Happy Birthday to Frankie Manning, the Ambassador of Lindy Hop! (May 26, 1914 – April 27, 2009)
Frankie and his partner Frieda Washington are credited with performing the first first aerial step in a swing dance competition. (Listen to the story here, it's long but you wont be disappointed!)
"Based at the Savoy Ballroom, to which he was drawn as a teenager by the superb swing bands and fabulous lindy hopping, Frankie soon took his talents on the road as a lead dancer and chief choreographer for Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers. He appeared in several films including Radio City Revels with Ann Miller (1937) and Hellzapoppin’ with Olsen & Johnson and Martha Raye (1941), and toured the world with jazz greats Ethel Waters, Ella Fitzgerald, Bill " Bojangles " Robinson, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, and Cab Calloway among others. While dancing in London in 1937, Frankie gave a command performance for King George VI. In 1941, " Musclehead " Manning was featured in a Life magazine article that highlighted his acrobatic brand of lindy."
Believe it or not, I danced with Frankie once. Granted, he was in his late 80s and I was a senior in high school, but he could still move! I attended a weekend swing dance workshop with a friend of mine. In the evening they had a huge jam session and Frankie was there as a guest of one of the instructors. I have to admit I didn't really know who he was at the time. I just knew he was an old guy with some really fancy footwork!! During the jam session - were one or two couple at a time show off their best moves - Frankie went around and pulled random people from the crowd to dance with. When he pick me he spun me around a few times and when the song ended he dipped me. Ha, my dance partner was so jealous.