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Swing dance balls to celebrate lindy hop legend

Posted on October 17, 2014

swingThousands of dancers – from professionals to absolute beginners – will hit the floor at swing dance balls across the UK from late October to the end of November. The balls celebrate Harlem lindy hop legend, Frankie Manning, who helped spread the popularity of swing dancing throughout the world. 

November has been designated UK Frankie Manning Month by Swing Patrol – the swing dance school BBC Dragons’ Den entrepreneur Deborah Meaden invested in. The timing matches Frankie Manning’s first tour of the UK, which included an appearance at the Royal Command Performance for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937. During his career Frankie Manning performed with jazz greats including Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, as well as appearing in numerous Hollywood films.

The swing dance balls for UK Frankie Manning Month will be the biggest series of swing dance events in the UK. They are organised by Swing Patrol in collaboration with local swing dance groups around the nation and kick off in Birmingham on October 25, before moving onto Manchester on November 1, Bristol on November 14, London on November 15 and Edinburgh on November 28. 

Each swing dance ball is hosted by successful Dragons’ Den entrepreneur and Swing Patrol’s founder, Scott Cupit, who will lead lessons for hundreds of absolute beginners so everyone attending can get into the swing of the evening, even if they’ve never danced a stepswing-2 in their lives. Then Swing Patrol’s professional performers will bust out some of Frankie Manning’s signature moves – including his favourite acrobatic lifts, jumps and flips – to delight the guests. Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalists, the London Gay Big Band, are just one of the bands that the crowds can swing out to as their night progresses with games and dance competitions – with Keds footwear as prizes.

Scott Cupit, managing director of Swing Patrol UK, said, “From ballroom to break dancing, Frankie Manning’s moves have had a massive impact on dance culture. He so impressed Queen Elizabeth in 1937 it’s reported that he was the only performer after the Royal Command Performance to whom she offered a handshake. The Keds-sponsored swing dance balls are an amazing vehicle to share Frankie Manning’s dance mastery and swing music with people that have never set foot on a dancefloor. To anyone even curious about swing I say strictly, ‘Come dancing!'”

During UK Frankie Manning Month, Swing Patrol’s regular classes will focus on teaching Manning’s moves. Scott Cupit will also be giving talks about Frankie Manning, swing music and dancing to jazz music – a pleasure that can elude many jazz fans.

Deborah Meaden, Dragons’ Den panellist and investor in Swing Patrol, said, “Prior to launching UK Frankie Manning Month, Scott showed me how successful his big swing dancing events are. Swing Patrol’s event hosts are charismatic; the teachers run lessons which hundreds of people participate in at once; the performances by Swing Patrol’s dancers are exhilarating; the bands are on fire – and everyone dances, even if they’ve just learned the steps. I have brought friends and family of all ages to these events and, like me, they all get caught up with the atmosphere extremely quickly. The swing dance balls during Frankie Manning Month are going to swing the UK out.”

See www.swingpatrol.co.uk for tickets for the swing dance balls. 

Photographs: Eric Bobrie

 

Nicola Rayner was editor of Dance Today from 2010 to 2015. She has written for a number of publications including The Guardian, The Independent and Time Out Buenos Aires, where she cut her teeth as a dance journalist working on the tango section. Now acting editor of Discover Britain magazine, she continues to dance everything from ballroom to breakdance, with varying degrees of success.

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