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A LIVING LINDY HOP LEGEND

by Maya/Salsaloca

Return to Features, SalsaCrazy.Com

* reprinted courtesy of Northern California Lindy Society".


 
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 information!
 
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 schedules.

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!

Maya/Salsaloca

 

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