The Palladium Groove in NC
Artistika used to attract people from all ages and backgrounds, and our nights were packed with new dancers finding their footings. Through the years, Artistika has been very supportive of the Latin dance community, giving many instructors the opportunity to start their careers at their locale. (Note: Artistika has been affected by the pandemic as many other businesses, the community and loyal clientele cannot wait for them to reopen)
On one particular night, I noticed two classy ladies in their 60’s or 70’s at the time, who decided to take our class. As any aware instructor, I tried my best to pay attention to them, and tailor the material so that they could “keep up”… so I thought. As we were progressing through the class, I observed that they had rhythm and ability, “even at their age” I thought. I just noticed them struggling adjusting to the time structure that I was using, En Tiempo (1,2,3,5,6,7), but even with that, both were doing better than the great majority of the class. “That’s cool!” I thought.
The class finally came to an end, and they were smiling (which is always a good sign). The social dancing started, and the DJ played a Charanga. Since some people had rushed over to the bar, the floor was not that busy…. except for these two ladies. Meanwhile, I was talking with a couple of friends on the sidelines, when I witnessed these cute older ladies dancing with real flavor and elegance, radiating energy with each move they did. To my surprised, they were dancing Pachanga, and when they were doing partner-work, they were breaking On2, but not the regular On2… They were doing the “Palladium Style Mambo”, which uses Contratiempo (2,3,4,6,7,8). My jaw dropped, I felt like a little kid meeting Mickey Mouse for the first time. I had only read about the style and the Palladium, but being able to witness the REAL THING, it was just a gift from above.
As soon as the song was over, I ran to talked to them and said “Are you from the Palladium!?”. They introduced themselves, “Cookie and Margarita”. They were very surprised I recognized their dance styles, and that I even knew about the Palladium Ballroom. After asking all the questions I could fit into one breath, they shared with me some stories about their experience at the Palladium, AND they gave me a “little” piece of advice.
“Betto, what you teach and what you dancers are doing now days, it’s very nice.” Margarita said with a caring voice of wisdom (the tone mothers use, when they are about to give a profound loving message to their children). “The only thing that I can say is that back at the Palladium, if a Son would play, then we danced Son. If a Chacha would play, then we would danced chachacha. If a Pachanga would be playing, then we would dance Pachanga. And if a Mambo was playing, we would dance Mambo.” Margarita continued “taking me to school” ever so lovingly, while Cookie nodded her head with the warmest smile. Lastly, Margarita added very kindly; “Now days, it seems like everyone is dancing the same style… no matter what is playing.”
I had just been served the most delicious piece of “Humble Pie”, and not only I digested it, but really enjoyed every piece of it. They were absolutely right!!! And for their look on their faces, I imagined the thoughts happening in their so-wise heads… “And you know this, and it’s your job to continue our traditions alive!“. All of the sudden, I felt this huge responsibility falling on my shoulders. These legends were giving me a golden piece of advice, and an opportunity to build something bigger than my ego.
Their advice led me to learn more about the music, and each dance. I made it a point to follow their advice, to seek the knowledge from different sources and try to influence as many dancers as possible. This experience led me to write the article “The Music Speaks“, which was republished in a few Latin Dance Magazines.
In addition, they also took the time to show me how to dance Pachanga-Palladium Style, and the Palladium Mambo. They inspired me to conduct my Musicality Workshop after a few years later. AND they got me ready to meet legendary dancer, “Mambo Man”, Mr. Pedro “Cuban Pete” Aguilar (RIP) and his partner Barbara Craddock (RIP)… But that is another story!
(All Photos provided by Margarita’s Facebook with permission)