Al and Jeanne Madaline, of North Wildwood, know where they will spend their Friday nights.

They are one of about 40 couples who can be seen moving in unison during Johnny Tocco's line dancing to the oldies events at Neil's Steak & Seafood Restaurant in Wildwood.

"I've been following Johnny Tocco for four or five years," said Al Madaline, 65. "I know 40 or 50 different line dances."

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People who like to get up out of their seats and join a line of people moving in rhythm to such popular line dance songs as "The Electric Slide," "The Cha Cha Slide" and "Cupid Shuffle" don't have to wait until the next wedding invitation arrives to enjoy themselves.

Throughout southern New Jersey there are opportunities for line dance fans to move to oldies and soul music.

Every time it looks like line dancing will become an activity only for an older generation, it's popularity gets juiced up somehow. In the 1990s, it was the "Macarena." Now, it could be "Gangnam Style" by South Korean pop artist PSY, the No.2 song in the country last week.

Tocco started making the switch from hosting karaoke nights to DJing line dancing gatherings six years ago, when line dance fans came to a gig he had at the Bolero Resort & Conference Center in Wildwood. Tocco asked them what songs they liked. They told him the songs to play. It turned into a major line dancing night when as many as 100 people would show up during a summer evening.

"It's just addicting. ... It's a social thing. They know each other. They are all happy people. When you see these people line dancing, they are all smiling, all laughing. They are having a good time. They are not sitting at the bar, drowning their sorrows away, like a lot of people do," Tocco said.

Jamie Mancini, Neil's co-owner, has been hosting Tocco's dancers since the late spring on the second floor of her restaurant.

"It's great. You go up there, and they are grinning from ear to ear. They are enjoying the food. They are enjoying the drinks. More than half of them don't sit down the whole time they are up there," said Mancini, 40.

People travel from Philadelphia and northern New Jersey to attend Tocco's line dancing night, Mancini said. She has had about a half dozen Tocco's dancers come back and eat a meal at other occasions at her restaurant, which is business she might not have captured otherwise.

Fans of line dancing can turn into hardcore devotees of the activity as many of the people doing choreographed steps at Neil's on a recent Friday evening could be found the following night at Jerry Blavat's outdoor dance party at the Lighthouse Pointe in Wildwood.

Donna Ann Montemuro, 65, of North Wildwood, was doing the same dances she did about 50 years ago when she attended West Catholic High School in Philadelphia. Montemuro danced on the late Dick Clark's "Bandstand" show when it was broadcast out of Philadelphia. After her children were grown, Montemuro started dancing again at Blavat's appearances at Lighthouse Pointe.

"It means a lot. It's my life," said Montemuro. Montemuro's dancing friends held benefits at Neil's and at Hammerheads Sports Pub in Philadelphia when her son passed away.

Jeannette Trivarelli, 56, of Wildwood Crest, was out on the floor doing the two-step, cha-cha to "There's Gonna Be A Showdown" by Archie Bell & The Drells from 1968. Trivarelli and her husband started dancing after their children became adults and left home. They decided to take dance lessons because they loved the music.

"It keeps you young. My older brother and sisters went to the dances (when she was growing up). I was too young," said Trivarelli, who started working on her line dancing techniques two years ago during Friday night visits to Blavat's Memories in Margate club on Amherst Avenue.

Oldies line dancers have several places locally to choose from. Soul dancers have fewer choices.

Glass, 44, of Mays Landing, will DJ parties that include soul line dancing and also hosts karaoke nights where line dancing is a component. Glass' most recent southern New Jersey gigs started 8 p.m. Saturdays at American Legion Post No. 81 in Pleasantville.

"A lot of people don't like to go on the floor by themselves. Normally, a female would have to ask a man to dance. A male would have to get the heart to ask a women to dance," Glass said. "If you are line dancing and your line-dance song comes on, a line dance that you know, you can just get up, join in and do it. You don't need a partner."

The most popular soul line dances - "The Electric Slide," "Cupid Shuffle" and "The Cha Cha Slide" - are line dances that are easy enough to learn, but Glass said classes are needed to learn the moves of the more advanced soul line dances.

Mike Rowe, president of the Atlantic City Soul Line Dancers, started the group about 10 years ago after seeing soul line dancing performed in Atlantic City. Now Rowe, along with Yvette Jackson and Denise Hicks, both of Atlantic City, teach people how to soul line dance Tuesday evening at Wash's Catering on New Road in Pleasantville.

People who learn enough on Tuesdays can perform with the group on Friday at the American Legion Post No. 81 in Pleasantville.

"It's an outlet for a lot of people. ... If they go out to party, if there is a male and a female, usually, the female wants to dance, and a lot of the times, the guy doesn't," said Rowe, 53, of Absecon. "Here, she has an outlet group that she can join in that does a dance where you are not dancing with the other person. You are actually dancing on a line."

Country line dancing is no longer at its peak in southern New Jersey.

The Country Palace in Buena used to have line dancing. Calloway's Restaurant & Bar in Staffordville, Eaglewood Township, just ended its country line dancing this month. The June 30 storm blown the roof off the Milmay Fire Hall in Buena Vista Township, and country line dancing has not been held there since then, said Aggie Hancock, of Egg Harbor Township, who both teaches and held country-line dance events there.

There are similarities among soul-line dancing, oldies and country-line dances. But the more intricate country-line dancing sequences require at least one class, said Hancock, 59.

"You have to know the names of the steps, like a grapevine, or a pivot turn, or a sailor's step. Once you know the names of the steps, then anybody can cue anything on the floor for you," Hancock said. "But, if you don't know what a sailor step is, or a shuffle, or whatever, then, it's like speaking Greek. You are not going to know what to do."

The next big line-dance craze could be "Gangnam Style."

The video to the song, which shows PSY and others wiggling their hips, moving like they are riding invisible ponies and whipping lassos, has topped more than 273 million total YouTube views since July. DJ Vito G, resident DJ at The Pool at Harrah's Atlantic City, said the song has hyped up crowds at the casino nightclub, but that reaction couldn't compare to Sept. 21 at Club Whisper in Philadelphia.

"When I tell you the roof came off, it's been awhile since I've received such a reaction to a record. They lost their minds. The whole place was just jumping up and down," Migliacci said.

Contact Vincent Jackson:


Where to line dance

Atlantic City Soul Line Dancers

• Lessons 5:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays at Wash's Catering, 128 N. New Road, Pleasantville. Cover $3. Call 609-641-8740.

• Performances 6 to 11:59 p.m. Fridays at American Legion Post No. 81, Main Street, Pleasantville. Free. Call 609-641-5846.

Jerry Blavat

• Dance Party hosted by the Geator with the Heater 7 to 11 p.m. Oct. 12 inside the Wildwoods Convention Center, 4501 Boardwalk, Wildwood. Admission is $13. Tickets available at or at the door. Call 609-729-4000.

Johnny Tocco

• Dancing, karaoke and live music 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays and 3 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays at the VFW Post 5343, 6 E. Delaware Parkway, Villas. Free parking. No cover. Call 609-886-3488.

• Dancing 7 to 11 p.m. Thursdays at the Knights of Columbus, Council No. 2572, 206 New York Ave., North Wildwood. Free parking. Cover $5. Call 609-729-4676.

• Dancing 7 to 11 p.m. Fridays at Neil's Steak & Seafood Restaurant, 222 E. Schellenger Ave., Wildwood. No cover. Free parking. Call 609-522-5226.

DJ Billy from Philly

• 8 p.m. to midnight Oct. 20 at L's Restaurant and J Bones Tavern, 119 Route 50, Corbin City. No cover. Call 609-628-3024

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