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  • Writer's pictureOlivia Fortunato

Frankie, our teacher

Guest post by ewa “W” burak

I believe the music told Frankie what to teach in class. Frankie had often a song in mind that inspired him as he figured the material out, and in the corner of the room, right before class started, he shared it with me or one of the other followers. We had the privilege to assist him in class at Herräng Dance Camp Sweden and elsewhere, from 1989 all the way up to 2007, which was the last year Frankie came to Herräng. I remember being nervous in the beginning, and on my toes, what if I didn’t pick up the material quick enough and everyone had to stand around and wait for me before we could start class? But one thing was for sure, Frankie wouldn’t let me mess up, he would make sure I got it all, so that I also could help the students, the mission he was so passionate about.

As students trickle in Frankie plays one of his favorite songs to get the whole room, the students, me and himself into a nice groovy swingin’ mood. Frankie told us that electric slide was a line dance his granddaughter taught him, a dance she used to do in the Clubs. As a way to warm up he often lead us in his own swing version of electric slide to the song Easy Does it with The Big 18, four steps to the right, four to the left, four steps backing up, shake forward and back and forward, heel turn etcetera. The song was more than 5 minutes long and kind of slow which gave us time to really get into it, feeling the music and maybe try some variations on the simple basic pattern. I think he enjoyed the shake part the best, shoulders, booty, whatever body parts that were available. He just loved to shake…

Partnering the students up was an opportunity for Frankie to connect with the class, see everyone, and crack a few jokes. It was always a big procedure. He had the followers line up on one side facing the leaders. Everyone walked down the line (isle) together as couples and on the far side Frankie pronounce them husband and wife, which always made people laugh and relax.

I am still little surprised when I think of the fact that the first step Frankie taught in the beginner class often was the swing out. You don’t have to be very experienced lindy dancer to know that the swing out can be a pretty complicated move, but since it is one of the very basic ones Frankie didn’t save it. Instead he introduced it right away from an open position and never made a big fuss about it. As he stepped back on his left foot he bent gracioulsy down and said “Bow to the Queen”, and boy, did I feel like the Queen. It worked every time! I played along, and did my swivels as Queen-like I could. “And don’t drop your head, she doesn’t need another mirror” he added, referring to his shiny bald head. When Frankie found someone struggling with a particular step or rhythm he always took his time, parked himself next to the student and slowly and full of patient showed the step again and again. It was important to Frankie that everybody fully understood what he had in mind.

During the early to mid 1990s Frankie especially taught pretty long midtempo routines. Often he incorporated lifts or slides between the legs. One jig walk – back step – down, and he supported me in my jump, when he shifted the grip I knew it was Frankies turn to jump. He being the choreographer, I guess he didn’t want to miss out on the fun! I’m smiling to myself, thinking of all those people who wish to do the lindy but never gathered enough courage to even start, blaming age. Seeing Frankie in action was such a good antidote to that!

Many things comes to mind when I think of Frankie… like the importance he put on the partnership between 1.You 2.Your Partner and 3.The Music. He told us to “just swing to the music” and fully enjoy those short three minutes we share in the dance, something that he himself fully embodied. His presence and playfulness helped me to relax and not take myself and my dancing so serious.

Frankie, it’s hard to believe you passed away so many swing outs ago…

You will always inspire me, on and off the dance floor.

With deep gratitude,

Ewa “W”

ewa “W” burak is a Lindy Hop dancer, instructor and former member of The Rhythm Hot Shots

Herrang Photos Dean Wierman

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