Latin Dance Expert Shares Mambo Magic

On television, in clubs and on the stage, Latin dance has been rediscovered by a new generation who are captivated by its rhythms and artistry.

Members of the PBA Dance Ensemble recently got a lesson in the history of this art form taught by one its foremost interpreters. 

Barbara Craddock, known for her talent and passion for the mambo genre, is a visionary of timeless, clave-based, Latin dance and music. With a stellar professional dancing and teaching career, she has produced and directed original Latin revues in New York, New Jersey and Florida. Craddock and her late dance partner, Pedro “Cuban Pete” Aguilar, performed, taught and lectured worldwide.

The duo made dance history by collaborating with Edward Villella and Miami City Ballet on their unprecedented work, “Mambo No. 2 a.m.” They conceptualized and choreographed an original mambo ballet, “Latin Magic,” for the University of the Arts School of Dance in Philadelphia.

The recipient of many awards for her contributions to Latin dance, Craddock vows to carry on Cuban Pete’s legacy by sharing her mastery and love of Latin dance and music, especially the mambo, through performing, lecturing and teaching. Currently, she is the executive producer of the documentary, “Mambo Man,” the story of Pedro “Cuban Pete” Aguilar, which is scheduled to be released later this year.

Students in Craddock’s master class had the opportunity to handle and play typical instruments, include the hardwood sticks called the clave, used in the performance of mambo music. They watched films of mambo dancing and witnessed a demonstration by two professional mambo dancers.

Attending the master class were Abram Bagwell, Breanna Butts, Deanna Butts, Alexis Carpenter, Denton Gay, Devin Hamilton, Sydney Jeffrey, Chelsa Johnson, Hope Koleczek, Chelsea Lavorano, Jenne McMorrow, Adrrienne Ming, Renae Mittelmeirer, Stephanie Morales, Jessica Mork, Hannah Nelson, Joybeth Pagan, Andrea Preciado, Rayna Rebrovic, Julie Sandberg, Katie Scott, Sarah Smedley and Leah Wierichs.

"I was amazed to see a grand dame of Latin dance such as Barbara Craddock imparting her knowledge to us,” one student said. “She brought actual percussion instruments, too, like the clave, on which this whole genre is based, and we were able to hear what she was teaching us by holding and playing the clave."