All about the Frankie Track at Herräng Dance Camp 2014
Something many of us agree upon is that the Herräng Dance Camp in Sweden would not be what it is today if it wasn’t for Frankie who influenced the Camp in so many ways during all the summers he spent in Herräng (1989-2007). When Frankie passed away, the people in charge of the Camp made a commitment to keep Frankie present at the Camp in the best way they could. But what would that look like? How could we keep his legacy alive and make it available for others? In what ways could we pass on what Frankie so generously and passionately gave to us?
Frankie came into my life in 1987 when the performance group the Rhythm Hot Shot — that I was member of — invited Frankie to Sweden. During the years that followed we regularly met at all the different camps that started to pop up. I had the privilege of assisting him in classes, performing with him at times, and getting to know him over the years.
Whenever I teach a class today I of course bring Frankie with me; I make him present through steps and also themes to give an idea of what Frankie was about as a person. Right after his passing I remember how difficult it was,; whatever I said and did just felt shallow and didn’t at all do him justice. The loss was too big but I did realize that now it now was up to me and my generation of dancers to share and carry it all forward, and to honor Frankie as we did it.
When the Herräng Dance Camp decided to offer a “Frankie track” the summer of 2014 and I was invited to teach with Lennart I was super excited! Together with 7 other instructors that also used to work hand in hand with Frankie, and who knew him personally, we could now focus 100% on the Man. Hopefully together we’d be able to pass on something beyond the most obvious. Invited to the camp were Judy Pritchett, Chazz Young, Ramona Noelle Staffeld, Steven Mitchell, Åsa and Daniel Heedman, Lennart Westerlund and myself. With just a little bit of direction, the Camp administration left it pretty open for us to fill in the Track with what we felt Frankie represented. There was more room in the schedule than in an ordinary lindy class for talks, movie clips and open discussions. Even if some of us had been in touch during the spring it didn’t all really fall in place until we all got together on site in Herräng. Our nightly talks where we shared memories and anecdotes, rhythms and ideas was such a sweet enjoyable part of my whole experience of the Frankie track!
During the early years Frankie often taught long routines and choreographies that went on for several choruses to medium or up tempo songs, depending on the dancers and their experience. The material was mostly do-able on a social dance floor even if every now and then he threw in a simple lift or often some humorous and silly move that made everyone giggle. Of course, Frankie laughed bigger and louder than all of us together which always made me feel that I could forgive myself – it’s totally ok no matter what it might look like!
Lennart and I took a close look at the VHS tapes and learned his routine that he taught, with me and with others, in 1989. I could tell that even if a few Swingouts have passed since that summer, my body remembered what my head had forgotten… A funny observation Lennart and I made was that Frankie changed his routine around slightly from one time to the next; sometimes he made the stop on the number 3, the next time he put the foot down earlier, or later, depending on what that particular song told him to do. The dancers in the room didn’t seem to mind, they just kept a close eye on Frankie and went with it.
Frankie never fussed much about the small stuff. Instead he was all about the music and what would really swing in communication with his partner. The level in the Frankie Track class was pretty spread out even if it said “Intermediate Advanced” and above in the program. Lennart and myself had to push and work hard during the week to get through the whole routine, and for the very last class we finished off Big by dancing together with Frankie and the class from 1989 on the big screen in front of us up in Folkets Hus! In the video they were dancing in short sporty 80s shorts with Frankie (and myself) and they had a lot more space on the floor than we had that day last summer. Frankie was dancing, kicking shouting and laughing as ever before. The whole room, then and now, were swinging! The time machine had brought us all together, despite the technology and the all years that had passed. Frankie’s joy and passion for the dance spilled over in the way it always did (and still does). For me It was as wonderful and surreal! It still puts a smile on my face just thinking about it.
A wonderful week ended. Even if not more than just a handful of the people in the class had met Frankie in person, the interest was big and sincere. I’m grateful to have been part of a full week with a “Frankie focus” together with dancers from all around the world. This is one way that we can keep Frankie on the dance floor as well as in our hearts. Also to remember that Frankie didn’t turn into this amazing person after his passing, he was simply one of those Special people you are lucky if you have a chance to cross paths with in a lifetime!
Contributed by Ewa “W” Burak Knivsta, Sweden – Virginia, USA