Friday marked a casual evening for Bruce and Gloria King, who stayed out on the town until half past midnight.
But music, specifically Latin jams, kept Bruce, 81, and Gloria, 75, on a Davenport dance floor until 2 a.m. the next night.
"How many people our age do that?” Gloria said with a grin.
Not many, judging by the result of the anniversary dance Saturday at Rico’s Tropical Cantina, 1510 N. Harrison St. The ritual, popular at wedding receptions, rewards those married the longest.
One by one, couples walked off the dance floor at Rico’s as the DJ called out consecutive years of marriage. The Kings, who celebrate their 55th anniversary this year, won in a landslide, taking home a $50 gift certificate to Zeke’s Island Café across the one-way street.
The couple met dancing in the early 1960s at a nightclub in the basement of what now is Highland Park Bowl, 4204 Avenue of the Cities, Moline. Bruce, fresh out of his service in the U.S. Navy, may have pushed too hard at first for Gloria’s name and number, but his fresh suit, scent and slick steps on the dance floor eventually attracted her, despite the age difference, she said.
Three children and three grandchildren later, the duo goes dancing every weekend during the winter months at various venues that play Latin music, namely salsa, merengue and cumbia.
"Once you hear Latin music, it's really hard to like anything else," Gloria said. That goes for the waltz, fox trot and other ballroom dances.
"We can do (those)," she continued, "but it's not what we like to do."
They especially enjoy grooving to the fast-paced rhythms of live Latin music, when “you’re part of the band,” Bruce said.
“That’s what gets me going,” he added. “You keep time to the music, and you hit those beats with your feet.”
Ten years ago over Valentine’s Day, the Kings accompanied Quad-City musician Omar Alaniz and his then-girlfriend on vacation in Puerto Rico.
“They were going dancing every night, getting back home at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning,” Alaniz recalled, chuckling at the memories. “They just want to be around young people, and they make friends everywhere they go.”
The 41-year-old Alaniz, who emigrated from Mexico in 1996, met the Kings in the early 2000s. The former dance instructor helped spark the couple’s interest in Latin music. He said the Kings, both natural dancers, have become amazing, energetic dancers.
Alaniz now serves as the frontman for Sonora Sazon de Antaño, which performed recently at the Redstone Room in Davenport. The Kings, who consider Alaniz one of their own, were among the first to arrive at the event.
"Age doesn't matter on the dance floor," Gloria said. "It's good exercise, and I can't even tell you how many people we've met dancing."
They were named "dancers of the year" in 2015 at Funky Desi in Moline for "their contribution toward the spread of salsa dance culture in the Quad-City area," according to the award displayed at their home.
But Bruce does not particularly seek or relish any time in the spotlight.
He simply values dancing date nights with his wife. He also challenges himself at times to find new moves to test out in public.
"I don't care who's around," Bruce said. "I know what I'm doing."
When the opportunity presents itself, Jason Stewart, who owns Rico’s and Zeke’s in Davenport, tries to steal a dance with Gloria.
“When I dance with Gloria, I learn a lot,” he said. “She’s the best teacher out there.”
What does it take? Gloria credits advice she received early on from an experienced Latin dancer:
“A little bit of hip and a lot of attitude.”
Stewart, who has been married to his wife, Jessica, for 11 years, said the Kings' story is inspiring.
“It’s not like they managed to stay together 55 years,” he said. “It’s like, wow, they love their life, and they love each other.”
Respect and trust through "the good, the bad and the ugly" times, Gloria said, have been key to their longevity together. And they "let the little things slide."
Late-night dancing must help, too.
"I can't remember not dancing," Gloria said. "As long as we've got each other, we can continue doing what we love to do,"