Difference between Salsa and Mambo Dance

Key Difference: ‘Salsa’ is a form of dance, which originates from the Cuban Son and Afro-Cuban dance. It is generally associated with the salsa music style. On the other hand, ‘Mambo’ is the Latin dance of Cuba. In this, the performers dance to the rhythm of the mambo music.

Dance is such a way of self-expression and art, that everyone performs without any second thought. The one who wants to dance, doesn’t need techniques, styles, steps and perfection. They just need to move their body and dance in whatever way they feel like. But in the case of Salsa and Mambo, one needs all those things which a normal dancer doesn’t require.

Salsa’ is a category of a stylized Cuban rhythmic dance with the elements of rock and soul music. It is a fast and high speed dance where performers completely focus on each and every beat. Here, the beat plays a very important role because there are “8” counts which a performer has to remember.

Salsa can start from the 1 beat or 2 beat, depending on the dancer. Salsa has many moves and one should have a correct posture and flexibility in it. The arms play an essential part in Salsa; as it allows or gives signal to the follower to either move in an open or closed position. Salsa can be performed with a partner or one can perform alone. Salsa is not a serious dance; it is fun dance, as many Latin Americans and Spanish dancers perform in clubs, parties, saloon and lounge.

Pictures of  Ballroom Latin Wedding Salsa Swing Argentine Tango- Dance Lessons , Salt Lake City UtahOn the other hand, ‘Mambo’ music was invented by Arsenio Rodriguez in 1930s. The music was popular by Dámaso Pérez Prado and Benny Moré. Then in 1940s, Perez Prado came up with the dance for mambo music and it was named as ‘Mambo’.

Mambo dancers can just start from the second count (On2), which is said to be the rhythm of the music. The rhythm section of the band which includes the drumming instruments helps the dancers to move their feet. Instruments like bango, conga, piano, etc. specially focuses on the 2nd and 6th beats of those same eight counts that dancers step to over 2 standard 4-count measures of music.

Both, Salsa and Mambo are performed in many countries but you just have to choose which one is your type. Salsa is loose in someway, but the posture is sometimes more up and the footwork is closer for quicker and easier turns. While, mambo needs wide floor spacing because there are more diagonal steps.

The differences have been highlighted in the table below:


Salsa Dance

Mambo Dance


Salsa is a lively and vigorous type of contemporary Latin stylized Cuban rhythms with elements of jazz, rock, and soul music.

Mambo is a modern American Latin dance to the rhythm of the mambo music.


Originated from the Cuban son and Afro-Cuban dance

Originated in Cuba as a mixture of Afro-Caribbean and Latin American cultures





8 beat with a pause on the count 4 and 8

4/4 beat



Much crispier


Sensuous and flirty

More sensuous and flirty than salsa


Fast and quick

Little slow and soft


Flowing music

Break in the music – beat or drumming instrument

Image Courtesy: arthurmurraydancing.com, saltlakecity.olx.com

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