RobinsoNovember: First Dance at Robinson Center


Jan Garber and his orchestra

Tonight the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra hosts its annual Opus Ball inside the new William Grant Still Ballroom at Robinson Center.  That the first public event in this space will be a dance is only appropriate.  The first public event in the original Robinson was also a dance.  It was held four months before the building even opened.

On October 4, 1939, the convention hall on the lower level was the site of a preview dance.  The pecan block flooring had been installed just the week before.

The first four people to enter the building as paying guests were Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Wilheim, Frances Frazier and Bill Christian.  Reports estimated 3,200 people attended and danced to the music of Jan Garber and His Orchestra.  By happenstance, Garber and his musicians had also played in Little Rock on January 26, 1937, the date of the election which approved the auditorium bonds.  Since Little Rock then did not have a suitable space, that appearance had been on the stage of the high school auditorium.