FRANKIE MANNING – THE MAN WHO GAVE
Have you ever given a present to a child and seen their face light up, have you helped someone overcome a problem and seen joy in their eyes? Whatever you do, be it sailing, skydiving, ski-ing, anything you love, anything you’re good at then it’s wonderful to be able to give something back. There’s a great joy in that.
Frankie was a dancer, maybe the greatest Lindy Hop dancer of all time, but that’s a matter of opinion and it’s not the most important thing. That Frankie was a contender for the title greatest swing dancer of all time is a statement few dancers would argue with, if any. I say ‘if any’ because it underlines how Frankie brought people together. Frankie put back more than most people can dream of giving. I hope and believe that he felt that joy of giving every time he looked around himself at all the people he helped, all the people he inspired. And he must have, because the thing I remember most about Frankie is his laugh, his so deep, so rich, so infectious, so joyous laugh.
I’m feeling very sad this morning, having just learned that Frankie has passed away a few weeks shy of his ninety fifth birthday. I honestly thought he’d be with us for years yet, he seemed so fit. So much we take for granted. I know we should celebrate his life and what a life. Frankie didn’t just teach dance, oh no. Frankie has left us his words on video and on paper and his comments about how life was for him about racism and how he dealt with it are as inspirational as the joy he gave us on the dance floor and through his lessons. That he toured with the great Billie Holiday and lived to see Barack Obama inaugurated as President of the United States are just two of the many things that remind us of the incredible changes the world has been through in Frankie’s ninety plus years.
I feel very privileged to have had about a dozen lessons with Frankie at various dance camps, to have listened to his talks, I won’t say lectures because they were too entertaining for that particular epithet and of course to have met him. Thousands upon thousands of dancers have shared these experiences, because that’s what Frankie did, he gave and he gave and he gave. When the grief and sadness passes, that joy will return because Frankie, more than anyone, helped to create the wonderful society of swing dance. We will continue to dance and laugh together, because that’s Frankie’s legacy to us. The Lindy Hop community is a greater memorial than any plaque or statue because it’s what Frankie created, it’s what he gave to us.
Frankie Manning 1914-2009 The Man Who Gave