Compiled by Bobby White
Classic Footage (Pre-1980s)
It’s very rare for us to have social dancing footage of the original dancers in the original swing era. We are lucky to have a few brief seconds of Frankie Manning dancing with a partner in a crowded Savoy ballroom from what is probably the late 1930s. Whether or not its social dancing is hard to say, as he very well might have realized there was a camera filming him, and changed his dancing because of it. Still, though, it’s great to see a young Frankie Manning in a suit, in his element. It’s only a few tiny seconds, but at least we have that much.
A Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers performance for a film. Notable for being Frankie Manning’s first swing-outs in a feature film. He’s the first leader dancing in the background with Lucille Middleton, however the rest of his jam was cut from the film. Frankie suspected it had to do with a move he did where the leader puts his head against the backside of his follower and she walks off, bouncing his head up and down. The dancers saw the move as entertaining and in good fun, whereas Hollywood codes of the day might have thought it too risque. When the camera gets closer, it switches to Eddie “Shorty” Davis dancing with Mildred “Boogie” Pollard (she later took the stage name Sandra Gibson and became a notable female Blues dancer), followed by George Greenidge dancing with Eleanor “Stumpy” Watson, and then “Tiny” Bunch and Dot Johnson. The full routine is not on this clip.
Frankie Manning choreographed this famous Big Apple routine while in California after Herbert White explained the explosive Big Apple craze to him in a letter from New York. Frankie dances in it along with other Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, and then dances with Lucille Middleton in a jam during the “jitterbug contest.” Big Apple dancers are the same as below, minus Billy, Ann, Eleanor and Sonny, but plus William Downes and Mickey Jones. Jam couples: 1st, Billy Williams and Ann Johnson; 2nd, Joyce James and Joe Daniels; 3rd, Eleanor “Stumpy” Watson and Sonny Jenkins; 4th, Lucille Middleton and Frankie Manning; 5th, Thomas “Tops” Lee and Wilda Crawford; 6th, Norma Miller and George Greenidge.
Many people consider Hellzapoppin’ the greatest single Lindy Hop performance of all time. Frankie was in charge of putting the routine together, and mentioned in his autobiography that the dancers worked extra hard for this performance, practicing even longer hours than usual to perfect it. His autobiography also has a long section of anecdotes regarding the process and filming. First couple: William Downes and Francis “Mickey” Jones; 2nd, Norma Miller and Billy Ricker; 3rd, Al Minns and Willamae Ricker; 4th, Frankie Manning and Ann Johnson. Dean Collins also does a dance in this film to the song “Watch the Birdie.” (The sequences, however, were shot on different days, and arguably the two most significant figures in Lindy Hop Leading — Frankie Manning and Dean Collins — never met.)
While in California to film Hellzapoppin, Frankie and the Whitey’s also had the opportunity to film the 1940s equivalent of a music video with Duke Ellington. So, this is the Hellzapoppin’ group doing snippets of the same choreography with minor changes to a slower speed. It was done on a very cold day, Frankie remembers, hence many of them wearing coats. Originally the film was edited on the wrong side, and the dancing in some clips is backward, however the producer of this YouTube clip has changed it to its original orientation.
This short was filmed in 1940 (though not released till 1942) and near the end you can see the Whitey’s. It’s also the same group of dancers who did Hellzapoppin’. Note that this clip has extremely slow dancing compared to the other Whitey’s Lindy Hop performance footage. William Downes and Mickey Jones first, Norma Miller and Billy Ricker second, Willamae Ricker and Al Minns third, and Frankie Manning and Ann Johnson forth.
After the war, Frankie returned to Harlem to put together his own group of dancers. Named The Four Congaroos, here they perform a song much faster than they anticipated, according to his autobiography. Frankie Manning with Ann Johnson (on the left side for most of the clip) and Russell Williams with Willamae Ricker.
A film cataloging African American street dance. Our favorite Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers and other jazz dancers are all over the place, including Sandra Gibson, Esther Washington, Norma Miller, Willamae Ricker, Frankie Manning, Al Minns, Leon James, Pepsi Bethel, and the occasional Berry brother. The two clips listed on this list are some of the highlights of the multi-hour film.
This first clip has, in order of appearance, “The Tranky Doo” (Al, left; Pepsi, middle; Leon, right); The California Routine (Leon James and Esther Washington); Frankie and Willamae Ricker doing an aerials demo; the Big Apple (first half); and practice/social dance footage inside the Savoy Ballroom. Frankie is in very little of the other Spirit Moves footage.
The rest of the footage on this list is of Frankie Manning from the 1980s to his death in 2009.
Frankie Manning and Erin Stevens giving a demonstration for their instructional videos.
A collection of footage and interviews from dancer Margaret Batiuchok.
Frankie performing with Erin Stevens in Pasadena, Ca.
Frankie dancing a demo with Cynthia Millman (co-author of his autobiography!).
Frankie manning social dancing with Erin Stevens in his second prime for a class demonstration.
Frankie dancing a demo with Sylvia Sykes at Grand National Dance Championships in Atlanta in 1996.
Frankie Manning dancing a demo with Lee Nelson, Sing Lim, and Sylvia Sykes in Canberra, Australia, in 1997.
Frankie social dancing with the future professional Lindy Hopper Ramona Staffeld at an event in Albany, Ny in 1999.
Frankie dancing with Ramona Staffeld in a performance at Midsummer Night Swing at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in NY.
Frankie dancing a demo with Erin Stevens for the Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association.
Frankie dancing a demo with Frida Sagerdahl for the Great Southwest Lindyfest 2008 in Houston, Tx.
Frankie dancing with unknown follower in Fairfield, Ia.
Frankie dancing a demo with Dawn Hampton in Houston, Tx.
Frankie social dancing with Dawn Hampton in New York City.
Frankie dancing a demo with Dawn Hampton in Houston, Tx.
Frankie discusses basic swing outs and goofs around in a class in Oakland, Ca.
Frankie Manning and Sylvia Sykes give a demonstration of class material in Santa Barbara, Ca.
A class routine for Sandra Cameron Dance Studio. Moves include “points.”
Frankie teaches a Big Apple in Seattle, Wa.
Frankie Manning social dances with Mandi Gould, followed by footage of him teaching the class. Additional footage from this workshop here.
Class revues Frankie’s choregraphy while he calls it out.
Frankie teaches a turn combination to a small class.
Frankie Manning shows Cha-cha footwork at a workshop in Toronto.
Frankie shows the “Ride The Pony” Step.
There are dozens, if not hundreds of videos of Frankie leading the Shim Sham scattered out there across the internet. Here is a collection of many.
Frankie leads a Shim Sham in Germany.
Frankie leads a Shim Sham in Australia.
Frankie leads a Shim Sham in Kansas.
Frankie leads a Shim Sham at Southwest Lindyfest.
Frankie leads a birthday Shim Sham.
Frankie gives a brief speech and leads a Shim Sham in the Glen Echo Ballroom.
Frankie, Chazz Young, and Norma Miller lead a Shim Sham.
Frankie talks to the audience, then leads the crowd in a Shim Sham.
Frankie leads a Shim Sham for the New York Swing Dance Society.
Frankie Shim Shams with Chazz Young, Dawn Hampton, and Norma Miller.
Interviews & Stories
A selection from a documentary.
A documentary on swing dancing from 1988 showcasing many of the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers and others.
Interview with Frankie about his early years of dancing and going professional. Shows footage of Frankie and Chazz Young dancing. Frankie is mentioned as being 90.
A section of a documentary about Herrang Dance Camp that focuses on Frankie Manning.
In a Q & A in 2006, Frankie tells his recollection of inventing the first swing dance aerial.
A feature covering Frankie Manning for the Toronto television show City Pulse. Footage of Frankie talking, teaching, and dancing.
Frankie Manning gives an introduction at a dance in Washington, DC.
Frankie briefly discusses Lindy Hop and dances a demo.
Frankie talks about his first contest.
Frankie talks about a memorable experience in a World War II USO show.
In-depth interview by Kurt Lichtman. Follow the directions on the site to hear the interview.
A video interview with FLYP magazine, where Frankie discusses social dancing Lindy Hop during the swing era.
Frankie discusses music at the Savoy at a talk organized by the Toronto Swing Society in 2008.
Frankie discusses the importance of dancing, and shows footage of Frankie’s house.
Frankie discusses traveling as a dancer when he hears news of Pearl Harbor being bombed.
Frankie Manning discussing drugs and his humorous experience getting a “contact high” at a party.
Frankie discusses his book, the people he met growing up, and teaching in the swing revival. Also includes footage of him teaching.
Frankie Manning discusses what to do when you see a beautiful woman.
Frankie Manning and Chazz Young are interviewed by Chinese International News and Asian Lifestyle with basic questions about Lindy Hop.
Frankie Manning and Chazz Young are interviewed for a Toronto morning news program. He then does a dance demo with Mandi Gould.
Frankie Manning discusses classic clips in a presentation for Southwest Lindyfest in 2009. Clips he discusses include After Seben, Ask Uncle Sol, A Day at the Races, The Spirit Moves, Hellzapoppin’, Stormy Weather and others.
Frankie conducts the song “Molten Swing” for onlookers at the Jelly Roll 4th Anniversary bash in New York, Ny.
Frankie Manning sings “You Make Me Feel So Young” in Berkeley, Ca. With Manu Smith.
Frankie Manning passed away April 27, 2009. He was not only a great innovator of swing dance, he was also a great man, and a benign grandfather figure to many of us. This tribute video is compiled by modern-era dancers Ann Mony and Stephen Grimes.
A half-hour documentary about Frankie Manning. Includes a basic overview of Frankie’s life, as well as interviews with him and Ruthie Rheingold, a peer of Frankie’s in the Savoy Ballroom.