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Invaluable lessons from Frankie Manning

Posted by: Gareth   on:  08/06/2015   Category: advice-tips

Frankie Manning at the age of 91 shows how it's done!





Watching this video of Frankie Manning, one of the founders of swing dance in the early 1930s, you can learn a lot about how to make dance look great! He was 91 years old at the time.

The critical things we notice apply equally to many forms of free-style dance. That certainly includes Rock ‘n’ Roll.

First, Frankie is not trying to do too much. He uses moves sparingly. Unlike a lot of dancers who think they look good by ‘busting’ moves continually, he is keeping his moves to a minimum. That way he conserves energy and doesn’t risk the dance getting out of control or looking rushed.

Secondly, he is working the girl into position before he makes a move. He doesn’t risk the girl entering a move from an awkward position, when she doesn’t have sufficient time or when her balance may go awry. These are common mistakes made by beginners.

Thirdly, he lets the girl be a dancer in her own right. He controls the moves, but allows her to perform them for herself. Failure to do this makes the dance look rough on the part of both the man and the woman. Frankie doesn’t restrict the girl’s dancing. Watch his hands at 3:37 when the double spin is performed. He controls the spin mainly with his middle finger, allowing the girl to rotate freely at her own speed.

Comparing Frankie to the people in the background, many of them know the moves and are reasonable dancers, but they don’t have the style or charm that he puts into his performance. Perhaps a lot of that comes down to sheer volume of practice, but to my eyes there is one unmistakable difference – Frankie looks extremely relaxed.

I consider that to be the single most important factor that makes free-style dance look great. By failing to relax, you lose the ability to dance smoothly and flow with the music. Crucially, you sacrifice the ability to read each other accurately. This contrasts starkly against structured dance where the partners at least know which move comes next. A tense man will find it hard to give clear signals in the fraction of a second available. A tense lady will find it difficult to read signals no matter how clear they are.

Relax and shine!




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