World Lindy Hop Day: A.K.A Frankie Manning’s birthday

Jayne BatzofinContributors

The 26th of May is the day we Lindy Hoppers get to give a whole-hearted, joyous, and jazzful thanks to the dance that has been instrumental in our lives. It is a day when I feel most connected with the international community, trusting that at any point along the multiple time zones where Lindy Hop is danced and loved, someone is Shim Shamming in honour of Frankie Manning.

Those of you who don’t know about World Lindy Hop Day and would like to know more about its origin can read this amazing blog by Mary-Anne Slezacek. In a nutshell, the purpose of World Lindy Hop Day is to celebrate and promote Lindy Hop as a living dance and a cultural legacy that has touched so many people’s lives. The day is acknowledged on 26th May in honour of renowned dancer, choreographer and Lindy legend Frankie Manning’s birthday.

So, to celebrate this day and the dance, I reached out internationally to the people who have profoundly inspired and influenced my way of thinking and approaching Lindy Hop*, who have created a space, an opportunity, a playground for my appreciation and love for the art form. I have never met these artists before; I simply admire them across the digital divide and try to emulate their style, their spirit, and their pure joy for the dance. 

I asked the same three questions of each person:

  1. What three words would you use to describe Lindy Hop?
  2. What has Lindy Hop brought into your life?
  3. We know there are no favourites, but… what is your go-to solo jazz move that always manages to find its way into your feet?

To note: I did not edit any of the responses, as I loved the honesty and personality that shone through with each one.

Laura Glaess  | @lauraglaess

Laura Glaess’ YouTube videos have *lit-er-ally* formed the corner stones to my learning Lindy Hop and its deep, deeeeep rich history as an African American dance.

  1. Ok, three words: 1) Community 2)Individuality 3) Extracorporial? The word I want is a word that talks about being of the body while simultaneously extending outside of the body. Three words is not many words. Lindy Hop is real deep, but I did my best.
  2. What has Lindy Hop brought into my life. Like, literally everything. My husband and, therefore, my baby. My sense of purpose. My whole friend group. A wonder for history and culture. My exercise. My rest. My social skills. Everything but my immediate family.
  3. Solo jazz move. Probably… basic Charleston.

Kylie Choi  | @lindyhop_kylie 

I came across Kylie Choi during my 30 days of solo jazzing journey. She is a phenomenal dancer with killer solo jazz technique and transitionary stylings. She constantly sent words or emojis of encouragement during the 30-day challenge, reminding me that Lindy Hop is also about the joy of supporting and affirming others.

  1. Improvisation, freedom, communication.
  2. I’ve become more social with a wider range of people. I find happiness through dancing and jazz.
  3. 1920s Charleston!

Paté Patrice Nassalang | @afrolindyhopper 

If you want a deeper-rooted understanding of the links between solo vernacular jazz and African dances, Paté Patrice Nassalang is the ultimate in imparting this dance genealogy. What a deep fountain of knowledge!

  1. Energetic, joyful, rhythmic.
  2. It brought not just a new way of dancing but a new way of connecting me to the rest of the world culture that’s coming together and Jazzing. It also took me back to roots of jazz which is authentic African dances.
  3. Always Charleston.

Katie Cobalt | @katiecobalt

Katie Cobalt is queer & fabulous, risk-taking and always has a cheeky smile that invites you in. I’m enamoured with her partnered dancing and choreographic routines. She embodies a playfulness that is both goofy yet effortlessly cool!

  1. Lives on a continuum (I know it’s technically 4 words, but two of them are very small). 
  2. Joy, adventure, some of the best friendships I have ever experienced, an appreciation of Black American culture. 
  3. Ugh, definitely Charleston. One day—probably soon, as inspired by this question—I’m going to do a challenge where I’m not allowed to do any Charleston or Charleston variations in solo improv. I feel like it’s almost a default move for me now, and I want to push myself to explore other shapes and ideas. 

Sean Vitale | @cousin_sean

Sean Vitale radiates warmth and embodies an immense spirit of connection and joy in his dances. He is a lead who has the remarkable ability of allowing his followers to shine.  

  1. rebellious, joyous, liberating.
  2. A rich and progressive community of individuals who are seeking betterment in so many areas of life. The creation of art through the embodiment of black American music and dance. An opportunity to be of service in a variety of ways. Lindy Hop is truly the cornerstone of my life right now.
  3. Tacky Annie feels great every time: so much personality.

Latasha Barnes |  @tasha_b_va

LaTasha Barnes is a living Lindy Hop legend, dancing in the past, present, and future continuum. For me, she embodies Lindy Hop in every regard: the personal, performative, and political. You only need to watch one video to understand how this powerhouse embodies the dance form.

  1. Black, Dynamic, Brilliantly Fulfilling
  2. Cultural clarity and affirmation of purpose; and some of the most powerful and generative partnerships, friendships and sources of inspiration I could ever hope for.
  3. Oooh my most frequently manifested step right now is Spank The Baby a la Marie Bryant in Mr. Beebe. (It’s at the end of her feature in that dance number with Harold Nicholas in the musical Carolina Blues) It’s so beautifully shaped and so deeply satisfying to embody – there’s such great tension in the rotation of it that it inspires further exploration of the step, shapes and rhythms within it… It’s just such a pleasure-filled step!

This dance does not live in isolation – it continues to move, shift and grow with the times while constantly harkening back to its historical roots from where it came – its spirit moves in community. Sometimes, at the southernmost tip of Africa, we feel removed from the Lindy Hop scene, but this simple exercise of reaching out to international artists reminds me that we are, indeed, still part of a larger Lindy Hop community. One who takes the time to write back to a complete stranger to share their love for the art form that has shaped their lives. Thank you to everyone who wrote back! If you don’t already, you can follow them at their handles to discover them for yourselves, but be warned: their awesomeness is off the charts!

HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FRANKIE AND THANK YOU.

* Not everyone I reached out to got back to me because it’s festival circuit time/people are busy/I’m an absolute random stranger, and Instagram puts my messages into a big black hole of request despair, never to be read by said artists. However, these artists are drop-dead inspiring, and I would highly recommend you check them out as well! Tyedric Hill, Remy Kouakou Kouame, Helena Kanini Kiiru, Karl Brochard.