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Santa gets his groove on

Taking the stage as the Dancing Santa is a tradition for Brad Bolton. Photo: Michael Richmond

Brad Bolton hasn’t attended a holiday party in more than a decade, but he’s no grinch. Why, he’s the Dancing Santa! Bolton — an adjunct professor in DU’s Sturm College of Law and clerk of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court — dons tap shoes, a familiar red suit and snowy beard to play Mr. Claus in Colorado Symphony Orchestra and Colorado Children’s Chorale holiday performances. His wife, Susie, plays Mrs. Claus.

Bolton first put on tap shoes at 4 after his family relocated from rural Massachusetts to a busy California neighborhood.

“My mother was petrified that my brother and I would get hit by a car,” Bolton says. “So she put us in leather harnesses and tied us to the front water spigot.”

A woman selling dance classes door-to-door spotted the boys tied in knots and told their mother that nobody needed dance classes more than Brad and Bob Bolton. The brothers attended classes at a local studio until it closed, then took years of lessons from a former vaudeville instructor who helped the duo become professional performers and master-level dancers able to read and write routines.

By the time Brad was 10, the “Bolton Boys” were touring professionally, playing major venues and variety shows, including appearances at the Hollywood Bowl and CBS Studios. But edging toward adulthood, the brothers grew too old to appear as child performers, were too young for adult acts and just stopped dancing. Brad went to college, focused on his career and married.

But he still heard beats, drum-like rhythms, accompanying his every step.

When the Evergreen Chorale asked Bolton to choreograph a show in 1986, he declined but offered to dance instead. That dance renewed his connection to tap and he began choreographing and performing for Evergreen, and later, for the Colorado Children’s Chorale and Central City Opera.

Bolton became the chorale’s Dancing Santa 15 years ago and has stayed with it ever since. He could beg off, citing his job managing 70 staff members, his bankruptcy court caseload or his courses at DU. But he wouldn’t think of it.

“It’s almost as if I have a duty to do it because I can,” Bolton says. “Sometimes we don’t even have time to put the [Christmas] tree out until we’re done with the shows, but it’s what we do.”

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