Frankie Manning: 
Ambassador of Lindy Hop

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Frankie Manning doing a squat Charleston, circa late 1980s.
Photo credit: Ralph Gabriner

Frankie Manning
Biographical Overview

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

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

Upon 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 and motion, 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) and dozens of news programs (including a profile on ABC's 20/20).

Considered the world's leading authority on the lindy, 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.

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Timeline

1914  Born on May 26 in Jacksonville, Florida.
1926  Savoy Ballroom opens at Lenox Avenue and 140th Street in Harlem.
1933  First ventures to Savoy Ballroom.
1934  Invited by Herbert "Whitey" White to join elite group of Savoy Lindy hoppers.
1935  Introduces the first Lindy air step, over-the-back.
          Introduces "stops" and synchronized ensemble lindy routines.
1936  Whyte's Hopping Maniacs appear in downtown reopening of the Cotton Club.
1937  Whitey's Lindy Hoppers appear in A Day at the Races (uncredited).
1938  Whitey's Hopping Maniacs appear in Radio City Revels (uncredited).
1939  Arthur White's Lindy Hoppers appear in Keep Punching.
1941  Congeroo Dancers appear in Hellzapoppin'.
          Whitey's Lindy Hoppers appear in Hot Chocolate ("Cottontail") with Duke Ellington.
1943  Inducted into Army. Serves in New Guinea, the Philippines, and Japan.
1947  FM's new group, the Congaroo Dancers, debuts at Roxy Theatre.
1948  Four Congaroos appear in Killer Diller.
1955  Disbands the Congaroo Dancers.
          Goes to work for the U.S. Postal Service.
1958  Savoy Ballroom closes.
1986  Begins teaching career by agreeing to work with Erin Stevens and Steven
          Mitchell.
1987  Retires from the post office.
1989  Wins Tony Award for Best Choreography for Black and Blue with Cholly Atkins,
          Henry LeTang, and Fayard Nicholas.
1992  Serves as consultant/performer in Spike Lee's film Malcolm X.
          Serves as assistant choreographer/performer with Norma Miller in Debbie
          Allen's Stompin' at the Savoy.
1994  Receives NEA Choreographers' Fellowship.
1999  Performs in PBS special, Swinging' with Duke, featuring the Lincoln Center
          Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.
2000  Receives NEA National Heritage Fellowship.
          Appears in Ken Burns's documentary, Jazz.
2007  Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop is published.
2009  Frankie Manning passes away.
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