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A LIVING LINDY HOP LEGEND
LIVING LINDY LEGEND
Wondering what's lindy? It's Lindy Hop, the oldest
version of swing dancing. Now what does that have to do with salsa?
Believe it or not, those two dances are cousins as both salsa beats and
lindy hop originated in the African and African-American community
respectively. Besides, Evan, The SalsaCrazy, asked for it for his site even
before it was written. You'll understand why when you read it.
Also, if you ever felt that your salsa routines lack improvisation,
spontaneity, creativity and special bond with the music at hand you'll
benefit tremendously from exposure to swing which is emphasizing all these
aspects of dancing, just like jazz music that gave birth to swing. Imagine
the smoothness and sexiness of salsa with versatility and imagination of
swing! Actually, there are a few people who have been trying to bridge
salsa and swing communities for a long time. Contact me for more
If you're a swing fanatic, you probably burn candles for your god: one of
the original creators of Lindy Hop, 87-year old Frankie Manning, LLL (Living
Lindy Legend). If you're like me and never heard the name until you
submerged into the swing scene: no sweat. Lindy hoppers are friendly and
knowledgeable people, and they will gladly tell you all you need to know if
you want to join their ranks.
Last weekend I got lucky. (No, dirty minds, not in that way.) I had a
chance to see and hear the legend himself at the talk and workshop organized
by the NCLS (Northern California Lindy Society), a volunteer organization
devoted to the preservation and popularization of this unique dance form
created in the African-American community.
And what a great event they planned! Friday night, Frankie Manning was
interviewed during "An Evening With Frankie Manning," a talk moderated by a
local swing instructor, Paul Overton, whose witty remarks matched the humor
of his guest. (The event should have been marketed as a comedy show.) The
talk was interspersed with old video clips of Frankie's dancing and even his
recent birthday gift from a devout friend: a video of dancers in various
parts of the US and the world dancing to the same tune. At the end of the
evening we saw "The Lindy Life," a documentary about the Bay Area lindy
community shot by Greta Nash. As a token of recognition from fans all over
the world Frankie Manning was presented with two tickets to Africa where he
plans to teach with one of his sons.
This informative evening held in a beautiful old theater was a great
opportunity to introduce non-dancers and wannabees to this oldest form of
swing dancing as well as to witness the tremendous enthusiasm of its devout
fans who were hanging onto Frankie's every word.
The next two days were dedicated to dancers of various levels and interests
with back-to-back workshops at the Lake Merritt Dance Center in Oakland.
Just like his previous workshops, this event was sold-out long before the
application deadline. And I could see why.
Frankie's ability to teach
matches his dancing skills. This octogenarian doesn't have to hop in Lindy
Hop. His incredible musicality transcends levels of difficulty. Moreover,
he breaks it down to individual steps and repeats it often enough so that
even beginners like me could follow his instructions.
In addition to Frankie's workshops, we had an opportunity to learn a few
other dances such as Black Bottom (a variation of Charleston) with Rob and
Diane and the original Charleston with Michael and Persephone. The
heart-warmer for me, an avid salsa dancer, was a class taught by Paul and
Sharon where salsa rueda was adapted to swing rhythms and moves. Even the
original Spanish calls were kept unchanged. If you never tried rueda you
don't know what you're missing. The dance originated in Cuba and is
basically perceived as a male bonding ritual. I'll leave it to your
imagination to interpret that statement. Let's just say you get a chance to
switch partners multiple times in one dance.
Kudos to the organizers for their meticulous preparation. Volunteers were
available even to fill the spots for those participants who were missing a
partner. Widely distributed, detailed flyers were informative and easy to
read. The only suggestion here would be to include maps and directions for
the out-of-towners. Also, considering the overwhelming demand, maybe
concurrent workshops could be held in different rooms with sliding
After a full day of workshops, I missed Saturday night dancing for the first
time in three years in order to recuperate for the Sunday workshops. It was
tiring, but, oh so rewarding!
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