grows in popularity around the world. What started as a street dance becomes more formalized with the emergence of salsa schools & instructors
  • Salsa begins to develop into a performance dance, with dance competitions and performance teams
  • Salsa dancers start incorporating techniques from ballet, Jazz, Tango, and ballroom dance, as well as tricks & lifts from swing dance and figure skating
  • Salsa is now the most popular form of partner dancing in the world, danced in every major city of nearly every country in the world

Eddie Torres, who helped formalize and popularize New York-style (On2) salsa:

Johnny Vazquez, one of the early developers of LA-style (On1) salsa:

The Colombians develop a very different style of salsa, characterized by fast footwork and Lindy-style tricks:

1997 – First World Salsa Congress held in Puerto Rico

  • 1997 marks the birth of the Salsa Congress
  • The first congress is organized by Eli Irizarri, and draws 375 people from 19 countries
  • Congresses are multi-day festivals with workshops, performances, competitions, and dancing
  • The format gains popularity around the world. Today, there are over 200 salsa congresses and festivals held every year

1999 – First LA Salsa Congress

  • The LA Salsa Congress is started in 1999, becoming the 2nd salsa congress in the world
  • Originally known as the West Coast Salsa Congress
  • Organized by Albert Torres (no relation to Eddie Torres) who was a promoter for the Puerto Rico Congress
  • The LA Salsa Congress was renamed the “LA Salsa Fest” in 2016 and is one of the largest salsa congresses in the world
  • Albert Torres becomes the biggest promoter for salsa in the world, but passes away in 2017

2001 – First San Francisco Salsa Congress

  • The first SF Salsa Congress is organized by Pretty Boys & Girls Dance Company (PB&G) from San Jose
  • The SF Salsa Congress is one of the oldest salsa congresses in the world, next to Puerto Rico, LA, and Japan

2005 – First Salsa World Championships

  • The first World Salsa Championships is organized by Albert Torres & The Salsa Seven
  • The event is broadcast live over ESPN
  • PB&G Dance Company from San Jose wins the first World Championships in the team division, cementing the Bay Area as a salsa powerhouse
  • The World Salsa Championships continues for 4 more years, before the organizers go bankrupt

PB&G Dance Company wins the team division of the 1st World Salsa Championships:

2008 – First College Salsa Congress

  • The College Salsa Congress is born, organized by Teddy Zhou, with the goal of bringing college salsa teams together to showcase the talents of the next generation of dancers
  • The first event featured 8 schools, and was held at Stevens Steakhouse in LA
  • In 2010, Laura Luu joins as Event Producer, and eventually becomes the Executive Producer of the event

2009 – First World Latin Dance Cup

  • In 2009, Albert Torres organizes a new competition known as the World Latin Dance Cup
  • The new competition includes other Latin dances such as Cha Cha, Bachata, and Cumbia in addition to salsa. The competition also features an amateur division

2010 (Spring) – First College Salsa Competition, SJSU Salsa Club Founded

  • The College Salsa Congress hosts its first college salsa team competition. The competition is won by Cal State Long Beach
  • Takeshi Young and Max Shpungin start the salsa club at SJSU, teaching free salsa lessons to students

CSULB, winners of the first ever College Salsa Congress competition:

2010 (Fall) – Spartan Mambo Founded

  • Takeshi & Max start Spartan Mambo, due to many requests to the salsa club for performances
  • Spartan Mambo performs at the SF Salsa Congress, becoming the first college team to do so
  • The team also competes in the amateur team competition, placing 3rd

Season 1 performance of “Mambo Rage” by Spartan Mambo:

2011 (Spring) – Spartan Mambo Wins College Salsa Congress

  • Spartan Mambo heads down to the College Salsa Congress for the first time, along with Santa Clara University
  • Spartan Mambo wins the College Salsa Congress competition, becoming the first team from NorCal to do so

2012 (Spring) – Spartan Mambo takes 2nd at College Salsa Congress

  • Spartan Mambo returns to the College Salsa Congress, and takes second next to Cal State Northridge (CSUN)

2013 (Spring) – Spartan Mambo Qualifies for World Latin Dance Cup

  • Spartan Mambo qualifies for the World Latin Dance Cup at the Las Vegas Salsa Congress
  • Spartan Mambo also narrowly takes 4th place at the College Salsa Congress, with a team of mostly beginners

Spartan Mambo competes at the Las Vegas Salsa Congress:

Spartan Mambo performance at the 2013 College Salsa Congress:

2013 (Fall) – Spartan Mambo Wins College Title at World Latin Dance Cup

  • The World Latin Dance Cup hosts a college division for the first (and possibly only) time
  • Spartan Mambo wins the Collegiate Teams division by default, and also takes 7th place in the amateur teams category

Spartan Mambo wins the College Division at the 2013 World Latin Dance Cup:

2014 – Spartan Mambo takes 2nd at College Salsa Congress

  • Spartan Mambo narrowly loses to Cal State Northridge (CSUN) by 3 points
  • Spartan Mambo returns to WLDC and takes 4th in Bachata division and 8th in salsa

Spartan Mambo Spring 2014 competition routine

2015 – Spartan Mambo wins all the things

  • Spartan Mambo wins San Francisco Salsa Festival
  • Spartan Mambo wins first annual Collegiate Salsa Open
  • Spartan Mambo wins 8th annual College Salsa Congress

2016 – Spartan Mambo wins all the things (again)

  • Spartan Mambo wins San Francisco Salsa Festival
  • Spartan Mambo wins second annual Collegiate Salsa Open
  • Spartan Mambo takes second at College Salsa Congress

2017 – Spartan Mambo performs for the Golden State Warriors

2018 – Spartan Mambo takes 2nd place at Collegiate Salsa Open & College Salsa Congress

2019 – YOU ARE HERE, World Domination Pt.3

  • What will be your mark on salsa history?