Monday, April 27, 2009

Frankie Manning, 1914-2009

It is with great sorrow that I note the passing of the magnificent Frankie Manning, star dancer, Tony-award winning choreographer, legendary teacher, and fine human being. He originated so much of what we do as Lindy Hop back in the 1930's, and spent his last decades traveling the globe, spreading the word and steps.

As one story goes, he had a job delivering ice for a shop during the Great Depression and was so friendly that customers placed more and more orders. The shop wasn't so happy about that, because the ice delivery was actually a front for their bookie business, but Frankie could do nothing but bring joy to his work.

I had the privilege of taking his classes and as the director of another Lindy Hop legend - Norma Miller's - 80th birthday festivities, the pleasure of working with him. You will be missed, Frankie!

Photo courtesy of his website, He's the fellow on the left with the great big grin.

By chance, Gilles and Cheryl danced a Lindy Hop on Dancing with the Stars tonight, with mixed results. I'm usually critical of the show's inclusion of dances like Lindy, Argentine Tango, and West Coast Swing, because they're not part of the standard ballroom repetoire and the judges don't know them well enough to give useful critique. The choreographers often don't get credit when they really capture the essence of the dance, and are even sometimes criticized when they get something right.

For instance, Kym created a Lindy number for David Alan Grier with tons of classic steps, but the judges didn't recognize that at all. Chelsie's dance with Ty even included a basic swingout, which is really hard to do - not one other couple has attempted it, even Cheryl and Gilles, even though it is the BASIC step of the dance. Mark and Shawn Johnson's number was critiqued as "too heavy," when it was the only Lindy we've seen that understood the grounded bounce of the dance.

I have no problem with adding different dances to the show - it makes it more fun - but the judges need to do their homework too. Nigel, on So You Think You Can Dance, does a good job of that. It makes him able to give comments on dances that he obviously doesn't perform, like krump, because he refers to classic performances, movies, and shows that he has seen and studied.

Anyhow, Cheryl choreographed a great number for Gilles, and he's clearly a good dancer, but they were out of sync for the first half of the number. And not one judge mentioned it. Very odd, because I usually agree with the judges (aside from the non-standard ballroom dances). Pull it together, Gilles! We want to see more of you looking fabulous!

1 comment:

Mayberry said...

Nice tribute; I love the ice delivery story!