The Dance Contest
Our family moved to New Windsor, New York, a small village outside of Newburgh, in the late summer of 1975. The music world was upended in the 70s. Disco was king, and I was a 125 pound, athletically challenged kid who had red hair and a southern accent. Our new home was in military Non-commissioned housing at Stewart, a sub-post of West Point, less than 25 minutes away.
Stewart was a very small community. We had a bowling alley and a movie theater (that only showed new releases for a day or two). The pool was where most of us hung out during the day, and the Teen Club is where Junior high and high school kids spent their weekends.
I remember the Teen Club always had its lights down low and music playing from a single jukebox. Guys and girls made out on the small couches and slow danced to songs such as Time in a Bottle, by Jim Croce, Precious and Few, by one-hit-wonder, Climax. Still, the music that sticks out in my mind of always being played was Color my World by Chicago. I remember having my first real passionate kiss while dancing to that song; I just can’t remember who the girl was.
I learned how to disco dance at the Teen Club. Donna Summer, the Bee Gees, and Andy Gibb were always in rotation. My two favorite partners were Michelle Jerowski, who was in junior high at the time, and Melanie Wimmer, my girlfriend.
The local nightclub, New York, New York, capitalized on the disco craze and opened its doors on Saturday mornings for teens to come and dance their hearts out. We became regulars there. They began having regular dance competitions, and I decided I wanted to win.
My mom bought me a T-shirt while I was in my 20s that read, “If I can’t win, I don’t want to play.” Therefore I was never good at team sports. Dancing was my solution. We watched American Bandstand and Solid Gold, and Soul Train. Those shows taught us the moves, and we duplicated them. I worked hard with Melanie so we could win the contest. At the time, Michelle was really the better partner, but I was dating Melanie.
Most of my readers are familiar with the movie, Grease, with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. Remember the scene where Danny ditched Sandie to dance with another girl for the contest? He was a jerk. That movie mimics what happened next.
The day of the contest had arrived. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I ditched my girlfriend for who I thought was the better dancer. Michelle and I won the contest, and I, of course, lost the girl. I was very excited about winning the trophy, but I was devastated when Melanie looked at me and cried. Like I said, I like to win.
I did learn to be more considerate of people from that lesson. I am still friends with many of the people who formed that small community at Stewart. We have all grown up to be polite, responsible members of our communities. I’m glad we are not stuck with our teenage selves, but we have taken the lessons from those years and learned from them. I’m not jive talking.