This is the week Frankie Manning would have turned 101 had he lived and I always like to leave a tribute for him every year. I was privileged to have been friends with this wonderfully positive and highly charismatic man for the last fifteen years of his life.
Frankie was one of the people credited with creating the Lindy Hop, and due to his delightful personality was in many ways responsible for the resurrection of this joyful dance in present times. After being pulled out of retirement in his 70’s, he began traveling the world teaching workshops and spreading the popularity of Lindy Hop world wide. He was modest and unassuming, always grateful to his students and the burgeoning Lindy community for bringing back this dance that he loved and giving him the opportunity to spend the last years of his life spreading it’s joy. “I’m happy to be here”, he would say at every workshop. “But at my age, I’m happy to be anywhere.” And right up until the end, he was.
I met Frankie on his 80th birthday at a big celebration in New York City. Practically everyone who danced Lindy in the bay area was there. About 5 out of 6 of us! We were exposed for the first time to dancers from all over the world, and to exciting new (to us) styles of the dance. We fell in love with what was known as Modern Savoy Style and brought it back home. As our community grew, Savoy style was what was mostly danced here.
When Frankie came to the Bay Area for the first time shortly after the New York workshops, I got to teach with him for the first time. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It was one of the high points of my life and although it was the first of many, nothing beat the high of that first time.
He was a piece of living history, a joy to know, an honor to call friend, and I’ll always feel lucky to have crossed paths with him at the end of his life and the middle of mine.
I’ve included two clips to give you a glimpse into the joy he brought into dance and the charm that was always the hallmark of his teaching style.
Here he is dancing the Shim Sham Shimmy with his son Chaz Young at the Herrang Dance Camp in Sweden. He was in his mid eighties believe it or not at the time!
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This clip gives you a window into Frankie’s style and sense of humor. To Frankie every woman was beautiful, and he made every woman feel beautiful and special.
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by LaurieAnn Lepoff
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