Playing host to some of the greatest performers in Arkansas and American music history, Dreamland Ballroom was a famous stop on the Chitlin Circuit, and hosted greats including B.B. King, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and many more.
As we’re working to tell portions of both Dreamland Ballroom and Ninth Street’s histories for the documentary through research and community members’ recollections and photos, we also took the unique opportunity recreate the ballroom’s magic through reenactments! Joined by volunteer extras from the Little Rock community, the Tidwell Project dancers, Rodney Block and The Real Music Lovers, Bijoux, the Vintage Jazz Masters and Detroit Johnny, we revived the Dreamland Ballroom for two days to shoot scenes from the jazz, swing and blues periods.
For our first day, we started off with a sound check with Rodney Block and the Real Music Lovers, featuring Bijoux - even before the stage was fully set and wardrobe was done, hearing the notes drift across the room was enough to give us goosebumps!
Later in the day, after our sound checks were complete, while lights and staging were in progress, we joined our fabulous wardrobe crew, led by Kristy Pruitt, as they took our talented musicians and extras back to the swing era.
Soon after musicians and extras were through with hair and makeup, dancers from Parkview High School’s Tidwell project arrived to populate the dance scenes needed for the film. Using dance as a point of entry, the Tidwell Project provides a safe haven to explore and express themselves and achieve goals through mentoring, learning and performing arts experiences.
And many of them returned the next day as we moved, first, back in time to the jazz age.
To make the music happen for this period, the Vintage Jazz Masters were kind enough to turn out this great sound …
And dress up to the nines for a wonderful performance.
Our outstanding extras enjoyed the music from all angles …
And in spite of the smoke (and roving equipment).
But we didn’t stop with our first round of time travel! To round out our shoot and finish shooting footage for the Ballroom’s heyday, Detroit Johnny came out to join us to play the Blues …
And help us flash forward to the fabulous 50s, with another awe-inspiring costume change.
Watching throughout the past several days has truly brought the Dreamland Ballroom to life for our cast and crew, but the documentary can’t stop there. To tell Dreamland and West Ninth Streets’ true stories, we need to hear the community’s voice!