Frankie Manning

Frankie Manning (May 26, 1914 – April 27, 2009)[1] was an American dancer, instructor, and choreographer. Manning is considered one of the founders of Lindy Hop, an energetic form of the jazz dance style known as swing.

Frankie Manning
Manning in 2008
Born(1914-05-26)May 26, 1914
DiedApril 27, 2009(2009-04-27) (aged 94)
Resting placeWoodlawn Cemetery
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
Other namesFrank Manning
"Muscle head" Manning
OccupationChoreographer, dancer
ChildrenChazz Young
Marion Manning
Frankie Manning Jr.
AwardsTony Award for Best Choreography
1989 Black and Blue


Manning was born in 1914 in Jacksonville, Florida. After his parents separated at the age of 3, he moved to Harlem with his mother, who was a dancer.

Manning began dancing as a child. Manning's mother sent him to spend summers with his father, aunt and grandmother on their farm in Aiken, South Carolina. On Saturdays, farmhands and locals would come to the farm to play music on the front porch with harmonicas and a washtub bass. Manning's grandmother encouraged Frankie to dance with the others.[2]

In October 1927, Manning attended the Renaissance Ballroom & Casino.[3] Watching from the balcony, he was surprised to see his mother dancing formal ballroom styles such as foxtrot and waltz, having only seen her dance before in a much looser and casual style at neighborhood rent parties. [4] Manning started listening to records on a Victrola in his bedroom and would practice dancing with a broom or a chair. When he was older, he started going to Harlem's Savoy Ballroom, the only integrated ballroom in New York. He frequented the Savoy in the 1930s, eventually becoming a dancer in the elite and prestigious "Kat's Corner," a corner of the dance floor where impromptu exhibitions and competitions took place. During a dance contest in 1935, Manning and his partner, Frieda Washington, performed the first aerial in a swing dance competition against George Snowden, the inventor of the term Lindy Hop, and his partner, Big Bea. The airstep he performed was a "back to back roll" and was danced while Chick Webb played "Down South Camp Meeting" at Manning's request.


In 1935, Herbert White organized the top Savoy Ballroom Lindy Hop dancers into a professional performance group that was eventually named Whitey's Lindy Hoppers. Manning created the troupe's first ensemble routines and functioned as the group's de facto choreographer, although without that title. The troupe toured extensively and made several films. While with Whitey's, Manning danced with Norma Miller, who became known as the Queen of Swing. Whitey's Lindy Hoppers disbanded around World War II when many of the male dancers entered the armed forces. Manning himself served in the U.S. Army.[5] After the war, in 1947, Manning created a small performance group called the Congaroos. When the Congaroos disbanded in 1955, Manning quietly settled into a career with the United States Postal Service.

Return to Lindy Hop

In 1982, Al Minns, a former member of Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, started to teach Lindy Hop at the Sandra Cameron Dance Center. Before he died in 1985, he told his students that Manning, another surviving member of Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, also lived in New York City.

In 1986, dancers Erin Stevens and Steven Mitchell contacted Manning and asked him to teach them the Lindy Hop. Mitchell and Stevens returned to California and helped to spread Lindy Hop to the West Coast and other areas of the U.S. That same year, Lennart Westerlund contacted Manning and invited him to Sweden to work with The Rhythm Hot Shots. Manning traveled to Sweden in 1987 and returned there every year from 1989 onward to teach at the Herräng Dance Camp. Later Manning would also teach Ryan Francois, who would help introduce Lindy Hop to a British audience.

Later years

Once the swing dance and Lindy Hop revival took hold during the late 1980s, Manning taught Lindy Hop around the world, occasionally appearing with Norma Miller. Sometimes, dance workshops returned him to places he had not been in decades. For example, Manning first visited Melbourne, Australia in 1939 to perform at the Princess Theatre. The swing revival and Melbourne's Swing Patrol brought him back again in 2002; it was his first visit to Melbourne in 63 years.[6]

At age 75, Manning co-choreographed the Broadway musical Black and Blue, for which he received a 1989 Tony Award. In 2000, he was a recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, which is the United States' highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.[7]

Manning's autobiography, Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop, written with co-author Cynthia R. Millman, was published by Temple University Press in May 2007. [8]

Manning's annual birthday celebrations attracted dancers and instructors from all over the world. His 80th birthday, in 1994, was commemorated by a weekend-long celebration in New York City; his 85th culminated in a sold-out party at New York's Roseland Ballroom, where a pair of his dance shoes were placed in a showcase along with those of dancers such as Fred Astaire. Dedicated cruises were organized for his 89th and 90th birthdays; for his birthday dances, Manning followed his custom of dancing with one woman for every year of his life. He continued this custom through his 94th birthday.[9]


A resident of Corona, Queens, Manning died in Manhattan on April 27, 2009, aged 94.[1]

He is interred in the Hillcrest Plot at Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York.


Frankie 95

Manning died one month before his 95th birthday. His planned birthday celebration was recast as Frankie95, a celebration of Manning's life, and drew more than 2,000 people from 33 countries. [10]

Frankie Manning Foundation

Proceeds from the five-day Frankie 95 celebration were used to create the Frankie Manning Foundation.[11][12] Its mission is to spread Lindy Hop throughout the world. It seeks to promote projects which are grounded in unity and collaboration, and which enable people of all different backgrounds to participate in the dance.

Frankie 100

Frankie 100 took place in New York City May 22nd to 26th, 2014. The event was described as the largest swing dance event of modern era and brought together over 2,000 dancers from 47 countries to honor Frankie Manning and to name his birthday, May 26th, as World Lindy Hop Day. The festival celebrated the roots and origins of Lindy Hop and Big Band Swing with historic events including the show, Swingin’ Frankie’s Way, at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.


Manning was inducted into the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame in 2009.

On July 4, 2012, a road in the village of Herräng, Sweden, was named after Manning,[13] as a gift from the municipality of Norrtälje for the 30-year jubilee of Herräng Dance Camp.


On May 26, 2016, Google celebrated his 102nd birthday with a Google Doodle.[14]


See also


  1. Monaghan, Terry (April 28, 2009). "Frankie Manning, the Ambassador and Master of Lindy Hop, Dies at 94". The New York Times.
  2. Manning, Frankie; Millman, Cynthia R. (2016). Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop. Temple University Press. p. 35.
  3. Manning, Frankie; Millman, Cynthia R. (2016). Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop. Temple University Press. pp. 25, 26, 27.
  4. Manning, Frankie; Millman, Cynthia R. Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop. pp. 26, 27.
  5. Hinkley, David (April 27, 2009). "Lindy Hop great Frankie Manning dies at 94". Daily News. New York. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
  7. "NEA National Heritage Fellowships 2000". National Endowment for the Arts.
  8. Manning, Frankie; Cynthia R. Millman (2007). Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Temple University Press. p. 79. ISBN 1-59213-563-3.
  9. Friedman, Marilyn (April 30, 2019). "Is Dancing the Kale of Exercise?". The New York Times. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  10. Frankie
  11. Gould, Mandi (September 26, 2015). "LINDY HOP FOR ALL: INTERVIEWS AND ORAL HISTORY OF THE FRANKIE MANNING FOUNDATION". Frankie Manning Foundation.
  12. COLLINS, GLENN (May 22, 2009). "Honoring the Man Who Helped Make the Lindy Hop". The New York Times.
  13. "Local Road Renamed "Frankie Manning Street" in Herrang",, July 4, 2012. Archived April 17, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  14. "Frankie Manning's 102nd birthday". Google. May 26, 2016.
  15. "Frankie Manning: Never Stop Swinging". WNET. Archived from the original on May 24, 2009.
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