Thursday, May 29, 2014

Frankie 100

I just came back from an extraordinary event, and I wish I better knew how to describe it. Words like awesome, joyful, awe-inspiring, brilliant, energetic, lovely, warm, swingin’, thoughtful and stellar combine to suggest something of what I experienced, but to be thorough I’d need to use more adjectives than you want to read. Honestly, Frankie 100 ranks as one of the most amazing events I can remember ever. The amazingness rests on meticulous and inspired organization, the reverent memory of a man who seemed to love everybody and elicited great love in return, and over 2,000 gregarious and talented dancers from around the world. The event, Frankie 100, celebrated the hundredth birthday of a man named Frankie Manning, who played a big role in the beginnings of the dance called Lindy hop and went on to play an even bigger role in its resurgence.

The organizers did a superb job. Most importantly, they nailed a few key points. First, they never let us forget the best aspects of Frankie’s character and encouraged us to treat each other by those same standards. Second, they gave us great dance music and an adequate dance floor. Third, they arranged lots of social and cultural activities for smaller groups outside of the main evening events. Beyond this, they filled in a host of administrative and logistical details so that attendees, even those with poor English skills, could focus on having a good time without fretting over how to do it.

In turn, the attendees came prepared to have a good time and to help their fellow dancers have an equally good time. I danced with quite a few extraordinary dancers, people with exceptional skills and expertise. Naturally, I learned from many of them. And in spite of any skill imbalance when I danced with teachers and performers, they shared the joy of dance and the pleasure of partnership. Sometimes I danced with beginners too, and took pleasure in the opportunity to experience the music and the dance in ways that they could follow. But I felt pretty fortunate there, that everybody in the room knew something about Lindy hop and I only met one or two complete beginners. It was a big event, and it drew a committed crowd.

Since I returned home, I’ve enjoyed seeing some of the chatter on the Frankie 100 Facebook page. Lots of others share my sense that we participated in something extraordinary, something never to be repeated in the same way. We will do other things to remember Frankie Manning and his legacy in the coming years, but I expect that future events will be more local. This year, however, we formed a global community of love and we’re going to remember it for the rest of our lives.

Photo by Tim Gee, used by permission

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