Meet Carmella, the "Dancing Doll," so appropriately named in her Montclair New Jersey High School Yearbook. Carmella is a natural when it comes to rhythm. It's simply in her soul!
Born in 1925 in Montclair, New Jersey to Italian immigrants, Carmella was the youngest of 10 children. Her Italian heritage, of which she is very proud, surrounded her with not only the best of foods but also the joy of music and song. Her mama sang "sweet as a bird" and her seven brothers each sang and played instruments. Carmella often joined in harmony with her two beloved sisters. Her love of music and rhythm led to her lifelong passion for tap dancing.
Carmella began dancing at the Lippel School of Dance, a renowned performing dance academy in Newark, New Jersey. As a Lippel Kutie Kid, Carmella danced on stage from age four through nineteen. There she performed for the soldiers' USO shows during the 1940's and WW2. Carmella proudly recalls dancing on a larger-than-life drum in "Strike Up the Band," a popular musical. The Shirley Temple of her day, long curls and all, she opened shows at the Paramount Theater for the likes of Lena Horne, dancing to the big band sound of Charlie Barnett, Count Basie, and Glenn Miller to name a few. Pursuing her dream to dance professionally, Carmella auditioned with the Rockettes. Although she made the cut with her extraordinary talent, she was a bit too short for the line.
Shortly after that, Carmella met her southern sweetheart, Stanley of North Carolina, at the Jersey Shore while he was stationed at the Army base nearby. They met at the Asbury Park Boardwalk on the merry-go-round! She and Stan married in 1947 and together worked hard and unselfishly, raising five daughters whom she adores. Blessed with nineteen grandchildren and twenty-one great-grandchildren, Carmella feels her family is her life's greatest joy and achievement.
While raising her family, Carmella enjoyed masterfully sewing beautiful clothing and baking exceptional desserts for her children and grandchildren. Carmella also worked as Executive Secretary at Great American Life Insurance as well as Secretary to the Chairman of the Board at Crum and Forster Insurance Company. One of her favorite responsibilities at Crum and Forster was scheduling the company jet!
She once met actor John Travolta at a book signing and did a little finger-tap number with him on the table top. She is also well respected by her one-time teacher Savion Glover better known as "The Tap Dance Kid," a protege of Gregory Hines. Savion invited her to tap with him on stage in New Jersey while attending his show at Monmouth University. He recognized her as a Master Tapper.
Throughout her adult life, Carmella continued to dance and also taught tap to children and adults. She and Stan retired to Florida in the early 1990's to enjoy the year-round warm weather and beaches. In Florida, Carmella performed with "The Fabulous Footnotes" through her 70's. With them, she competed in NYC and won a gold medal! She also spent time performing at many locations in Florida including Club Med Resorts. Carmella continued performing on stage in Florida with various troupes including Florida Arts & Dance until age 84.
Carmella calls herself a "Jersey Girl" born and raised, and loves to revisit fond memories of her beach stays at the Jersey Shore as well as trips to the boardwalk in Long Branch. Carmella also loved to travel and enjoyed cruises with Stan in the Caribbean, as well as trips with her daughters after she retired. She spends her days reminiscing about her many adventures in Italy, the Smoky Mountains, the Carolina coast, Catskill and Pocono Mountains and the Florida Keys.
Carmella knows the lyrics to all the tunes of her day, and when not singing and tapping her toes, she is dancing with fingers on her lap.This video shows her joy, spontaneously dancing at age 89; just tapping in the moment.
Stop by and say hello to Carmella! Her warmth and endearing smile will make you feel special from the moment you connect. Carmella's sweet soul is pure and full of love, and her beautiful blue eyes sparkle just like "windows to heaven!"