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Battle of the Mambo Is Bruising Some Toes

by Mireya Navaro, New York Times
September 3, 2000

Kate Shanley and Humberto Lopez met in a nightclub with starfish on the walls and a pulsing Latin beat in the air. They caught each other's eye immediately -- she of the long blond hair, white pants and rabbit fur top; he of the orange shirt and handsome dark looks.

A song was starting and he asked her to dance. She said yes and they locked bodies in the semidarkness.

Then they bumped knees. Then they pulled in different directions. Then the song became interminable. When it was over, they spent time talking but did not dance again.

''It was a total mess,'' said Mr. Lopez, 23, a waiter from Queens. ''It was kind of a disaster,'' agreed Ms. Shanley, 44, an advertising sales representative who is also from Queens.

Ms. Shanley was dancing ''on 2,'' known as New York-style mambo, in which the first long step, known as the break step, comes on the second beat and there are no pauses. Mr. Lopez was dancing ''on 1,'' the style favored by many mambo dancers in which the first long step comes on the first beat, and the dancers pause on the fourth and the eighth beats.

The encounter occurred two months ago in Miami, but it could have taken place on any dance floor in any Latin club these days. Call it the mambo wars. »


Photo by Meredith Davenport
for the New York Times

Partners dancing in Manhattan
in the "on 2" style, based on