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Mike Bello’s AOTC* Salsa/Mambo
Practice & Counting CD & Video

(The Mambo Fello,

Review by Rita

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Mike Bello, Los Angeles based Mambo/Salsa dancer and teacher, is committed to helping dancers infuse more musicality and rhythm into their Salsa. 

 His motto is whatever you do on the dance floor, you should strive to be  “Always On The Clave”. 

His Salsa/Mambo Practice and Counting CD is the first in a series of presentations that are a must have for Salsa dancers. The CD presents the fundamentals for understanding the rhythms of clave and tumbao, which are the backbone of salsa music.  The CD gives a brief introduction to the clave and tumbao rhythms and then plays them simultaneously for nearly 30 minutes so that the listener can become comfortable with these rhythms.  The CD allows the dancer (or casual listener) to become more in tune with the music by counting, listening and dancing in synch with the tumbao and clave.  The CD also includes four Salsa tunes with and without synchronized counting so that you can see how these rhythms fit in with the rest of the lush instrumentation and full sounds of Salsa bands.  A great CD for beginning-advanced dancers and an excellent resource for Salsa teachers.

 *Always On The Clave



Ever wonder why some dancers have such great timing, are really vibing with the music and their footwork and body movements are so exciting to watch?  Many of these dancers have synchronized their moves with the complex percussion rhythms that are the backbone of Salsa.  If you want to have a better appreciation and understanding of Salsa music, you have to get Mike Bello’s CD, “Salsa Music, Rhythm, Phrasing & Timing”.

The 40+ tracks on this CD give clear examples of some of the most commonly used Salsa rhythms that you will hear played on percussion instruments, guitar and piano.  The compact, comprehensive booklet included in the set discusses such topics as the role of clave, musical phrasing and instrumentation, classic and modern mambo dance patterns and advanced mambo timing.  As Mike Bello states, “The goal of this presentation …is to get you to develop an ‘ear' for the interplay between different rhythmic elements that can be found and that are consistently present in most salsa tunes.  Once you realize and actualize how the traditional approach to salsa is arranged and constructed, you will, as a dancer, be better able to allow yourself to synchronize your steps to the rhythms of salsa”

Whether you dance on “one” or on “two”, this is a great CD to get.  It is bound to help give your dancing more sparkle, heart and “soul”.



 Once you have absorbed the essence of the clave and tumbao rhythms into your dancing, then you are really ready for Mike Bello’s “Salsa-Mambo Shines” video.  In the beginning of the video, Mike again reviews the importance of clave and tumbao rhythms as the central organizing principle of Salsa music and dancing.  I fully agree that since the dancers are the physical representation of the music, we need to align ourselves with these rhythms. The video encourages dancers to improve their upper body carriage, balance, hand placement and other aspects of dance styling so that they may feel confident and look at ease (or “cool”) on the dance floor. The first part of the video covers topics such as:


·          The Clave Rhythm

·          The Tumbao Rhythm of the Conga

·          Technique and Drill for Contra-Body Motion

·          Mambo Hands and Mambo Kick

·          Core Rhythm of Salsa and Mambo

·          Basic Time Step Pattern in Both Classic and Modern Mambo,
(Also known as “New York Style” Mambo)


In addition to being packed with information, this video is fun to watch and easy to understand. During the rest of the video, Mike breaks down and demonstrates 13 different shines (a.k.a. solo footwork patterns) using both the timing of Classic Mambo and Modern Mambo. The shines are particularly accessible to the audience because the video uses a three-window screen.  One half of the screen has a full body shot of Mike in front of a mirror.  Then one quarter of the screen shows a close-up of his legs and feet and the last quarter of the screen shows a full body shot from the side. These three views are shown simultaneously.   Front & back views of all steps are also shown. Each shine is first shown & broken down without music using the Classic & Modern Mambo timing so that you can learn the step before the counts are added.  You can really understand what is happening in the video and you can quickly incorporate these shines to your repertoire of dance moves.  Don’t get scared off by the Mambo controversy.  You can use all these patterns whether you dance on “1”, “2” or “3”.  It all works because it is all “on clave”. 

There is also a special bonus salsa track at the end of the video by Johnny Polanco y su Conjunto Amistad from their newly released CD entitled "Pa’l Bailadores."

This extremely, well-organized and beautifully executed production confirms that Mike Bello is a gifted teacher and renowned expert on New York Style Salsa.   The video is a great companion to his “Practice & Counting CD” and his “Salsa Music, Rhythm, Phrasing & Timing CD”. I can’t wait for his next Salsa/Mambo instructional video so I can learn more about how to dance and live “in clave”.


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