Dance recall ain’t all that easy nowadays

For the life of me, I cannot remember the first time I ever danced.

You know, get out on the floor of somebody’s home, a schoolroom, or even a dance floor and move around to music or some make-believe dance sound. My mind simply can’t dig up that moment that should be among my most precious memories.

No, I don’t remember my first kiss. However, I can recall my first French Kiss (See: Love’s First Kiss). But dancing is more of what I would call an “active” activity. You have to stand and move your legs on a floor and possibly be accompanied by music to help keep some sort of rhythm.

If you’re dancing with a person of the opposite sex, it helps to either have your arms around them or be facing them as you move your arms in a twist-like motion for some dance like the “Twist” or some other new-fangled dance routine someone of my age hasn’t seen or let alone try out.

I was a good dancer. I was one of only a few guys in my neighborhood of Brewerytown who learned to “fast dance” and didn’t mind showing off a little bit. At the age of 13, I’d take public transportation to a dance coordinated by Catholic priests at an orphanage for boys in North Philadelphia. It was usually on a Sunday night that I would show off my dance steps while doing the “Mashed Potatoes,” the “Bristol Stomp,” or some other dance that, coincidentally was introduced in songs by Philadelphia area residents. Dee Dee Sharp from Philadelphia and Len Barry and Dovells from the nearby Bucks County town of Bristol. (Let’s not forget Chubby Checkers from South Philly!

My father was a helluva dancer. He would do what I called the “Greek SnakeDance” but was actually the “Shakallis Dance” that you might have seen “Zorba the Greek” do a few times. My dad would lead a bunch of men by one hand while flashing a white handkerchief with the other as he fell to the floor with the handkerchief and smack the floor. (Whoopah!)

But did you ever see a dude do a split on the dance floor? That was me. Yeah, I was able to spread my legs wide open while falling to the floor and jumping out without hurting myself. I was so damn good that two girls older than me had gotten into a fight to dance with me! (See: Dance Floor Brawl!)

I remember my first date. We didn’t go anywhere special except to a place in nearby Fairmount Park. A friend of mine introduced us and accompanied us with his girlfriend. I simply didn’t like the girl after talking to her a little. I never saw her again.

I started going steady at age 14 and remember the moment I asked Peggy McPeake to be my steady girl. I eventually go a bracelet and engraved the date of April 11, 1963,  on the back of it.

But recalling my first dance. No such luck. I would love to have a dream about it or at least be able to recall it in my next life. Care to dance with me then?  

15 comments on “Dance recall ain’t all that easy nowadays

  1. wolfshades says:

    I’m a little envious that you got started so early with your dancing. It’s so much fun, isn’t it?

    I finally got over my stupid ego later in life (in my 30s or 40s I think) and just started dancing and really enjoying it. Can’t do the splits like you could, nor have I learned actual dance techniques. I just get out there on the floor and let loose.

    I think, given your history, you seem to have always taken the bull by the horns almost without hesitation. I’m learning late to do the same. It’s not easy when you live a life of fear and caution but it’s so worth it.

    Thanks for writing such an uplifting post, Michael!

    Liked by 1 person

    • contoveros says:

      “Get on the dance floor and let loose.”

      That’s the way to do it whether you’re 13 or 30!

      I think I got the trait from my father who danced quite a bit and was unafraid to take the lead with a bunch of guys at a home party and elsewhere.
      I was very touched several years ago by the song “To Dance with my Father Again!”

      Liked by 2 people

  2. contoveros says:

    The following exchanges were made on Facebook:

    Calliope Joy

    I so enjoyed reading your Dance story . . . I too have memories of my father dancing that same dance as your father, white handkerchief in hand. I can also recall a shot glass of Ouzo in his mouth on his knees standing without spilling it . . . while the Greek music played (Or was the glass on the table and he had to get it? Not quite sure about the order.)

    Dance is a great artistic expression and I love the twist, the hustle, the macarena, salsa, American, Greek, or Italian songs, actually any song with a beat…I will dance. It’s in our blood…Opa!!!!

    Michael J Contos

    I forgot about the Ouzo Calliope!
    Your dad was great and could do so many things.
    I am grateful that we got some of our genes from the Contoveros clan that enables us to feel free enough to dance and enjoy life to the fullest my dear cousin!


    Bev Roberts
    I remember one of my older cousins teaching me the Mashed Potato – fun!

    Michael J Contos
    You are way too young to remember the Mashed Potatoes dance Bev Roberts girl!
    Thank you

    Bev Roberts
    Am considerably older than I look!

    Michael J Contos

    Janet Mather

    I remember the Mashed Potato, the Pony, and the Twist!! But never did what you managed with the split!

    Michael J Contos

    It was fun doing a split Janet, but I would never try to do it again no matter what someone would ever pay me!


    Roe Searles Ferry

    I don’t remember you ever doing a split Michael J Contos!!!

    Michael J Contos
    It was at St. Joe’s orphanage at 16th and Allegheny Roe. Me and Bobby Richmond would do the Mashed Potatoes. He was a witness to the split.
    We would act as if we were on a ball field. I would pretend that I was pitching with a wide round-up and he would be the batter who would hit the ball.
    I’d back up and pretend I caught the ball. Check it out with “Buzz” Richmond. He’ll verify it.

    I am pretty sure I did a lot of the dancing before going steady with Peggy McPeake. I don’t remember ever dancing with her, but I could be wrong.

    Roe Searles Ferry

    Mike, I think it’s all coming back to me now !!! I do remember !!!

    Michael J Contos

    Great, now you can go out dancing as you did years ago while listening to Hy Lit and Jerry Blavat on the old transistor radio.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was so sweet to read. I’m sorry you don’t remember your first dance, but maybe it wasn’t that memorable and maybe your brain is helping you forget? The dance you did remember is the first dance… that is the rule. 😉 I am a dancer. I don’t remember my first dance, but I was four when I started dancing “professionally”. What I do remember is my first recital. My first performance. Clear as if it were yesterday. And I remember my first kiss. Sloppy, kind of gross, but with the cutest boy in school, Kevin. I was in 8th grade. So funny to think about all of that… thank you for this post. I’m so glad I waited to read it this week — it’s nice to sit here and reminisce about it all without having to worry about doing work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • contoveros says:

      Professional dancer at age four. I was lucky to be able to walk to the dinner table at that age, let alone do the jitterbug!

      Glad you liked the post. It’s great to reminisce when you find the time to go down memory lane unless you get to be like someone my age who has trouble remembering where he put his laptop computer.

      Oh, there it is, beneath my fingertips. (Had to edit this comment to get it right!)

      Liked by 2 people

  4. “The Twist” was about all I could muster 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • contoveros says:

      The Twist first arose in the summer of 1960 in Wildwood, NJ, and then was revived in 1962. Chubby Checker made it a great dance song, but the originator of the song was Hank Ballard and the Midnighters.
Checker also gave us Pony Time and the dance called the pony that I never really got into back then.


  5. Yernasia Quorelios says:

    💜 My first “dance” was in my mothers womb EveryOne; then, as a baby, toddler and child, I was invited to “dance” before becoming a teen and seeking to “dance” for sex, NOW!!! as a Divorcee I “dance” for MySelf while Waiting for The Big Brave Girl, My Soul Spouse to Turn Up and “dance” with Me


    Liked by 1 person

  6. cabrogal says:

    Post like this needs a soundtrack …

    Liked by 1 person

    • contoveros says:

      The Pony, the Mashed Potatoes, the Watusi, the Jerk, and the Philly Dog.

      Somebody better help Little Richard remember his first dance. I’m surprised he didn’t mention the Fly or the Limbo Rock.

      Liked by 1 person

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