Vincent Giudice learned to dance - the Lindy Hop, the fox-trot, the Peabody - in the recreation hall of his church in New York City when he was 14.
The exact steps took some time to master, but one thing Giudice never had trouble with was finding a partner.
Giudice, who will turn 88 this month, dazzled the crowd with both of those skills at the annual Sayville High School Senior Citizen Gold Card Dinner Dance on Tuesday night.
Just as easily as the music transitioned from The Platters’ “The Great Pretender,” to the Big Band hit “Opus No. 1,” Giudice transitioned from one partner to the next, steering them around the dance floor with ease.
Of course Doris Carinci, 76, who lives with Giudice in Sayville, was his first choice.
“He’s wonderful, isn’t he?” she said after taking a spin with him on the dance floor. “The way he can dance, and at his age.”
The second-annual dance was sponsored by the middle school and high school student councils as a way to connect with the community’s senior citizens.
Throughout the night, students acted as waiters and hosts, school chef Keith Filosa - formerly of The Cheesecake Factory - worked in the kitchen, and the high school jazz ensemble entertained the guests with an array of nostalgic tunes before the DJ took over after dinner.
High School Principal Ronald Hoffer said the event is a great way to bring the generations together.
“Many of them have attended high school here,” Hoffer said. “In fact, one of our guests is a former principal of Sayville High School.”
Valerie Murray, 17, of Sayville, bustled around the room Tuesday night cheerfully taking dinner orders, pouring drinks and chatting with the guests.
“They’ve been talking to me a lot about their lives and when they were in high school,” she said. “It’s so interesting. I was talking to a few of the couples and some of them are high school sweethearts. It’s just so cute to see them.”
Giudice, of Sayville, said he attended the first dinner dance at the school last year and had a great time so this year returned with all of his friends. He said the music brought him right back to his younger days when he danced at his church every Friday night and then graduated to nightclubs.
“We love to dance,” he said. “That’s what we came here for.”
Sue Byrnes, who has lived in Sayville for nearly 50 years and is a former substitute teacher in the school district, said she came to support the students. But she also took a turn on the dance floor with Giudice, dancing both a real mambo and then to the 90s pop hit “Mambo No. 5.”
For Byrnes, who attended with a group of old friends, it was an evening of friendship and nostalgia.
“It’s nice to all come together,” she said. “We’re all talking about how much this all reminds us of the past.”