Aging is not something we can avoid. It's a fact; we all will indeed grow old. But that doesn't mean we have to succumb to society's tired stereotypes about "the elderly". Senior women, in particular, are often expected to...well, act like grandmothers once they reach a certain age. The nine ladies you'll meet in this film, however, wholeheartedly reject that role. Ranging in age from 70 to 93, these feisty ladies long ago threw out the geriatric playbook. In fact, they threw it to the ground and tapped danced on it. Fifteen years ago, on a bit of a whim, they formed a cabaret style dance group, rented a rehearsal hall, worked up some tap and ballroom routines, crafted some sparkly costumes and took their show on the road.
They christened this new dance troupe, "Class Act" and began performing in retirement centers, women's clubs, and cocktail lounges across the state. Strutting their stuff in hot pants, cowboy hats, feathered boas and sequined waistcoats, the dancehall divas were unleashed. While many of their contemporaries have been slowing down, suffering health issues, and turning to nursing homes for elder care, the "Class Act" ladies have challenged mortality with charm, wit, and incredible physical stamina. It's an irresistible story, and for the past two years I have shadowed them at rehearsals and performances so that I might chronicle their world and capture their infectious zeal and spirit.
This film is a testament to the physical and mental health benefits of dancing. Watching nine vibrant women do high kicks at a senior retirement center before an audience of their contemporaries is a sobering moment. These ladies have found something that many their age have not, and it's both heartbreaking and inspiring to witness. My camera often caught a rekindled sparkle in a resident's eye, a foot tapping in time, or shoulders swaying to the rhythm of the music - a powerful testament to the rejuvenating power of dance.
Where did this love for dance originate? The documentary will explore these dance hall diva's teenage years in the 1940's and 1950's when everyone's social life - young and old - centered around dances at USO halls, high school gymnasiums, and dancehalls. Big Band Jazz and the Jitterbug were the glue that helped them form lifelong friendships and partnerships. We'll even attend a high school reunion for the Class of 1942 and accompany three of the dancers who have been friends since they were teens. Spoiler alert: They're as beautiful in their 80's as they were at 18.
As numerous scenes in the film will attest, the sisterhood that these ladies share is especially poignant. An unfortunate pitfall of aging is that the dancers are losing lifelong friends, loved ones, and spouses with devastating frequency. Without the friendships they've formed in their troupe life would at times be overwhelming.
Did I mention the interviews? These ladies have something to say, and they say it with the freedom and wisdom that only a wiser and older woman can. I was fortunate to have Pam Ingalls, a 30 year veteran of the television and video industry as an interviewer. Pam wrote, directed, and produced a multimedia theater piece called "Cleavage Chronicles" that features the Class Act dancers in a rousing finale. She knows and loves these ladies deeply, and was able to gather some unforgettable sound bites and moments on camera.
There are so many wonderful scenes and interviews with these women that I'm eager to share. But I need your help. Although I've been able to fund the production of the film out of my own pocket and have invested a healthy dose of "sweat equity" over the past two years, I need additional resources to finish the project. Your contribution will allow me to hire a freelance editor to help me hone the many hours of b-roll and interviews into a fluid and compelling story. Thankfully I have an awesome collaborator slated for that role, Renny McCauley. His work appears on PBS, IFC, MTV Hive, LogoTV, Pitchfork and Spin.com. Renny also edited the feature documentary "Peace Officer", which aired on Independent Lens in Spring 2016 and won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for Best Documentary at SXSW Film Festival.
In addition to an editor, your generosity will allow me to bring a Graphic Artist on board who will create motion title elements, design the promotional poster, and treat various archival images that are used in the film. This work will help give the film a distinct visual look and style. Here again, I have another awesome collaborator on deck, Glenn Dill. He has earned several Addy Awards for clients such as Bob FM (gold), Tomlinson’s Pet Supplies (sliver), Nightmare Factory (silver) and TxDOT (silver). His work on documentary films includes an Academy Award for “Green” and an Emmy for “Where Soldiers Come From”.
Your gracious support will also enable me to bring on an audio engineer and a Colorist to finesse the sound and visual elements. And last but not least, your funds will be used to purchase rights to various musical numbers used in the dance group's performances and to license some stock photography and film footage of the Big Band era. Yes, there are many roles to fill, but all are essential to delivering the professional look and sound one expects of a high-end documentary.
Thank you for supporting the arts - particularly documentary filmmaking. You play a crucial role in the creative crowd and your individual contribution matters. Together, we can perhaps spread a message of optimism and hope.
The Dance Hall Divas thank you as well!
Risks and challenges
Creating a documentary film is a high risk endeavor. Although we cannot guarantee the commercial success of this film, we do believe it is a worthy contribution to the documentary world and will be a strong contender in the film festival circuit. Ideally, we will secure distribution that will allow the film to reach as large an audience as possible.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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