RIP Frankie Manning

A sad day for Lindy Hoppers around the world.

Frankie Manning, the “founder” and “ambassador” of Lindyhop, has passed away.  Frankie was about to turn 95, and had still been dancing up until last year.  Yep, in his nineties and STILL dancing…

Lindyhop is a type of jazz partner street dance, that grew in the U.S. in the 1930s.  Lindyhop now doesn’t really refer just to the dance moves, but encompasses the whole culture around the dance in that period – the swing music, the clothing, the reasons behind the dancing itself.

Frankie was a huge element of the lindyhop, credited for creating many of the moves, especially the first aerial/air step.   Frankie gave lindyhop the exciting, energetic, frenetic and acrobatic style.  Lindyhop had a resurgence in the 1980s and has since grown into a worldwide dancing scene, mostly for the 18-30 year old population.   Dancers dress up in “vintage” style, guys wear baggy high pants with a waistcoat and cap, put on two tone shoes that have been sueded, girls wear vintage dresses with vintage hair dos.

Cities around the world regularly host an annual lindyhop “exchange” – basically an excuse for a massive dance party, with nightly dances, live music and classes, usually attracting many out of towners.

I was lucky to meet Frankie on a few occasions.  I will never forget SEAJam, the Singapore Lindyhop Exchange where the Harlem Hotshots performed a show, and invited a 90+ year old Frankie up to the stage to dance Cottontail with them.  Amazing…   Or the lessons where he still exuded so much enthusiasm and spirit…  Or the talks he gave on life in the 30s and 40s and dancing back then…  Or the many stories he saved away in his book…  Or his big smile.

This last weekend, Perth had another of its exchanges, called the Hullabaloo.  I was DJ’ing last night at the last dance and that’s when we found out that Frankie had just passed away.

It was so sad and surreal…   the founder of the dance style that we were all doing last night passing away.  But his legacy, his dance, still living on and being done at the same time…

Instead of a minute silence, we all did the shim sham, a lindyhop line dance, to Tuxedo Junction – the dance that everyone does with Frankie when he travelled around the world to many lindyhop exchanges.  For a dance that is so happy and carefree, I have never felt so sad dancing it…

Frankie, may you Rest In Peace.  May you look upon us all on Earth with a smile on your face as you are living on each day here, through thousands of dancer’s memories, souls and feet…

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