A team of local filmmakers is exploring south Louisiana culture through an unexpected avenue — a line dance known as "The Freeze."
Allison Bohl DeHart, who is codirecting the short-form documentary, hopes to learn how a B-side country crossover song became a legendary hit with its own line dance.
"We've been wanting to make a documentary about the area," DeHart said. "And we've been looking to find an interesting way to go about it, to look at the area through a different avenue. We started talking about why 'The Freeze' is such a big thing here and started looking into that."
It's not clear how Ronnie Milsap's catchy 1980 song “If You Don’t Want Me To” became associated with the line dance known as “The Freeze."
DeHart and her team want to keep much of what they know quiet for now as they continue researching and interviewing people for the short film, which will be named for the dance.
"We were most excited about the topic because we couldn't find the answer on the internet," DeHart said. "This is one we just couldn't figure out: When and where did the song 'If You Don't Want Me To' and the dance 'The Freeze' get paired together to where they're still being done today?"
DeHart is codirecting "The Freeze" with her husband, Peter. Rachel Nederveld is the producer.
The filmmakers are currently speaking with local disc jockeys, musicians, historians, recording studio owners, dance hall managers and line dancing enthusiasts to piece together the story.
They've learned that zydeco musician Herman Guiee released a version of the song in the late 1980s, and swamp pop musician Warren Storm released a version in the early 1990s. They've been especially intrigued by early '90s "freeze parties" — when a DJ would announce a time and location in Acadiana for people to meet and do "The Freeze."
"Every morning before school or work, the DJ would announce live on the radio a location," DeHart said. "And people would show up at like 7:30 in the morning to dance to this one song on a boombox before going to school or work."
DeHart and her crew hope to speak to people who know where the line dance's namesake comes from since Milsap's song doesn't reference "the freeze."
Milsap, a North Carolina native, was one of the most popular country musicians of the 1970s and 1980s with dozens of No. 1 country hits, but "If You Don't Want Me To" wasn't one of them. The song wasn't even a single on his 1980 album "Milsap Magic" and was used as a B-side in 1987 and 1989.
It wasn't until 2011 when Milsap rereleased the song as the first single on the album "Country Again" that the words were officially associated with the song's title.
"We want to talk to anyone who knows where the term 'the freeze' came from," DeHart said. "That's a big one."
The filmmakers are planning to connect with Milsap soon. He'll be in Acadiana for a June 20 concert at Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel in Charenton — a rescheduled May 23 show because of "unexpected illness."
DeHart is an award-winning filmmaker known for short-form documentaries that find beauty in the ordinary folkways of south Louisiana. She and her husband have produced music videos and concert documentaries that have been featured in Rolling Stone. Nederveld, a Louisiana native living in Los Angeles, is an award-winning independent producer who has been recognized by the Sundance and Cannes film festivals.
The team hopes to shoot the self-funded project this year and submit the documentary to film festivals next year.
"'The Freeze' is one of those things that's fun that everyone knows about," DeHart said. "But it could be a catalyst for something less understood. This could look at the music and culture of the time — the conversation between the DJs and the bands and the dancers. It's different now. It's all digital."
Visit facebook.com/pg/thefreezedoc to learn more about the documentary or to contact the filmmakers.