The life and times of Frankie Manning

Swing dancer extraordinaire Frankie Manning was a leading dancer at Harlem’s legendary Savoy Ballroom where in the mid-1930s, he revolutionised the course of the lindy hop with his innovations, including the air step.

As a featured dancer and chief choreographer for the spectacular Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, he performed in numerous films (including Hellzapoppin’ (1941)), and entertained on stages around the world with jazz greats Ethel Waters, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Cab Calloway.

With the demise of the Swing Era, Frankie took a job in the Post Office, where he worked for thirty years until his rediscovery by a new generation of swing dance enthusiasts in the mid-1980s. From then on he was in constant demand, teaching, choreographing, and performing globally. He won a 1989 Tony Award for his choreography in Black and Blue, and served as a consultant for and performed in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X. Frankie’s activities have been chronicled in hundreds of articles (including features in GQ and People Magazine) and dozens of news programs (including a profile on ABC’s 20/20).

Considered the world’s leading authority on the windy hop, he is highlighted in Ken Burns’s acclaimed documentary, Jazz. His autobiography, Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop, co-written by Cynthia R. Millman, was published by Temple University Press in spring 2007.

Frankie passed away in 2009, but his memory and legacy are being carried on by swing dancers around the world.

Check out the links below to see more posts about this legendary swing dancer, including articles and video tributes by those in our community:

Reflections on Frankie Manning – Scott Cupit

The Savoy Ballroom- who, what and where

Shim Sham for Frankie Manning’s Birthday! 

Frankie Manning and his Partners

Frankie Manning in Melbourne – 1939

Frankie Manning- Life after the 1940s

Electric Slide for Frankie 100

Putting the ‘Big’ into ‘Bands’

The Frankie Manning Timeline

 

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