THE legendary Savoy Ballroom in New York’s Harlem was the mecca for dancers in the 1930’s and onward where 4,000 dancers nightly lindy hopped to the swinging music of the likes of Chick Webb and Count Basie.
Located on Lenox Avenue, the main thoroughfare through Harlem, the Savoy Ballroom was owned by two white entrepreneurs, Jay Faggen and Moe Gale, and managed by African-American real estate business man Charles Buchanon. Buchanon sought to run a “luxury ballroom to accommodate the many thousands who wished to dance in an atmosphere of tasteful refinement, rather than in the small stuffy halls and the foul smelling, smoke laden cellar nightclubs. . .” (Barbara Engelbert: Swinging at the Savoy).
Unlike other ballrooms at the time – such as the Cotton Club – the Savoy always had a no-discrimination policy. Patrons were judged on their dancing skills, not on the colour of their skins.
One corner of the ballroom was set aside for the professional dancers who gave impromptu exhibitions, demonstrated new steps, and fiercely competed for prizes. One of the leading dancers at the time was Frankie Manning, who with his partner Freda Washington, performed the first lindy hop “aerial” (a flip over the back) in a contest at the Savoy Ballroom in 1935. Manning went on to perform with a professional troupe of dancers for whom he was choreographer, toured widely and appeared in several films. At the age of 72 he cane out of retirement in 1986 to teach the “rediscovered” lindy hop. Frankie Manning died in April 2009 but his achievements as a teacher, dancer and ambassador for the lindy hop are perpetuated by the Frankie Manning Foundation and The Shiny Stockings Ball.
This year the Shiny Stockings Ball will be held in Melbourne on Saturday 25 May in remembrance of Frankie Manning and his contribution to the world’s current obsession with swing dancing. This grand occasion will be held in another stylish 1927-built building, the Thornbury Theatre at 859 High Street Thornbury. Andy Swann and his Savoy Stompers will be playing Frankie’s favourite swing songs all night long, so here’s a very special chance to dance, and to wish Frankie a happy 99th birthday. (born 26 May 1914).
Andy Swann’s all-star, one time only, world class, Savoy style line up of musicians will blow you away….
Eamon Mcnelis, Trumpet/Vocals; Michael McQuaid, Reeds; Jason Downes, Reeds: Stephen Grant, Piano/2nd trumpet; Mark Elton, Bass; Craig Fermanis, Guitar; Andrew Swann, Drums/Vocals.
Doors open at 7.30pm. 8.00pm screening of “Frankie Manning: Never Stop Swinging”. 8.30pm to midnight Andy Swann and his Savoy Stompers. Swing DJs to take the night home.
Tickets: $33 + booking fee pre sale, $45 at door. Bookings
All proceeds from The Shiny Stockings Ball are going to The Frankie Manning Foundation, which runs various programs spreading Lindy Hop around the world along with Frankie’s legacy.
And here to take us out, Chick Webb plays “Stompin’ at the Savoy”.