And We’re Back

Posted by laura on May 02 2009 | Awesome, Dance

Thank you for standing by – we were experiencing some time management difficulties out here this past week, and although I don’t really like to point fingers, it’s all Harry Potter’s fault. You see, Honey is 8 and a half, and it seemed like she was in a good spot to try the early books, with the explicit understanding that we would not be reading all of them – I believe that it’s worth the wait to grow with this particular series if you start at her age. I, however, took it upon myself to read ahead so that we’d know when to stop, and that was my downfall. These books should come with some kind of surgeon general’s warning about their addictive properties and guaranteed disruption of workflow. The good news is I just closed book seven last night and I can head into detox now. The bad news is I just closed book seven last night and it’s over. Those books are some serious fun, and the writing is terrific. 

We were sitting around the table one day this week, talking about the books. I mentioned that Claire and I had a quick chat about what a great writer J.K. Rowling is, and Honey suddenly came out with, “It’s amazing that she has that gift!” She paused and added, “I have the gift of making great plans  - and then forgetting them!” Looks like someone isn’t headed for Ravenclaw house, if you know what I mean. I actually asked her that the other day – which house would she like to be in, if she got to go to school with the characters – and she wasn’t sure. I thought certainly she’d say “Gryffindor,” since the heroes of the book were in that house. But she said, “I don’t know. Not Slytherin. Maybe Hufflepuff – they have a great name, and they’re really kind.” And that is one of the things that I really love about that girl. She doesn’t seem to have the need to go with the cool thing. She still trusts her instinct over appearance, and I’m trying to figure out how I can help her keep that as long as possible. Is it something I can even help with? I think maybe my goal might be more like trying not to interfere with that trait for as long as possible.

The dance community took a hit this week - Frankie Manning died on Monday. For those of you who didn’t know him, Frankie was one of the original Lindy Hoppers from Harlem – an extraordinary man and a truly phenomenal dancer. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with him over the years when I was doing a lot of swing dancing. He was witty, kind, innovative and fun. His stories about the Savoy were ones you just could never forget. He’d talk about walking up the stairs to the ballroom, the quickening of his pulse as he’d hear the music, the way the whole floor would be bouncing under the movement of all those dancers, and his whole face would shine.

Here’s another thing – Lindy is like any subject, and the people who fancy themselves good at it can bring an equal amount of talent and ego to the conversation. During a dance, they’ll be testing your vocabulary, throwing out complicated phrases to see how you react, and scanning the room the whole time for observers or subsequent partners. I only had a few dances with Frankie myself, but I was amazed to discover that he paid as much attention to me as I did to him. He didn’t dumb down his conversation or stop being funny and smart with his movement, but he really seemed to care about what I had to say about the music or the phrase. He taught me a great deal about listening.

Here’s a scene from Hellzapoppin’ that shows some crazy Lindy Hopping – Frankie is the one in the overalls. If you’re like me, this clip will leave you feeling like you need a sit down and perhaps an oxygen tank…



Frankie could do all that crazy dancing – he invented some of it for crying out loud – but he’d start his advanced classes with the basic Lindy turn, because it all came back to the basics for him. It was quality of movement, integration with the music, and connection with your partner. Here’s to Frankie, then, for showing us all how it’s done.

1 comment for now

One Response to “And We’re Back”

  1. Sam

    I got to dance with him once in a class in Ithaca. Even in the middle of teaching, he was able to make me feel like the only dancer in the room…He was the most gracious man.

    03 May 2009 at 6:12 am

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