Monday, April 27, 2009

Frankie Manning

I think I've mentioned before that Victor and I are pretty avid swing dancers. More specifically, we lindy hop. Lindy Hop was a dance that began in Harlem (like most kick-ass dances) in the 1920s. After the 1940s or so, it dissipated in the United States in favor of other swing varieties but in the 80s a few dancers went looking for the old-school performers who had starred in movies like A Day at the Races. And they found this guy. Frankie Manning had been a superstar dancer back in his day, but eventually moved back to Harlem and worked in a post office. When he was "re-discovered", dancers who had found his movies convinced him to come out of retirement and teach them how to lindy hop.

Did he ever. The lindy hop movement was the largest in the late 1990s (remember those Gap commercials?) but it still goes strong. Frankie traveled all over the world for the past two decades sharing his love of dance and his love of life. Victor and I were fortunate enough to take some classes with him a few years ago and at the age of 93, Frankie stayed standing (and dancing!) for an entire day of workshops. His energy was contagious and quite honestly, makes me ashamed to think of the times I didn't go dancing because I was "too tired" or even danced in half time to a fast song. Frankie never complained and always said that dancing kept him young.

Frankie Manning passed away today, shortly before his 95th birthday. He had planned to celebrate at a four day festival in New York and, as was his tradition, dance with 95 women consecutively to commemorate each year of his life. His death is being felt tremendously by the international community of dancers.

I'll be dancing tonight to honor Frankie, may he swing out in peace.

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