Contact: Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189
April 28, 1995
Frankie Manning to Perform
Legendary Dancer Invented "Jitterbug" Air Steps in 1935
Frankie Manning, a highly influential and inventive dancer credited with introducing acrobatic "airsteps" to the "Lindy Hop" dance style of Harlem's Savoy Ballroom in the 1930s, will perform on the Neptune Plaza of the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, First and Independence Ave. S.E., on Thursday, May 18, from noon to 1 p.m. The event is sponsored by the American Folklife Center and is open to the public. The rain location is the Mumford Room, sixth floor, Madison Building. Performing with Mr. Manning to the music of "Brooks Tegler's Hot Jazz" will be Mickey Davidson, Debbie Williams, and Charles Young.
Still an active and energetic dancer at age 80, Mr. Manning's dance career began in the 1930s, when he innovated the dance craze known as the "Lindy Hop," or "Jitterbug," by throwing his partner into the air and catching her. In more recent times, he won a Tony for his work on the Broadway musical "Black and Blue" and later worked on dance sequences for Spike Lee's film "Malcolm X."
Mr. Manning was a dancer and chief choreographer for the original "Whitey's Lindy Hoppers," the professional Lindy Hop troupe organized in 1934 by Herbert "Whitey" White, a bouncer at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom. He performed in several films, including "Everybody Sing," with Judy Garland and "Hellzapoppin'," before going on to tour the world with jazz greats Ethel Waters, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Cab Calloway, among others. While dancing in London in 1937, Manning gave a command performance for King George VI. He was featured in a 1943 Life magazine cover story that proclaimed the Lindy Hop "America's national dance" and "this country's only native and original dance form," except for tap dancing.
Whitey's Lindy Hoppers disbanded during World War II, but upon his release from the army in 1947, Frankie formed his own dance troupe, "The Congaroos Dancers." They appeared on the "Milton Berle Show," and toured with Dizzy Gillespie, Tony Bennett, Martha Raye, Nat "King" Cole, and Sammy Davis Jr.
As popular taste turned to rock 'n roll in the 1950s, Mr. Manning settled down to family life. A revival of swing dancing began in the mid-1980s and this renewed interest has sent Mr. Manning throughout the world once again, leading workshops and lectures, and developing choreography for groups such as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, the Jiving Lindy Hoppers (England), The Rhythm Hot Shots (Sweden) and New York's Big Apple Lindy Hoppers, for whom Manning serves as artistic director and chief choreographer.
Frankie Manning has said, "I'm not interested in fame and glory, it's just that I would like others to know what a happy dance this is."
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