Considered the “World Ambassador” of the Lindy Hop, Frankie Manning was born on May 26, 1914 and died on April 27, 2009, and is considered one of the most celebrated Lindy Hopper of all time.
The Lindy Hop was birthed in Harlem in the ‘20s and ‘30s, and became wildly popular across the nation. Manning was born in Jacksonville, Florida, and moved to Harlem at the age of three. He found an interest in dance at a young age, encouraged by his family in South Carolina, when he would often visit.
In New York, Manning started going to dances at the Renaissance Ballroom, where he was accompanied by his mother and helped her decorate the ballroom. His mother also enjoyed dancing, including more traditional dances like the waltz, along with more casual and loose styles with family and friends. Thus, Manning learned to dance to from his mother, and ended up in the prestigious Kat’s Corner group at the Savoy by the 1930s.
Manning then joined the group “Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers”, with whom he toured extensively and made several films. He also danced with Norma Miller, who became known as the Queen of Swing.
The Lindy Hop was popularized during the Swing era and was a fusion of many dances, including jazz, tap, breakaway and Charleston. It was born in New York’s Harlem district, and entered the mainstream in the 1930’s.
Dance Marathons were popular contests and for many an easy way to earn prize money during the Great Depression. It was during one of these that the Lindy Hop got its name. In 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly solo from New York to Paris, and people were absorbed with his “Hop” across the Atlantic. He became a huge global superstar as a result. The name was coined by one of Manning’s fellow dancers George “Shorty” Snowden. At the end of a long dance marathon, Sowden was asked by a reporter what this crazy dance was called. The quick-witted answer came, “Lindy Hop”, and the name stuck.
The Lindy Hop and Manning’s ethereal twists turned out to be fiercely prominent, and Manning himself performed the move in a few 40’s time motion pictures. He likewise served in WWII, visited South America and the UK with his troupe, The Congaroos, performed the Lindy for King George VI, and won a Tony Award for his choreographic work on the Broadway musical “Black and Blue.”
Although he didn’t come up with the name, Frankie Manning was known as the ambassador of the Lindy Hop because he helped make the dance popular and spread it through to the mainstream. Manning taught and performed the dance, introducing people to the fashionable moves all over America.
A resident of Corona, Queens, Manning died in Manhattan on April 27, 2009, aged 94.