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The Roots of New York Mambo On-2

During the 1950’s New York was captivated by the Mambo and the best musicians and dancers could be found at the Palladium. The Palladium, or "Home of the Mambo" as it was also known, was located at 53rd Street and Broadway. Although the Palladium is long gone and the building in which it was in has been torn down, the Palladium continues to live in spirit in the memories of those that were there and those that aspire to experience the exhilaration of the Mambo in its authentic style.

In the hot summer months of the early 1950’s the Mambo would migrate to the resorts of the Catskill Mountains. The greatest Latin bands of the era, including Machito, Tito Puente , and Tito Rodriguez would play and the best dancers would perform including Millie Donay and Cuban Pete.

The Palladium had many great dancers some of the most famous and those that defined and developed the Mambo were Horacio Riambau, Andy Vásquez, Cuban Pete , Joe Vega, Augie Rodriguez (I call these the Palladium 5 although there were many others). There was even one person, Jack Michell, who through his photographs has managed to preserve for posterity a little bit of the look of the Palladium style.

These star dancers and others borrowed freely from the dance resources available to them. They took the Lindy swing-out, the "Savoy Routine", the reverse pivot, from Harlem. From west Africa they took the head-roll. And from Cuba they took a right-hand-on-stomach, bounce "down-on-four". From classical ballet they took the "tour en l’aire". All of these move can still be seen in today’s Mambo and Chachachá.

The best of the social dancers took from what they saw and liked and added to the dance without restriction developing a unique and original expression known a New York Mambo.

Written by J. Fernando Lamadrid ~ September 1999

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