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One morning in 1929, Frankie Manning–then only fifteen–was walking through Harlem on his way to Sunday school. Passing the Alhambra Ballroom, he made a decision to take dance classes that would change swing forever. Known as the Ambassador of the Lindy Hop–the exuberant style born in Harlem–Frankie Manning is remembered as the first person to take swing from the dancefloor to the air above it. Today’s doodle by Nate Swinehart celebrates Frankie Manning’s acrobatic, powerful style, in which his partners were flipped and spun to the emphatic horns of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and others.
The Lindy Hop and Manning’s aerial flourishes became wildly popular, and Manning himself performed the dance in several 40’s era movies. He also served in WWII, toured South America and the UK with his troupe, The Congaroos, performed the Lindy for King George VI, and won a Tony Award for his choreographic work on the Broadway musical Black and Blue.
Frankie Manning often described the dance as a “series of three-minute romances.” Here’s to the Ambassador on what would have been his 102nd birthday, and his role in creating for countless people–even if it lasted only three minutes–a moment that transcended the world around them.