The Ambassador of Lindy Hop 1914-2009
No one has contributed more to the Lindy Hop than Frankie Manning — as a dancer, innovator and choreographer. For much of his lifetime he was an unofficial Ambassador of Lindy Hop. Originally touring as a dancer and choreographer with Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers in the 30’s and 40’s, he helped spread the popularity of the Lindy Hop through three continents. Once again, since the swing dance revival that started in the 1980s, Frank Manning was a driving force worldwide with his teaching, choreography and performance. His own love of swing music and dancing was contagious as his dazzling smile.
Manning in Australia in 1938 and in 2002 at age 88
Frankie Manning started dancing in his early teens at a Sunday afternoon dance at the Alhambra Ballroom in Harlem to the music of Vernon Andrade. From there he moved on to the Rennaissance Ballroom, which had an early evening dance for older teens with the live swing music of the Claude Hopkins Orchestra. Finally, Frankie “graduated” to the Savoy Ballroom, which was known for its great dancers and bands.
Competitive as well as gifted, Manning, became a star in the informal jams in the “Kat’s Korner” of the Savoy, frequently won the Saturday night contests, and was invited to join the elite 400 Club, whose members could come to the Savoy Ballroom daytime hours to practise alongside the bands that were booked at the Savoy.
Frank Manning’s dancing stood out, even among the greats of the Savoy Ballroom, for its unerring musicality. Fast on his feet and with a keen ear, Frankie gave physical expression to the beat, the feel and the excitement of the swing sound played by the great Big Bands.
Frankie was inspired by first-generation Lindy Hoppers George “Shorty” Snowden and Leroy “Stretch” Jones. However, in order to beat these two great dancers in the intense competitions held at the Savoy Ballroom, Frankie developed his own unique style. He is responsible for many innovations of Lindy Hop step and style, including dancing at a sharp angle to the ground like a track runner, instead of in the upright, stiff ballroom position of his predecesssors. In a famous competition –really, a showdown– Frankie Manning and his partner Freda Washington outdanced Shorty and his partner Big Bea– and astonished the crowd of 2000– with the first Lindy airstep ever done.
In a famous competition… Frankie astonished the crowd of 2000– with the first Lindy airstep ever done.
In 1935, when Herbert White brought together the top Savoy Ballroom Dancers into a professional performance group to be called Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, Frankie created the first ensemble Lindy Hop routines. This gave him an opportunity to expand upon his gift for transforming the swing music into exciting dance-movement patterns. When Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers were in their heyday, Frankie was the chief choreographer, serving as what we today would call artistic director while Whitey was business manager.
Frankie Manning and Willa Mae Ricker
The Spirit Moves
Call Of The Jitterbug
20/20 – Back into Swing 7/23/89
National Geographic: Jitterbug
Swingin’ at the Savoy (Living Trad.)
Сan’t Top the Lindy Hop
Savoy Style Lindy Hop – Level 1
Savoy Style Lindy Hop – Level 2
Savoy Style Lindy Hop – Level 3
FrankieManning, Ambassador of Lindy Hop by Frankie Mannning and Cynthia Millman
Swingin’ at the Savoy by Norma Miller
Recent Stage Choreographies
Black’n’Blue – Broadway Show
Alvin Ailey Dance Company “Opus McShain” with Norma Miller
American Ballroom Dance Theatre
Foot & Fiddle Dance Company
Jiving Lindy Hoppers (London)
Zoots and Spangles (London)
Rhythm Hot Shots (Sweden)
Big Apple Lindy Hoppers (NY)
Тony Award for Choreography of Broadway show Black’n’Blue – 1989
National Endowment for the Arts Grant for Choreography 1994 and 1995
National Heritage Fellowship 2000