Frankie Manning doing a squat Charleston, circa late 1980s.
Photo credit: Ralph Gabriner
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. Since then, he's been 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.
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.