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The Palladium Has a Thousand Stories -Part 2

The “Big Three” Dance Acts of the Palladium
By Michael Terrace and Peter Settimelli



By Michael Terrace & Peter Settimelli
From New York City



The Palladium was a springboard for many a dancer and dance act. As often introduced on the bill before an evening’s performance as the “Big Three”, Augie and Margo, Michael Terrace & Elita, Johnny Brascia and Tybee Afra achieved iconic status at the Palladium where they honed their craft and would eventually open for featured stars as well as close the show.

Under the tutelage of George Balanchine at the American School of Ballet while also taking jazz dance instruction, the “Big Three” were also close friends, more so than other dancers at the Palladium where they alternated their rehearsal time with that at the famous Roseland ballroom.

Born Michael Gutierrez in Spanish Harlem, Michael “Mike” Terrace shared a similar Spanish lineage with Augie and Margo that could be said to
account for their enthusiasm and initial tendency to embrace the burgeoning   dance trends set to Latin rhythms. Johnny (later known as John) Brascia was a native of Hollywood, California where he studied with Gloria Cansino, sister of film personality Rita Hayworth.

Following appearances in several musical motion pictures, Johnny traveled to New York and enrolled at Carnegie Hall’s ballet academy where he met fellow pupil and future partner Tybee Afra. In actuality, Michael and Elita knew Tybee since her early teenage years when she attended their mambo exhibitions at various Catskill resorts near her home in Monticello, New York.

Although her Orthodox Jewish family objected to the worldliness and ostensibly sordid
elements of the night club scene, Tybee acquainted herself with resident instructors and developed into a dancer of considerable aplomb. Gaining self-confidence but aware she
was lacking in professional training, Tybee made the move to Manhattan to study primitive dance, a prototype for the mambo. In a short time, she began to frequent the Palladium where she met another regular by the name of Joe Vega and their attraction was mutual. Although technically untrained, Joe could truly be regarded as one of the most authentic mambo dancers.

They soon formed an act rife with passion and sexual expression that endured fairly well until hampered by artistic differences, mainly Tybee’s desire to modernize the mambo with jazz and classical nuances while Joe vehemently opposed any innovations that may compromise the traditional and cultural values of the dance.

The Palladium Has a Thousand Stories – Part 2 (continued)

End part 2
©
Michael Terrace
Tuesday, 21-Feb-2012

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