Tap dancing Santas entertain the East Bay
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Santas with hula skirts, Russian hats and Macarena moves invaded the East Bay Dance Center December 6 for a new twist on family holiday fun: all Santas featured tapped danced.

Debbie Sternbach, who has been teaching tap for over two decades, is the founder of Bay Area Rhythm Tappers (B.A.R.T.). Four years ago the idea was born to produce a holiday show that featured her dancers that would travel to children's hospitals and senior centers, but the Santa factor hadn't appeared just yet. Year after year the event grew from just two numbers in the performance to a full-blown recital that now features six Santas, a singer, and a dancing rabbi.

"This is our first year we decided to put on a full, one-hour show and invite the community," said Sternbach backstage after the nearly-sold out performance ended. "People from different countries are members of the cast, so including different Santas from different cultures as well as other faiths was a natural path."

Woodrow Thompson, who sang "Santa Claus is Coming To Town" and "Winter Wonderland" to the audience while the Santas changed accessories, said that he was very proud of the event the group planned and ran.

"That's what happened to me when I was 11. I had wonderful mentors and they mentored to me well, so I want to give back to the community by mentoring for other folks," said Thompson.

Backstage, the various Santas - all members of Sternbach's dance classes - prepped an hour before the show in warm sun. Laying out the costumes took around15 minutes, but extra time was allotted for facial hair application, lacing of shoes with long add-ons for "boots," and for the stuffing of a belly.

"[The costumes] come from Santa. And some from the Internet," joked Santa Marci Rubin in between adjusting her hat.

Children sat on mats in the front of the audience while their parents looked on to dances that included a Russian Santa, a Hawaiian Santa, a Santa who can-canned his way through the audience, and a Mexican Santa, complete with a sombrero and red chili peppers affixed to his beard.

Kevin Campbell, who heard about the event on NPR's popular show "To Do" list as the 'Cheap Thrill of the Week,' brought his family all the way from Fremont to witness the Santa show. "The beginning when all the tap dancing Santas first came out, that was my favorite."

Funds raised from the event are going back into the pot for next year's planned performance, which Sternbach is already considering.

"Next year, again, right guys?" she asked to a cast of sweaty Santas changing to go home. Yells of confirmation followed suit.



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emusic fan said

Good story.It is good that Santas are coming next year too:-)



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