Frankie100: An Amazing Adventure

What an amazing adventure Frankie100 was! I am still on a bit of a high from all of that concentrated happiness.

I first want to thank and congratulate the folks behind the scenes: Mandi Gould, Elliott Donnelley, Sing Lim, Tim Collins, Judy Pritchett, and the many, many others who created an event that was truly a once in a lifetime experience. I honestly don’t know how you pulled off such an intricate and expansive feat.

While I could never capture the amazing weekend at length, here are some highlights I’ll remember for a long time:

Meeting Lots of Diverse and Interesting People

All weekend I had incredible dances with lots of great people: Reid from Calgary, Michel from Montreal, Peter from Perth, and Christian from Atlanta, including a dance to Jeep’s Blues, one of my favorite songs that isn’t played nearly enough. It’s always a pleasure to dance with Simon Selmon from London, Didier Jean-Francois from Montreal, and Josh Lieberman from Seattle. I saw one of the greatest social dancers ever, Angela Andrew, up close as she danced with Marcus Koch and Thomas Blacharz. Then I had my own dance with Marcus. I wish he and Bärbl would come back to L.A. more often.

I met so many amazing people, everywhere I went. En route to the Apollo Theater Thursday night, the New Yorker in me emerged and started directing everyone on the best way to get there by subway. I especially loved meeting the gang from Calgary and Silvia Palazzolo—someone I’ve know electronically for ages—what a thrill it was just to be in her presence. I met the lovely Pippa Tooher—she’s a terrific lead!—and Scott Cupit from London. I also met the sisters from Buenos Aires, Eugenia and Agustina. How wonderful to see all these amazing and varied dancers together in one place and realizing we’re all here for the same reason.

The Show at the Apollo

Chester Whitmore outdid himself with a tremendous show. There were so many memorable moments, but I’ll always remember Norma Miller and her Jazzmen, Dawn’s surprise, nearly everything Steven Mitchell did, the Wiggans’ tap number, and the Classics Club. I also loved the gorgeous girls, Sugar, Barbara, and Angela, who made me get up and dance. There are other highlights but I just can’t remember. Darn, what did I do with my program?

Dancing at the Alhambra

Thursday night, we danced at the Alhambra, an original Harlem-era Ballroom from 1926 that still stands today. This is one of the places where legendary dancers like Frankie Manning and Norma Miller went dancing. To be able to dance in this historic place was truly special and made me feel connected to the earlier generation of swing legends.

Lindy-Bombing the Subway at 125th Street

After the show, about fifty of us went en masse to the 125th Street subway station. Since it was late, we had plenty of time to wait for the train, so someone played some swing music and we all started dancing. What a sight to see gaggles of swing dancers lindying all over the train station. At first, the civilians wondered what was going on and thought maybe it was a flash mob, but then they realized, this is pretty cool. You just can’t keep dancers from dancing!

Our Swing the Doc Screening

On Friday night, I showed 20 minutes of scene selections from the film. It was such a blur that I honestly don’t remember most of it, but I do remember getting a standing ovation! That was so exciting. I’m also so grateful that people came up to me during the weekend and thanked me. It feels so gratifying to know that our hard work is paying off and that the dancers relate to the film so much.

Tim Collins’s One 8 Project

The inventive Tim Collins had the clever idea of filming dancers against a green screen doing one set of eight counts. From a simple swing-out to a more complicated Texas Tommy or a full-blown aerial, dancers could come up one couple at a time and do whatever they wanted in front of the green screen, as long as it was only one count of eight. The trick, however, is that the next couple had to start in the ending place of the couple that went before them. Tim will take all the footage and string it together so that it looks like one big routine being danced by hundreds of people.

I had to get in on this. Multiple times, in fact. I danced it twice with the wonderful Andrew Rozario, and then went back with my friends the DecaVitas and the remarkable Joan Gelin.Rebecka and Emelie went first and they did a crazy move, one that only professionals like the DecaVitas could do, ending with Emelie doing what was practically a split on the floor. This meant that I had to start my eight-count where Emelie finished, in that same position on the floor! Gee, thanks for that, Emelie. What’s worse, as Rebecka pulled me up from the floor, I got dizzy and ended up flying into the green screen wall! That meant that Joan had to start her eight counts plastered up against the wall. What a crazy set of dances. It was not a paradigm of graceful dancing, but it certainly captured the feeling of the lindy hop. I can’t wait to see what Tim does with it.

Were you at Frankie 100 too? I’d love to hear about your experience. I hope you had at least as much fun as I did.