Swing New Jersey!

Monday, May 11, 2009

My recollections of The Legendary Frankie Manning (1914-2009)

Frankie knew my boys when they were little and running around in all directions. Besides talking about lindy moves during our phone conversations he would always ask me about my boys. This year I will miss his Mother's Day card.

Frankie was a special person whose smile always meant a lot to me. A real smile with a lot of acceptance. I remember his reaction at the Roseland Ballroom where he was celebrated (and his dancing shoes kept); a comment arose about past prejudice at the same establishment and how graciously his spirit handled that moment. That moment spoke greatly for me. I also remember being with him as we parked the car before dinner and I asked him of his thoughts had he simply carried out his life in the post office. I remember how introspectively and joyously he answered saying that no matter what he was doing he would have had a good time.

I performed for Frankie on a couple of occassions, at the Roseland Ballroom for his 85th Birthday Bash and in Tokyo for his 86th Birthday Event. Roseland was fun and huge but I remember seeing Frankie's big smiling face in Tokyo as my partner and I were performing his choreography and how enthusiastically he received us afterward. It was thrilling. I also had the priviledge of performing with Frankie as his partner as he was rythmically scating or in a group as he kept all of his humming.

I remember Frankie poking fun at the gymnast from Montclair but I also remember how he exclaimed to the performance group after I did an aerial "Now that's how it should be done!". From the guy who performed the first aerial at the Savoy to thunderous applause!

It was such a treat to honour Frankie at our Jersey bOunce in 2006 and that he gave his thumbs up for the Jersey Bounce line dance. I spoke to him a lot before I started choreographing this piece and he was encouraging and listened. My students worked hard that semister to perform for him and when we brought him in the center of the circle to recognize him he just started dancing.

I remember speaking to Frankie on the phone numerous times and even though he was going through hip problems and a heavy world travelling schedule he never complained. At these times he spoke softly and listened, being as sharp as a whistle.

Throughout the years I have seen the reaction of so many to Frankie's outright charm and energy. Young, dapper and loved to the end. We will miss him.

Photo taken before we performed when Frankie humoured the audience as he told them that he heard I had a dance studio and was thinking of taking lessons.

Simone Coonrod

Swinging with Simone


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