When Was Your Dancing Heyday

By Janey Womeldorf

When Was Your Dancing Heyday

Whatever happened to the word “discotheque?” Or even “disco?” Does anyone even say that anymore? I’d look in our dictionary to see if they are still listed, but we don’t have one. It disappeared into our home’s black hole along with all those other “whatever happened to…” items. It was probably time to get a new one anyway – it had “facsimile” and “record player” in it. Not that I need a dictionary; the only time we ever used one was when we played Scrabble. Then they came out with an official Scrabble dictionary which had hundreds of two-letter words in it, and it took out all the fun. Nowadays, if I want to look up a word, I go online; the problem is everything ever said or created in the entire universe is online, so it doesn’t really help.

Perhaps for every new word they add to the dictionary—like “selfie”– they have to take one out. Not unlike my memory: Only so much space. When our parents were young, they didn’t even say disco, they would talk about going “to a dance.” It was a noun back then.

My dancing heyday was when disco music was alive and well: Kool & the Gang; Bee Gees; Donna Summer. I was 16 going on 25, and my best friend and I would count the days until the weekend. Our Saturday night ritual for getting ready involved hours of switching outfits and tweaking hair until the look was perfect; then, we’d catch the number five bus into town. We were both underage, but when I was 16, looking older was never a problem; I loved that about my face. At 51, not so much. Our dancing venue of choice was the local nightclub called “Tiffany’s” – a good, wholesome name for a club back then.

The DJ blasted out hit after hit from his podium of flashing lights. When each song ended, everybody just stood there waiting while he frantically took one record off the turntable and replaced it with another. We’d dance for hours in our heels, rah-rah skirts, and big hair, except for that one song which, for some unexplainable reason, made us all get down on the floor, straddle our legs around the hips of total strangers and row a boat. As an adult looking back, I shudder to think how dirty and icky that floor would have been. I hate it when boring thoughts like that hijack my mind, because they remind me how sensible, predictable and old I’ve become – a far cry from the carefree, disco-dancing, boat-rowing teenager I once was. So what if there was dirt on the floor? Those were fun times.

That’s the thing about dancing: It doesn’t matter how old you are, dancing makes you feel alive – and happy. Even watching it is uplifting. Singing has the same effect; it’s impossible to do either and stay miserable.

I grew up in England where the whole culture of men asking women to dance at clubs was different to what I came to discover in the USA. I remember the first time a guy asked me to dance in the States. I said yes, we danced, and when the song ended, he thanked me and walked off. I stood there, gutted. In England, when a man asked a woman to dance, it meant he fancied her, and he wanted to “court” her for the rest of the evening. It was the dance equivalent of a first date. Consequently, men only approached a woman for a dance if he was sure she was the one; women only said yes, if they wanted him to be. The problem was, this created a country-wide, Saturday-night stalemate.

You could go into any disco in England, and the scene would look the same: Girlfriends dancing together in a circle around a stack of purses piled high for safe keeping. The men, meanwhile, would be propped against the bar or leaned against the dance floor rail, chatting and drinking as they scanned the selection of dancing damsels for “the one.”

Courageous ones sometimes broke from their buddies to ask a girl to dance but risked the humiliating walk of rejection back if she said no. I was always the “fat friend” growing up so rarely got asked, but this was never an issue because women danced with other women anyway. Besides, my pretty, skinny, best friend and I made a good team: she had the looks; I had the chat. She always said she got them to the table; I kept them there. Only best friends can be that honest and still love each other. Forty years later, we still are, and we still do.

Fast forward three decades, (okay, closer to four): If songs from that era come on the radio, my feet twitch and my hips jiggle and if I‘m in the car, I’ll crank up the volume to level three and car dance. What blows me away is that even after thirty years, I still know the words to Kool and the Gang’s “Ladies Night.” How can that be when I can’t even remember what I had for dinner two nights ago?

Years after, the name of the nightclub changed to “Chemie’s.” I guess the new owners thought this sounded foreign and exotic. It was pronounced like the French word “chemise” which means shirt. If you were German, it meant chemistry. I guess either was better than Tiffany’s. As trends changed, the chemistry shirt struggled to stay in business, and two decades later it converted to a record store—sad but somehow fitting. It’s now a coffee shop.

My (still) best friend and I should go in there for coffee one day. We could wear heels and rah-rah skirts, and if there are no seats, no problem, we’ll just get down on the floor – just like we did in the old days.

Unless, of course, it’s dirty.

About this writer

  • Janey Womeldorf Janey Womeldorf once went to work wearing different shoes. She now freelance writes and scribbles away in Orlando, Florida. It’s probably best.

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3 Responses to “When Was Your Dancing Heyday”

  1. Wow! Did your story take me back to those disco days. Loved it.

  2. Sue Stegall says:

    I’m so glad I found your stories, Janey! They take me back, warm my heart, sometimes bring a tear, and always make me smile. You’re a wonderful writer — and I’m so glad you share your gift.

    • Janey W. says:

      Sue, what a joy to read your comment! You made my day! Hope my past stories have warmed your heart though, more often than brought a tear. Thanks again and please feel free to contact me through the Sasee editor.

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