Intro To Mambo

Styles and Timings On2

It’s easy to assume that there’s only one way to dance On2, but that would not only be untrue, it would also mean you missed out on all the subtleties that make dancing On2 so exciting and interesting, and ultimately fulfilling.

It’s also easy to assume that the styles are defined by their respective timings but that can lead to confusion.

Here’s a breakdown of the various styles and timings so you can see what I mean:



Son Timing – also called Contratiempo (234 678)

Palladium Timing – the same as Son. Some would call Palladium a style in its own right. What they are referencing is what they believe to be the authentic style of Mambo from the Palladium Ballroom – before Eddie Torres created his syllabus and applied a standardised, blanket timing to make the dance easier to teach and to learn.

New York Eddie Torres Timing (123 567)

En Clave – Aligning your steps with the strokes of the Clave


In social dance reality, what you will see is many dancers being very very vague about when they actually step – anywhere between the beginning of 8 and the end of 1.

However anyone who claims to be a good dancer by definition cannot be vague about something as fundamental as timing.

You should know exactly what count you are stepping on and why.



All the On2 styles have Son as their root.

They all place a huge emphasis on Shines.


Eddie Torres New York Style

Timing: 123 567

New York style is a very compact dance. It’s known for it’s elegance, speed, complex turn patterns and crazy armwork.

There is lots of influence from Latin Hustle, Ballroom, Swing, Jazz, and American Tap – especially in the shines.


Puerto Rican Style

Is danced On1 OR On2 and with the lady breaking forwards OR backwards.

It travels a bit more than classic New York style but with a slightly more natural, understated elegance.

The turn patterns are usually much simpler.

The ladies are known for their lyrical arms with beautifully finished lines.

The best examples of Puerto Rican style are Felipe Polanco and Tito & Tamara.




Pro Tip

The timing you use is dictated by the music – for example a Son or Son Montuno will usually feel better danced on Son timing.

A fast Mambo with a jazzier feel will probably feel better on NY ET timing.

Music For Mambo & Salsa On2

The style of Mambo evolved the way it did because of the rhythms within the music.

These rhythms created musical sub-genres which in the 70s were all lumped together under the name “Salsa”.

They included Son, Danzon, Guaguanco, Son Montuno, Guaracha, Mambo, Cha Cha Cha and others.

We will look closer at some of these rhythms as the course progresses, and learn how to identify and respond to them on the dance floor.

The Basic Steps

There are 5 Basics that we need to learn initially:

Lateral (Son Style) Basic

Long Basic

Compact Basic

Diagonal Basic

Twist Basic

When you apply different timings to each Basic you will get a sense of how we can subtly play with the steps to express what we hear in the music.

You will start to appreciate that certain combinations work best with particular sub-genres of music.

When you have the insight and awareness of these, and the versatility to dance all of them, the whole debate about “which style and timing” becomes almost redundant. You will be able to cope with any music and any partner.

Basic Techniques


Shines are an integral part of Mambo and you cannot avoid them.

Many are standardised, and they have an intrinsic musicality which feels fantastic when aligned with a piece of music that matches.

As you progress, the shines will get longer and more complex, but this is something you will need to build up to.

The good news is that this is an addictive process!

Learning to transfer your weight and move your feet precisely at speed, and under control is challenging.

But start with small, achievable goals and you’ll see amazing progress as we do more and more each week.




Try dancing the 5 different Basics to a few different songs using both Eddie Torres timing and Palladium (Son) timing.

What do you notice?

Do some timings feel good with some songs but not others?

How does the timing change the feel of the step?