Five years ago, thousands of lindy hoppers gathered in New York City to commemorate the 95th birthday of Frankie Manning, the ambassador of lindy hop. What had originally been planned as a birthday celebration became a tribute to Frankie’s life, as Frankie passed away a month shy of the celebration. I was lucky enough to take a few workshops with Frankie (because I’ve been dancing that long – oy vey). I didn’t know him personally but I can tell you that his generosity of spirit, liveliness and joy were contagious. He lived to see the dance he loved so much fall out of favour and come back to life, spreading to the far reaching corners of the globe.
The best part of Frankie 95 was the hang. Seeing friends from everywhere, together, in that room. Dancing, listening, talking, reminiscing. I still remember everyone dancing to a song on the overly crowded ballroom floor and hearing a break coming in the music. Everyone prepared…the whole floor lifted together to hit the beat. I always say it was as though everyone was listening to the music in the same way at that one moment. The magic of lindy hop (and partnered dance in general) is how it connects us. We need each other – the partner, the band, the ballroom – all of it.
I have many friends travelling to Frankie 100 in the next two weeks. I wish I could be there, I’ll be thinking of you. Please, have a wonderful time, be patient with the overly crowded dance floor and remember to take in the grandeur of our community coming to together for this special moment. We are so lucky. THIS is what we do in our spare time! WTF!? Drink it in. Savour it.
Five years ago, I was in New York City for Frankie 95. I was in pain. I didn’t know why. I danced hard two nights and could barely walk the other two nights. A few weeks later I got the results of an MRI. I had a herniated disc. I needed to stop dancing…ASAP. I realized that was the last time I felt the same amount of uncertainty I feel now. I didn’t know if I’d be able to dance again. My body was against me. Shoes and socks were my enemy.
Five years later, I’m dancing hard, teaching often and still in love with the dance. Lindy hop and the people I’ve met through this dance are a gift. My mobility is a gift. Frankie Manning and his joy were and continue to be gifts. This crazy adventure is a gift. I feel an immense amount of gratitude. As we roll up to Frankie’s 100th birthday, I ask you to reflect on the things that inspire wonder in your life. Whether you’re in New York, London, Toronto, Seoul or wherever, we are connected, together, linked by this silly dance and are constantly reminded that it “t’ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it”. Let’s make Frankie proud.