An obituary by Daniel E. Slotnik for The New York Times.
Margo Rodriguez, half of the husband-and-wife team Augie and Margo, who danced the mambo on television and before presidents and helped it evolve from a nightclub craze into popular entertainment, died on Tuesday in West Palm Beach, Fla. She was 89.
Her son, Richard, said the cause was pneumonia.
Augie and Margo’s dance career took shape at the Palladium Ballroom, a haven for Latin music in Midtown Manhattan, where they often danced to the music of Tito Puente and his orchestra.
In the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s Augie and Margo were among mambo’s best-known ambassadors, dancing on concert stages, on television and in nightclubs around the world. They appeared repeatedly on “The Steve Allen Show,” “The Arthur Murray Party” and “The Ed Sullivan Show” and opened for entertainers like Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in Las Vegas.
At the height of their fame, they danced in London for Queen Elizabeth II and at the White House for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon.
Mambo, a torrid but elegant dance style, was born in Cuba in the early decades of the 20th century. Augie and Margo, who studied different forms of dance when they were not dancing in nightclubs, augmented mambo with elements of ballet, jazz and modern dance, adding raw physicality and acrobatics worthy of a gymnast.
“Whatever we learned that day in class, we would put into the mambo,” Mrs. Rodriguez said in an interview for Mr. Rodriguez’s obituary in The New York Times in 2014.
“At the time, we didn’t realize we were changing the whole atmosphere,” she said.
The hybrid they created helped speed the development of salsa dancing, an amalgamation of styles that has become one of the most popular forms of Latin dance.
Margarita Bartolomei was born in Harlem on April 6, 1929, to Mencia (Madera) and Santiago Bartolomei. Both her parents were originally from Puerto Rico. Her father, who was of Corsican descent, worked for an import-export company, and her mother was a homemaker.
Margarita started dancing when she was about 10. In 1948 she graduated from a trade school in downtown Manhattan, where she learned to be a beautician, a job she held before her dancing career took off.
She met Augustin Rodriguez the next year, and he became her dance partner at the Palladium. They won a slew of amateur dance competitions, earning as much as $100 for their prowess at traditional mambo, and married in 1950. They later learned other dance styles at Katherine Dunham’s school in Manhattan.
In addition to her son, Mrs. Rodriguez is survived by two sisters, Alice and Gladys, and two grandchildren.
Augie and Margo mostly retired from professional dancing in 1980, but they spent several years after that producing dance shows for cruise ships. Her son said that their last professional engagement was in the first decade of this century, when they performed in Las Vegas with Cirque du Soleil.
In that show, Augie and Margo at first posed as spectators, then came to the stage when the performers asked for volunteers from the audience.
“They would go up,” Richard Rodriguez said, “and bring down the house.”