The Mamboniks

In the 1930s and '40s, Americans traveling to Cuba became intoxicated  with a steamy new dance step which they brought back to the dance floors of New York City where it became a sensation.

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

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

The Mamboniks film captures their wild ride: from the Tropicana Night Club in Havana, Cuba where the music was discovered, to the Art Deco hotels of Miami Beach where it took a toehold.  From the Jewish resorts of the Catskill Mountains, to Miami's Gold Coast Ballroom where they still dance today, this feature film charts the rise and fall of the mambo as seen through the tender lives of the ones who lived the craze and still feel the urge to dance - all set to an infectious Latin soundtrack, super-charged dancing and stylish mid-century clips. 

Musicians, club owners, disc jockeys, record company moguls and dancers, now in their 80's and 90's (and still dancing!), reunite to tell this unlikely and little-known tale. They reveal personal thoughts about the allure of the music but also on love, friendship, adventure, coming-of-age, Jewish culture and, now in their autumn years, the meaning of a life well-lived.

"It appealed to the Jewish soul."
- dancer Rhea Anides

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

Paulson Productions is Executive Producer and Creative Consultant.