LINWOOD — The coronavirus might have cancelled all the sports coverage on TV but there is a dance competition Sunday night between the Santoro family from Linwood and the Dixon family from California on the Disney "Fam Jam." Filmed in January, the segment featuring the Santoros will air at 8:25 p.m. Sunday, March 22, on the Disney Channel. The winning family will dance off with a cool $10,000.
The Santoro family applied to be contestants on Disney’s "Fam Jam" after 12-year-old John John Santoro was disappointed when he could not audition for the show’s “Hype Squad” because he was committed to dancing with the Knicks Kids at Madison Square Garden for the New York Knicks.
“He was so disappointed ... so just to make John John smile we applied,” Tara Santoro said.
That was in the fall, and the family has been in contact with Disney ever since. The "Fam Jam" team includes six members of the Santoro family — John and Tara Santoro and two of their four children, Grace, 13, and John John, along with Michael Santoro, (John’s younger brother) and his daughter, 9-year-old Ava.
It was not a stretch for the extended Santoro family to make the leap to dance together. All three children, Grace, John John and Ava, have danced at Prodance Studio in Northfield. “The kids love to dance and they loved having their grandmother, Rosalie Wislocki come to see them dance,” Tara Santoro said. “She had been a dancer when she was younger and she never missed an opportunity to see them dance and cheer them on. The kids loved to have Gram as their cheerleader. When Gram passed away recently, it was really so sad and we all wanted to do something to celebrate Gram, and when the opportunity came to tryout for the "Fam Jam," we all thought this is a perfect way to remember Gram. She would have absolutely loved seeing all of us together dancing.”
Tara Santoro said they got word that the producers were intrigued with this big Italian family from New Jersey and they loved that the family was doing this in their grandmother’s memory. This is the first year the of the "Fam Jam." Tara Santoro said they filmed eight episodes while they were in Los Angeles. The Santoros and Dixons are the fifth episode of the show, and they have already filmed families for the Halloween and Christmas segments.
The premise of the "Fam Jam": Producer Phil Wright, who is also the creator and choreographer of the show, takes two families and explores why they want to dance. He gets family members to enjoy doing something together without their phones and off their devices and leaving all the technology aside and just having fun as a family.
They work on their routines and try to perfect their act. “The kids had a much easier time than the adults,” Tara Santoro confessed. “All of the kids got to go hang out in the pool but the adults needed more practice.” The Santoros were told to bring their own outfits for rehearsals, but they were provided outfits from the shows wardrobe for the finals. Tara Santoro said some of the outfits were really cool but they did not get to keep them.
John John Santoro said the best part of the whole experience was getting to go to the Disney Studios, have fun, dance and make new friends. Tara Santoro said she hopes people will watch the show and realize they can have a lot of fun with their families without technology. “I hope people know its OK to be quirky and weird with your family and have fun just dancing in your living room. We had a blast.”
It is a competition and the judges do pick a winner, and while one family leaves with $10,000, the loser gets $2,500. Who wins? Well that is something everyone will need to tune in to see whether the Santoro family from Linwood or the Dixon family from California dances its way into the winner’s circle.