The Mamboniks

In the 1930s, Jewish Americans began traveling to Cuba where they became intoxicated with fiery Latin rhythms and a steamy new dance step called "mambo." They brought their new-found passion back home to the dance floors of New York City.  

By the 1950s it was the latest sensation.

At the Palladium Ballroom, “Home of the Mambo!” dancers were dazzled by the swinging big bands of Tito Puente, Machito and Tito Rodriguez.   The craze quickly swept the nation, and hot-blooded  mambo moves became a pervasive aspect of post-World War II social life.

Surprisingly, many of the biggest fanatics were Jewish - a diverse, offbeat gang of devotees whose zeal for mambo dancing earned them the hipster nickname: “Mamboniks.”

The Mamboniks is a wild ride: from the Tropicana Night Club in Havana, Cuba where the music was born, to the Art Deco hotels of Miami Beach where it took a toehold.  From New York City dance halls and vacation resorts of the Catskill Mountains in the 1950s, to Miami's Gold Coast Ballroom where the mambo lives today, this feature film charts the rise and fall of the mambo, seen through the tender lives of the Mamboniks who lived it and who share a love of the music and the eternal urge to dance - all set to an infectious Latin soundtrack, stunning period b-roll, and dramatic dance footage that all capture the carefree spirit of mid-century America. 

Cast: A close-knit bunch of musicians, club owners, disc jockeys, record company moguls but above all dancers - now in their 70s, 80s and 90s and still dancing - reunite in this far-flung and tender tale of the heyday of American ballroom dancing, Latin-style.  Each character shares personal thoughts on the allure of the music, but also on love, friendship, travel, adventure, coming-of-age, Jewish culture and tradition, and now in their autumn years, the meaning of a life well-spent.

But mostly, the Mamboniks fondly remember being swept up in the mambo craze, the feeling of romance that perfumed the night club air, and the indelible vision of elegantly dressed figures that swirled alluringly and swayed sensually as the whole world was swinging to a Latin beat.  

“Back then,” recalls Cuban bandleader Jose Curbelo, “Ninety percent of my audience was Jewish. They supported Cuban music because they loved it.”

Paulson Productions is Executive Producer and Creative Consultant.