"I come here to meet women," Larry Aimino declares as he waits for the band to start at the sneak-peek, almost-grand opening of the new, improved Stardust Ballroom.

"I'm looking for fresh blood."

Rarely does a blatant quest to "make out" sound innocent, but Larry is 75. He just wants someone to lead across the Stardust's famed floating floor.

"My favorite dance?" the cheeky Gloucester City retiree responds when I ask if he favors the fox trot.

"It's the 'Hold-them-close-and-whisper-in-their-ear.' "

Larry's no dummy. He knows women outnumber men by 2-1 at these over-55 dance parties, but still asks that I print something unflattering about the ladies "to keep the men away."

No luck, Larry. In gold lamé and higher heels than I wear, these seniors sizzle.

"I don't want a regular partner," explains Rose Lustina, a robust redhead dressed in black who, when I pry, informs that she's "old enough to know better."

Rose comes with girlfriends and leaves with girlfriends, chatting about who had the smoothest moves.

At this stage, she's focused: "All I care about is how his feet work."

Magic Stardust

After the long death march to eviction last summer - the old Stardust was on the Pennsauken Mart property, and you know what a saga


was - owner Joyce Hanley is ready to rumba.

She sports newly blond hair, a twirly skirt, and Crocs for the ballroom's Wednesday test drive in a Bellmawr strip mall near Wow Video and Retro Fitness.

Her regulars are so loyal, they donated $16,000 toward the $60,000 cost of the "floating" dance floor - so named because nailing prime Canadian maple tongue-and-groove to two-by-fours creates a pocket of air that's oh-so-forgiving on feet.

Bounce helps when most dancers are over 40. Some are pushing 80.

"I'd be happy to have more young people," says Hanley, 64, "but I'd like the Stardust to be one place older people can call their own."

"We want something sexy, edgy, a little hot. Sitting at home watching TV alone - that's its own form of death."

Fridays are for serious ballroom hoofers, and Saturdays split between salsa and R&B line dancing. Nothing dead about that.

Hanley sees the Stardust as the mature person's Cheers, only without the booze.

Coffee and cake will do, if anyone bothers to stop dancing to snack.

Cha-cha men

"I'm a cha-cha man," Dave Leidy reveals before guiding his regular partner, Dot Perry, onto the floor as the Richie Moore Trio plays "The Summer Wind."

She's 69, he's 66, and they've been waiting for this night for months.

The eggplant walls. The red-tiled restrooms. The nostalgic live music that isn't so loud it hurts anyone with a hearing aid.

Admission is $9, with a buck off if you belong to the single-parents group most joined decades ago.

Myrtle Robbins offers that she has "five kids, 10 grandkids and six great-grandchildren."

None of them dance. Their loss.

Myrtle, 75, of Deptford, met Sam Irving, 81, of Mount Ephraim, at the old Stardust on Valentine's Day a few years back, and they have been dancing together ever since.

Sam looks like a white-haired Clark Gable, dresses dapperly, and taught ballroom as a younger man. Myrtle chose well.

"The tango is our speciality," Sam says, proudly. "It's very dramatic."

Everything at the Stardust is, if you stick around long enough.

"Not to brag," says Frank Cooney, a 74-year-old from Mount Laurel, "but if you're a man who can dance - and I can - you can have all the women you want."

"I had one partner, she got a boyfriend," he says with a shrug.

These days he prefers to come alone and work the room.

Frank smiles confidently, then spies the one he wants.

He'd love to talk more, but it's time to take Ruth for a spin.

Monica Yant Kinney | More Information

For the Stardust Ballroom's schedule, visit

» READ MORE: www.stardustbellmawr.com

or call 856-931-4000.