A DREAMY NIGHT Dance teams step up Competitors, celebrity judges aid Friends of Dreamland Ballroom

From Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Sunday, November 28, 2010

By Cary Jenkins

LITTLE ROCK — Eight dance teams twirled, shimmied, leapt and spun their way across the dance floor Nov. 18 at Dancing Into Dreamland at the Governor’s Mansion.

The fundraiser for Friends of the Dreamland Ballroom featured a dance competition, celebrity judges and audience participation with guests texting their vote for a favorite dance team.

Amber Jones, the nonprofit’s executive director, explained that Dancing Into Dreamland was an evening about sharing the universal language of music and dance just as it was celebrated almost a century ago in the Dreamland Ballroom.

The program began with Lawrence Hamilton serenading his friend Mercedes Ellington, who was one of the judges. The pair have worked together on Broadway.

Ellington is the granddaughter of Duke Ellington, one of many stars who performed at the Dreamland Ballroom in the 1930s. A graduate of the Juilliard School of music, Mercedes Ellington was a June Taylor Dancer and the first black woman on The Jackie Gleason Show. She serves on the Tony awards nominating committee.

Other celebrity guests were David Miller, who has a weekly big band radio program Swingin’ Down the Lane, which is broadcast on more than 40 national public radio stations including KUAR; Leslie Harper, a former professional dancer and singer at Opryland and musical director for the Summer Musical Theater Intensive at theArkansas Repertory Theatre; and Arkansas native Steve Buckley, who was vice president of artist and repertoire at Motown and served as a talent judge on Star Search.

When votes were tabulated, dancers Allison Stodola Wilson and Jonathan Bostick won for their disco dancing routine. Wesley Crocker and Lawrie Rash received the people’s choice award.

The Friends of Dreamland Ballroom focuses on sharing the musical, cultural and architectural history of the Dreamland Ballroom and historic Taborian Hall on West Ninth Street. The building was constructed in 1918 by a black fraternal organization, the Knights and Daughters of Tabor, in what was then a thriving black business district, according to the group’s website.

This article was published November 28, 2010 at 4:29 a.m.
High Profile, Pages 46 on 11/28/2010

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