JCC dance contest keeps past presidents on their toes

As a girl, Virginia Hess happily watched Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing cheek to cheek in their classic films.

Now she’s puttin’ on the Ritz herself.

Hess is one of several current and former presidents of the Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center competing for a metaphorical mirror ball trophy when the JCC holds “Dancing With Our Stars” on Nov. 1.

The event is the JCC’s annual fundraising dinner-dance. Twenty past board presidents and chairs will be honored, but that’s not the main hook of the night.

For the last month or two, seven JCC board presidents and chairs have been training with professional ballroom dancers, preparing to compete in a dance-off on the night of the gala.

Each of the dancers and their professional dancing partners will perform, with attendees voting for their favorite dancer. The top prize: Somebody wins.

If it all sounds like the hit show “Dancing With the Stars,” it should. This is a total copy.

“The gala committee came up with this,” says Hess, who is a Los Gatos attorney and current chair of the JCC board. “They sent out an e-mail and I said, ‘I want to do it.'”

Hess, like her colleagues, has been taking lessons in advance of the big night. She and her partner, professional dance teacher T.J. Delgado, are working on a ballroom routine set to the classic flapper-era song “I Wanna Be Loved By You.”

“For the first part of the routine I have to develop this sexy walk,” says Hess. “I’ve been a lawyer for 20 years. I don’t do sexy. [Delgado] said, ‘Just walk like Jessica Rabbit.'”

Hess and her fellow hoofers are in it to help the Los Gatos JCC. The fundraiser, which will also feature a live band and silent auction, supports the JCC’s preschool and summer camp scholarships, programs for seniors, teens, children with special needs and more. It counts for a hefty portion of the institution’s annual budget.

Event chair Robin Sabbes convinced Dance Spectrum owner Kim Delli Santi to donate her services, along with the other dance teachers.

Though busy with career and family, Hess first became a fan of the JCC back in 1989 when she enrolled her daughter in the preschool there. She says when she first walked on the old JCC campus, “I felt like I came home. From then on, it’s been a big part of my life.”

She first served on the early childhood education committee, graduating to the board of directors, on which she has sat for most of the last 15 years. Her daughter is the teen representative on the board.

“The JCC is an entry point for the community,” Hess says. “It’s a good place for Jews testing the waters. For those not sure of the affiliation they want, it’s a very welcoming and open place.”

So how does Hess’s husband feel about his wife traipsing about the dance floor in the arms of another man, even if it is for a good cause?

“He thinks it’s wonderful,” she says with a laugh. “This has spurred him to take dance lessons at the JCC on Tuesday nights.”

Reminded that again she found a way to turn a question toward her cause of choice, Hess says, “I am a shameless hussy for this organization.”

“Dancing With Our Stars” takes place 6:30 p.m. Nov. 1 at the Fairmont Hotel, 170 Market St., San Jose. Tickets: $150. Information: (408) 357-7402 or online at www.svjcc.org.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.