When Michelle Dorrance put on her first show as Dorrance Dance in 2011, in a shared evening with Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, a charismatic teenager was featured in both choreographers' works. Critic Gia Kourlas described Caleb Teicher in The New York Times as "a sleek dancer who possesses a beguiling combination of a relaxed upper body with switchblade feet." His appearance won him a Bessie for Outstanding Individual Performance.
The day after the award ceremony, he was back in class—ballet class. His growing reputation as a hot young tap dancer was making Teicher nervous that he would find himself pigeonholed before he had time to explore other options. So, he aggressively pursued anything that would let him be "not a tap dancer."
Dancer/choreographer Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie's background is a melting pot of cultures from all over the world—which you can vividly see reflected in her work. But the recent Harkness Promise Awardee attributes the cross-pollination of genres in her work to more than just her background.
From salsa to the waltz to the Lindy hop, "Dancing with the Stars" has brought 22 seasons of ballroom into viewers' living rooms. While we admit that it's fun seeing celebs show off a newfound skill (like Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson in this Lindy hop routine from a few years back), sometimes the most entertaining—and dare we say skillful—ballroom can be found by digging into the past. Though you may not immediately know his name, chances are you've seen Frankie Manning dance. Not only is he the subject of today's Google doodle, but the dancer and choreographer, who would have been 102 today, has been crowned by many as the ambassador of Lindy hop.
Frankie Manning in 1989. Photo by Bill Cunningham, via nytimes.com.
Manning (1914–2009) was a key figure in the popularization of the energized, rhythmic, thrill-seeking genre and a dynamic fixture at Harlem's historic Savoy Ballroom. He also choreographed and appeared in many movies in the 1930s and '40s, including Keep Punching, Hellzapoppin’ and Killer Diller.
So where have you seen Manning and his work? Surprisingly enough, on FacebookandYouTube. For the last few years, I can't tell you how many times this clip has popped up on my feed after it was shared by dancers and non-dancers alike. Admittedly, I watch it Every. Single. Time. And it never gets old. This Lindy hop scene from 1941's Hellzapoppin' was created by Manning (although he went uncredited), and you can catch him dancing at the 1:22 mark. Before you ask, no, the video playback has not been sped up. The way the dancers attack each lift and turn is unabashed—talk about trusting your partner. And the accelerated footwork and use of momentum are downright impressive.
After you pick your jaw up off the floor, read more about Manning's spirited style and incredible legacy in thesestories from our sister publication Dance Teacher. Happy birthday, Frankie Manning!