"We did the Savoy Ballroom scene because it visually opens up the story, and it was an obvious way to showcase the energy and musicality of that period. Actually going there to see what those people were doing, and not just hearing about it as you do in the play, became the dynamic thing to do to open up the movie."
"Directing the Savoy Ballroom scene was a great deal of fun. I hired as many dancers as I could afford because I knew they would give me energy and life and it would just be a matter of capturing on camera what was happening in that room. Because we didn't have the money to hire 150 extras (which we would've loved to have), we had to shift the people we did have around. They had to change clothes."
"As far as wearing a choreographer hat, since there was no time, I just held a big call for dancers who already knew how to swing dance. So the choreography for the Savoy scene was about finding those wonderful dancers who love swing dance, giving them blocking, and getting it on film."
"It was fun to dance in it, even though I often wondered why I had to go and open my big mouth about it. But I loved it because I loved what it said about the character of Quilly. And I loved dancing with the young man that played Herman, Steven Smith, who's a former lead dancer with Alvin Ailey."
"Norma Miller, the star of the Savoy Ballroom when she was fifteen, came the day of our audition for dancers from her home in Las Vegas. Norma is always my consultant whenever it comes to anything dealing with swing dancing. She's like the Griot. She knows everything. She can just look at something and say 'kid, that never would've happened,' or 'no honey, take that out,' or 'that's perfect.'"
"The budget had a lot to do with why the ballroom set was so minimalist. With lack of money comes creativity, and I suggested we show only four of the musicians instead of an entire bandstand. We got a sense of it as it went on. All we needed were some tables and a dance floor. The dancers would add color and make this real and true. Costuming helped too. We had a few soldiers in there. John Iacovelli took what was there and made it work."
"The DP and I designed it so that the camera went in and creeped on Quilly slowly, and when she talks about a storm coming the lights actually change and then we go to black. And when we come back to her the lights come back up. It's a beautiful sequence."
"For the scene where Quilly reveals the truth about Herman, I directed Phylicia to simply listen and to go deep into how she feels."