Origin of the Ambassador Program

Zeng and Beibel
Beijing Ambassador Zeng Weiming

Frankie’s greatest pleasure was bringing Lindy hop to new places in the world. His one regret was that few young African-Americans showed an interest in the Lindy hop revival. To continue his unfinished work, the Frankie Manning Foundation has created the Ambassador scholarship program

ORIGIN OF THE AMBASSADOR PROGRAM

The idea of starting a Frankie Manning Foundation was presented to Frankie during what turned out to be his last months, when preparations were going on for his 95th Birthday celebration. Elliott Donnelley and Buddy Steves, chief organizers at that event, told Frankie that if the event had revenue beyond its expenses they would like to start a foundation in his name. Frankie was delighted at the idea and immediately discussed a project he had dreamed of: “I’d like to send those Harlem kids to Herrang.” Frankie was talking about the Jitterbug Kids, a group of African-American teenagers who had been learning Lindy hop and performing since childhood. Their parents were students of Frankie’s who wanted to ensure that their children maintained the tradition.

For Frankie, Herräng was the best place in the world that anyone could learn Lindy hop and its history. Frankie had taught at Herräng for many years and had a deep influence on the culture of the camp. The Swedish organizers of the camp had something that Frankie loved: a great sense of playfulness combined with intense teaching and all-night social dancing.

Ambassadors LaTasha Barnes and Shelby Johnson in the “dansbanan” (dance barn) at Herräng @Photo Tamara Pinco

Frankie’s last 20 plus years were deeply gratifying for him. He lived to enjoy and participate in the worldwide revival of his beloved Lindy hop. He had only one regret. For whatever reason the Lindy hop was not catching on with young African-Americans the way it had with other Americans and young people all over the world. He wanted to remedy this and thought that engaging African-Americans in Herrang could go a long way: preserving the tradition and keeping it fun.

Frankie loved being invited to teach all around the globe. He loved traveling and seeing new places, but most of all he loved seeing Lindy hop danced where it had not been danced before. Every year he taught many weekend workshops on repeated returns to places he had taught before. But he loved nothing more than going some place he had never been and teaching people who were new to Lindy hop.

 

 

CARRYING OUT FRANKIE’S DREAMS– SELECTING AMBASSADORS

In a country where Lindy hop is new, the Frankie Foundation looks for a dancer or dance couple who are already very excited about Lindy hop. Perhaps they learned it while studying or traveling abroad. Now they want to bring it home. We look for people who seem to have the same kind of generosity of spirit as Frankie, and who share his values of inclusivity. We hope to find people who are talented dancers and are willing to put in the work to become excellent Lindy hoppers, but more importantly we want their love of Lindy hop to be contagious so that it can build a group of dancers and support local venues. We look for signs that they are good at organizing – finding space, starting classes, running events. By providing this person or pair with the intensive training at Herrang we hope they can build their expertise and learn about teaching. We also hope that they will meet dancers from other places who have also struggled with building scenes so that they can get some good advice and maybe even some visitors.

Finding Ambassador candidates in the African-American communities is not so different. There may be good opportunities to learn and dance Lindy hop nearby, but for whatever reason few African-Americans have participated. As with other countries, we try to find black dancers with Frankie’s generosity of spirit and contagious enthusiasm. We hope to find people who cherish the history of the Lindy hop in Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom and have the desire to share it with others in their community. We look for Frankie-like qualities of passion and magnetism that will attract others.