Happy Birthday, Frankie!

What else is there to say?  This is from Frankie’s 88th Birthday Celebration in 2002.

My favorite DC memory of him where he took us to school.  In the midst of an improvised Big Apple during a jam, he jumps up out of his chair from the sidelines, stops the presses and shows the kids how its done.

And my favorite “new” video of him with his son Chazz Young.  I don’t get tired of watching this.

Learn more about him at his official website: www.FrankieManning.com

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Frankie95 Highlights and Observations Pt. IX

Almost there.  Part nine of my Frankie Manning’s 95th Birthday Festival recap.  Technically the end, but I’m going to add a couple other notes after this, including one that should have been at the beginning.  You can see a compilation of all videos from the weekend here on my site.    This note was originally posted on July 8, 2009.

I’d like to say I decompressed on the ride back, but I just sat on the train and stewed, making myself angrier. I started writing a summary of my weekend experiences, but that turned into a litany of threats, culminating in a step by step plan to take on everyone I held responsible for pissing me off. I was pretty much prepared never to step into another Lindy Hop dance again, but fortunately a few people stepped in to pull me from the edge.

Skye gave me a call while I was on the train. We only had a chance to chat very briefly at the event, but he knew I was upset. He had an interesting take on things. Among his observations was his thought it was a good thing that the event was big enough to absorb individual people’s bulls#!t without messing it up for everyone else too much. Read the rest of this entry »

Frankie95 Highlights and Observations Pt. VIII

Part eight of my Frankie Manning’s 95th Birthday Festival recap. In addition to a few grammatical edits, I’ve added a video of the last jam that was uploaded after my video recaps were done last year.  You can see a compilation of videos from Monday here on my site.    This note was originally posted on July 8, 2009.

I think I got the most sleep all weekend on Monday morning; about 4 hours worth. Then it was back to 424 W 34th street. We cleared that space of regular workshops and decided to schedule the rest of our presentations there.

Sakarias Larsson and Peter Loggins trade tap steps on Monday morning in front of the Manhattan Center while waiting for rides to their respective classes.

We started off with a showing of a short documentary that dancers Tim Collins and Malou Meyenhofer put together to go with their Shim Sham submission. They both currently live in India where they teach dance. Read the rest of this entry »

Frankie95 Highlights and Observations Pt VII

Part seven of my Frankie Manning’s 95th Birthday Festival recap with a few grammatical edits from the original.  You can see a compilation of videos from Sunday here on my site.    This note was originally posted on June 24, 2009.

The rest of Sunday evening went pretty smoothly.

Sitting through the Jack & Jill semi-finals reminded me why these things are usually scheduled in the afternoon of most events. We were originally supposed to do it right after the show and before the bands took the stage to give people time to go eat dinner or otherwise freshen up. Unless you’re in it, prelims and semi-final dance contest rounds aren’t the most riveting things to watch. Thanks to Joel Domoe, Aurelie & Tony Tye and our DJ, Ryan Swift for moving things along as quickly as possible.

We were incredibly fortunate to be working with Jonathan Stout and Paul Cosentino that night. I usually get the impression from most bands that they feel like they’re slumming when they play a swing dance. However, Jonathan and Paul genuinely love playing for dancers, and they were incredibly accommodating for all the delays and changes that happened that evening. They were super generous by giving up playing time so everything could be done in a reasonable time. Read the rest of this entry »

Frankie95 Highlights and Observations Pt. VI

Part six of my Frankie Manning’s 95th Birthday Festival recap with BONUS found footage of the Hellzapoppin recreation from the Sunday Show in addition to the regular grammatical edits from the original post.  You can see a compilation of the rest of the videos from Sunday here on my site.    This note was originally posted on June 23, 2009.

I grabbed a radio and headed upstairs to check out how everything was progressing. That’s when I found out that we were in more trouble than at any other time in the festival.

It was a little before 6:00 pm, our scheduled time to open the house for everyone to get their seats, and the Frankie Show crew had not made much more progress from where I had left them a couple hours earlier on my printer quest. I figured that the house doors would be delayed in opening, but no one knew for how long. 20 minutes? Half an hour? Longer? They were still figuring it out. Read the rest of this entry »

Frankie95 Highlights and Observations Pt. V

Part five of my Frankie Manning’s 95th Birthday Festival recap with a few grammatical edits from the original.  You can see a compilation of videos from Saturday and on Sunday here on my site.    This note was originally posted on June 23, 2009.

George Henik reminded me that the Saturday night didn’t end with the live music. Anyone paying attention will note that the Saturday late night was the only time when we featured an extended DJ set. The reason was simply because we didn’t want to put the pressure on musicians to try to follow the show that preceded it that night. However, I think we left the night in the good hands of Jesse Miner and Rayned Wiles.

They kept the crowd going so well that they didn’t want to stop dancing even after they left the ballroom after 4:00 am. This was obviously not late enough for the 100+ dancers who loitered in front of the Manhattan Center until someone got the bright idea to just start clapping hands and get everyone dancing again. Read the rest of this entry »

Frankie95 Highlights and Observations Pt. IV

Part four of my Frankie Manning’s 95th Birthday Festival recap. Again just a few grammatical edits.  You can see a compilation of videos from Saturday here on my site.    This note was originally posted on June 11, 2009.

You would think everything would have gotten easier after we settled into the Hammerstein Ballroom, our home for the last half of the event, but not so much. Read the rest of this entry »

Frankie95 Highlights and Observations Pt. III

Part three of my Frankie Manning’s 95th Birthday Festival recap. In addition to some grammatical edits, I also added a bonus video at the end.   You can see a compilation of videos from the Friday daytime activities and the Friday Night activities here on my site.    This note was originally posted on June 8, 2009.

On Friday we did it all over again because we had to move everything from the Grand Ballroom to the Hammerstein Ballroom downstairs. Unfortunately, that meant that I had to skip out on the memorial service and the dance at Central Park. It was a tough decision especially after David had detailed the line up to me earlier in the week. The speaker and musical guest list was loaded, a testament to Frankie’s influence.

How many memorial services have a warm up band consisting of Count Basie alumni like Benny Powell and Frank Weiss? Major props to Lana Turner for putting that memorial service together along with the funeral just a few weeks previous.

I consider this memorial one of the main pillars of the event. I hope everyone who could was able to attend. For my part, after the near mishaps from the day before, I thought it would be wise for one of us to be on site to trouble shoot problems. 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

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