Sunday, June 7, 2009

Can't Stop The Lindy Hop - A Tribute to Lindy Hop Legend Frankie Manning

Dancers from around the world gathered recently in New York, USA from May 21-25 to pay tribute to legendary Lindy Hop dancer, the late Frankie Manning (image) who would have been 95 on May 26. Manning who passed away from complications of pneumonia on April 27 2009 at Lennox Hill Hospital, New York was considered the world's authority on the Lindy Hop. Held over the Memorial Day weekend, the FrankieFest '95 included social dancing, tribute performances, video presentations, panel discussions, walking tours, workshops conducted by internationally acclaimed teachers, and a Hellzapoppin' dance competition.

Frankie Manning was born in Jacksonville, Florida on May 26 1914 and moved to Harlem with his family when he was 3. He was a leading dancer at the legendary Harlem's Savoy Ballroom where during the swing dance era in the mid-1930s, he revolutionized the Lindy Hop with his innovations including the Lindy air step, also known as an "aerial" and synchronized ensemble Lindy routine. As a featured dancer and choreographer he performed in several films including Hellzapoppin' (1941), and entertained on stage with jazz greats like Ethel Waters, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Cab Calloway.

When interest in swing dancing began to wane in the 1950s, Manning took a job in the Post Office where he worked for 30 years until his rediscovery by a group of swing dance enthusiasts in the mid-1980s. Since then he was much sought after to teach, choreograph and perform globally. In 1994, a weekend-long celebration was held in the Big Apple to commemorate his 80th birthday. For his 86th birthday, a gala was held in Tokyo, Japan in his honor which included workshops conducted by the master Lindy Hopper himself. Manning was actively dancing until last year, when he fell during an overseas trip and suffered lingering complications.

The Lindy Hop was a huge phenomenon during the swing era (1920s to 1940s) just as Hip Hop is today. We are seeing a resurgence of interest in this dance in this part of the world too. Here in Malaysia, KL Swing! in Kuala Lumpur and Outcast Dance Studio in Petaling Jaya conducts Lindy Hop classes. Down south in Singapore, Lindy Hop has caught on there, with dance studios like Jitterbugs Swingapore and JAZZ INC actively promoting this swing dance. Manning had made several visits to Singapore, his last one being in 2008 for the SEA (South East Asia) Jam. Rest in peace, Manning. You will be dearly missed.

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