Lindy Hop Pioneer Dies
Frankie "Musclehead" Manning, 94, a Harlem dancer and Tony Award-winning choreographer who became widely celebrated as one of the pioneers of the "Lindy Hop," a breathlessly acrobatic swing dance style of the 1930s and 1940s, died April 27 at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital of pneumonia.
Mr. Manning became a star attraction of the Savoy ballroom in Harlem starting in the mid-1930s. Ebullient and effortlessly nimble, Mr. Manning helped define the Lindy Hop by inventing the "air step" move that included hoisting and flipping a female partner so she shoots over the male's head.
Mr. Manning was recruited to join Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, a dance performance team that appeared in Hollywood movies such as "Hellzapoppin' " (1941). Here's a dazzling example of his work, with Mr. Manning in overalls:
In 1989, Mr. Manning teamed with other dance legends Fayard Nicholas, Cholly Atkins and Henry LeTang to choreograph the musical revue "Black and Blue," which ran two years on Broadway. All the choreographers shared the Tony that year. Mr. Manning went on to compose dance steps for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Spike Lee film "Malcolm X," in which he taught the Lindy Hop to actor Denzel Washington.
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