It was the office picnic, and I had been in the kitchen all afternoon helping with the food. Now I heard music pulsating from the backyard. Draping my apron on a kitchen chair, I found my way through the crowd.
''Put that Ping-Pong paddle down and come dance,'' a mother was telling her son. ''There's a girl back here your age that has some breakdance moves as good as yours.''
Little did I know my daughter was ''the girl with the moves.'' As I approached the deck, there in a sea of towering adults was all 4 feet 10 of her, gyrating to the music - alone. Boy, she was good. I jumped up on the dance floor and joined in. Her movements were unlike anything I was used to, so I just did my own thing.
Apparently some of my more adventurous co-workers had been fascinated and tried to follow her. But they drifted off as they found it hard to keep up or get into the necessary pretzel positions. I saw that my daughter enjoyed the dancing whether she had a partner or not.
For the past several months I had noticed a curious movement called ''the moonwalk,'' which provided her main mode of transportation around the house. Whether it was switching the channel on the TV, or going to the refrigerator for a glass of juice, or emptying the dishwasher, this smooth-sliding backward walk took her from one place to the other.
But tonight she was doing more steps than the moonwalk. Where did she learn all this? TV commercials? Rock videos? Or maybe that's what they do during recess at school.
When I was her age, I learned from a TV show. My girlfriends, Carol, Debbie, and Gail, would gather in Carol's living room every summer afternoon and watch ''American Bandstand,'' memorizing all the newest steps. Then we would grab Carol's huge collection of 45s and dash up the street to Gail and Debbie's cellar, where we would set up the record player and try to imitate everything we had seen the dancers doing on the TV. Carol and Gail were partners, and I was Debbie's partner. We perfected some great moves in that cellar, and by the time we were old enough to go to the school dances, we could say ''yes'' with a reasonable degree of confidence when a boy asked us to dance.
As I sat one out that evening at the office picnic and watched my daughter going through all her great moves, I felt she too would be able to hold her own at school dances, which weren't too far beyond the horizon.
But do boys ask girls to dance anymore? From what I've observed of breakdancing, it almost seems as if a partner would get in the way. Breakdancing at its best seems to be a solo performance. Dancers take turns doing their thing as a crowd forms to watch. Occasionally two dancers do moves together, but that seems the exception.
Do teenagers still do slow dances? Oh, I hope so. What a shame it would be for my daughter to go through her teen-age years without knowing what it's like to have a boy ask her to dance - to feel his sweaty palm in hers. That's what dancing is all about. As her mother, I hope she doesn't miss that part of life.
I find some consolation in one fact: Things go in and out of fashion so fast these days. Maybe by the time she's ready for school dances, partners will be back in style.