Frankie95 Highlights & Observations Pt II

Part two of my Frankie Manning’s 95th Birthday Festival recap. Again just a few grammatical edits.  You can see a compilation of videos from Thursday night here on my site.    This note was originally posted on June 8, 2009.

The week of the event, I pretty much hit the ground running when I got in on Wednesday. I arrived in NYC by bus a little after 1 pm, checked into my hotel and then got a text that some people were starting a meeting at 2 pm in the Manhattan Center. It was off to the races.

It kept going that day until about 3 am. I should have taken a cue from Chester Whitmore who I caught napping during our first and last all hands staff meeting that night. I was impressed by his ability to doze off, be awakened by a question directed at him, and then promptly fall back asleep when attention went on to something that didn’t concern him. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that luxury because everything concerned me.

The Hammerstein Ballroom about midnight on Wednesday night, sans dance floor and fancy light and sound equipment. Waiting for almost 2000 dancers to be inside of it.

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Echoes of a Revolution

In 1965, long before coming to Capitol Hill, future Congressman John Lewis led 600 people on a march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama to question Governor George C. Wallace’s role in subverting black voting rights in his state.  Wallace is the same man who less than a year before famously declared “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

Having already been beaten several times from participating in the Freedom Rides and numerous other marches throughout the South, Lewis crossed Edmund Pettus Bridge into a wall of state troopers.  So bent on conflict, those officers had already donned their gas masks and had their billy clubs at the ready.  They had every intention of kicking Lewis’s ass.  Not only did he and the marchers keep going forward to meet them, but they did so with no intention of fighting back.

Congressman Lewis still bears scars from that day now remembered as Bloody Sunday.

The role of the song in that video in that powerful moment is one of many stories retold in the documentary Soundtrack of a Revolution whose main focus is the role of music during the Civil Rights movement.  Seems like music would be a minor thing within that epic struggle against institutionalized prejudice and hate, but this film illustrates how it was an important thread that bound people together in a time when they couldn’t afford stand alone. Read the rest of this entry »

Frankie95 Highlights and Observations Pt. I

This is a re-posting of what started out as a lengthy re-cap of Frankie Manning’s 95th Birthday Festival that turned into a public catharsis on Facebook as a series of Notes last summer. Astute readers will note that I appropriated a chunk of my unpublished note for this one. I’m not changing anything other than some minor grammatical edits to make me look like a better writer than I am, so if you’ve already read it, then rest assured, there’s no surprise twist ending in this version.    This first note was originally posted on June 8, 2009.

I actually started writing notes after the first time I went up to New York City for meetings, but then Frankie passed away. The possibility of something happening before the event was always in the back of our minds. During our April 20th meeting in NYC, Frankie had been admitted into the hospital. At one point I caught myself considering various contingencies, but stopped. The idea just seemed too overwhelming not to mention too morbid to consider at the time. Read the rest of this entry »

Prologue: Thank you, Frankie

You can’t control Falling in Love.  That’s where the Falling part comes in, and why everything that comes after that can be so beautiful or so tragic.  Sometimes both and maybe even at the same time.  Falling is uncontrollable.  If it could be controlled, then it would be Flying.

Flying is how some of the old timers describe the way Frankie Manning danced.  Flying is also what superheroes do.  Frankie probably would have laughed off that comparison, but it’s a better description than you would think. After all, heroes give us Hope.

Hope is about possibilities and opportunities.  There are now thousands of people around the world that can express themselves in a way that should have disappeared decades ago because Frankie taught them to Swing.

Swing is the way your Soul expresses itself.   It’s not just about music or movements.   Swing about creating something new or different out of something familiar.  Frankie once bragged that he could Swing even when he was standing still.

But when we Swing too hard or Hope for too much, sometimes we Fall.  It felt like that a year ago.  But that was Frankie’s final lesson to us:  that Falling isn’t always a bad thing.    A year ago, something tragic eventually turned into something very beautiful.

Flying is not the opposite of Falling.  It’s just another way of doing it differently.

Frankie Manning

May 26, 1914 – April 27, 2009

Flashback with Ramona Staffeld: Dancing with Frankie

This is the second installment of a special feature that I’m doing with Ramona Staffeld. We’re looking at some very old school clips of her past performances and getting her reactions.   The first one was from the 1998 American Lindy Hop Championships.  This one is Ramona dancing with Frankie Manning at Midsummer’s Night Swing at Lincoln Center.  Everything after the video below is written by her with a few hopefully helpful edits from me.   Enjoy!

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Frankie95 Review: The Warm-Up

I am in the process of re-posting a series of notes I originally put up on Facebook recapping my involvement with Frankie Manning’s 95th Birthday Festival. I wasn’t planning posting the following note, but as I was preparing this series, I noticed that there’s some interesting background bits that I thought may be useful to know to give what comes later a little more context. This was originally posted on March 30, 2009 entitled:

An Unofficial and Very Vague Frankie 95 Update

A few people have questions about what’s happening with Frankie’s 95th Birthday Festival. To be honest, there aren’t that many answers. Or at least few that I can give publicly.

It’s become cliché to call this the biggest Lindy Hop event “eva,” but it’s very apropos. It’s a big, huge beast with a lot of moving parts dependent on other parts, some of which are not in place yet.

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Weekend Video Update

What do you call a one man flash mob?  Canadian.

Relax.  It’s the weekend.

Bonus:  Check out this sweet routine from an event called Shuffle The House from a few weeks ago in, I think, Switzerland.

Bonus 2:  A nice two woman Charleston routine from Portugal by Diana Rocha and Abeth Farag.  According to an earlier version of this routine, it was partially choreographed by Nina Gilkenson.

Weekly Video Review: The Kids Are Alright

April is getting pretty crazy with all the cool videos coming out. I’ve posted quite a bunch of videos from far off lands, but I wanted to spotlight a few American ones that have come out in the past few weeks. They all happen to be college teams, and are a nice look at the next generation of Lindy Hop.

Hoosier Hot Shots


From this year’s Hawkeye Swing Festival. I appreciate the little pop up note telling us that the dancer that hurt herself is alright. To that dancer: Pain only reminds us that we’re alive.  Congrats on first place.  Hoosier Hot Shots, we salute you.

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Random DCenes: A Good Day

North Side of the US Capitol in Russell Senate Park this afternoon by the reflecting pool at the end of North Capitol Street.

She’s in a strapless wedding dress with a long flowing train that she’s holding bunched up in her hands so it doesn’t touch the ground.   She’s flanked by three of her girlfriends casually dressed in shirts and jeans.  One of them falls behind as she checks her camera.

He’s in a tuxedo.  White tie and white vest.  He jogs up ahead of the group a few steps, jumps up onto and richochets off of a park bench into a heel click.  He tries to keep walking like nothing happened, but looks and smiles back at the soon to be bride.

The friend with the camera figures something out and yells something in Korean as she runs to catch up with the rest of the group.

Frankie95 Lost Prequel: Into the Maelstrom

I’m going to be re-posting my lengthy re-cap of Frankie95 over the next few weeks. I originally posted it on Facebook as a series of Notes, so there’s a chance you’ve already read it. If not, or if you just want to relive the pain and glory, you’ll get your chance soon.

I going to start off with a Note that I never got around to posting. Some of it will seem familiar since I appropriated parts for one of my notes I did post. Originally written about a crazy day I had on April 20, 2009. At the time it was pretty exciting, but Frankie’s passing right before I posted it put things into perspective. Nonetheless, here it is a year later.

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