Palladium By McMains, Juliet
New York’s Palladium Ballroom is commonly revered as the birthplace of modern Latin dancing. Known as “the home of the mambo,” the Palladium was New York’s most popular venue for Latin dance music from 1947 to 1966. It featured live Latin music four nights a week, frequently played by “The Big Three” orchestras: Machito and his Afrocubans, Tito Puente, and Tito Rodríguez. Located near prominent nightclubs and theaters at 53rd St. and Broadway, the Palladium was significant for bringing Latin music to midtown Manhattan and for the racial and ethnic integration it engendered. Puerto Rican, Cuban, Italian, African-American, Irish, and Jewish patrons of all classes filled its dance floors and rubbed elbows with celebrities, especially on Wednesday nights when “Killer Joe” Piro hosted the popular mambo contest and professional show. The weekly show launched the careers of many dance teams who then performed in Catskill and Miami Beach resorts, and worked as opening acts with touring musicians. Mambo was the favorite dance of Palladium regulars, but other dances experienced surges of popularity, including the cha-cha (1954) and pachanga (1961).