THE LIFE OF FRANKIE MANNING
Frankie Manning was born on the 26th of May, 1914, in Jacksonville, Florida. According to Frankie, his mother, a party lady, told him that even before he was born he used to kick in time to the music when she went out dancing. At the age of three, Frankie moved with his family to Harlem in New York City.
The Savoy Ballroom opened and became the home of a new popular style of dance that would later be called Lindy Hop. At this time Frankie was still a youngster, and danced in the Alhambra, Outhammer and Renaissance ballrooms for years before moving on to the Savoy, where some of the founders of Lindy Hop, such as George Shorty Snowden and Leroy Jones were still dancing. Unlike many venues in those days, the Savoy was open to both Blacks and Whites. Norma Miller described it as a melting pot of different ethnic groups where colour wasnt important. As Frankie put it: If you walked in the Savoy, the only thing we wanted to know is can you dance?
It is to this year that many trace the invention of the Lindy Hop. George Snowden named the dance after Charles Lindbergh, who had just made his transatlantic flight, so the story goes.
Herbert Whitey White established a group of professional performers gathered from the best dancers in the Savoy scene, including Frankie, who was his chief choreographer. It was also at this time that Frankie invented the first airstep and performed it with his partner Frieda to the amazement of a huge crowd at a Saturday night dance competition at the Savoy. And so Frankie and Frieda won the dance-off with their predecessors and heroes, Shorty George and Big B.
The Marx Brothers comedy, A Day at the Races, was the first of many Hollywood films that Whiteys dancers appeared in. Frankie choreographed their scene, but was unable to perform in it due to his commitments with another of Whiteys dance troupes, Whiteys Hopping Maniacs. Frankie also got third place in the Harvest Moon Ball competition in this year.