Friday, April 17, 2015

Frankie Manning's Choreography Of The Shim Sham (Shim Sham Shimmy)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases five videos of Frankie Manning's choreography of the Shim Sham (Shim Sham Shimmy) dance routine. Information about Frankie Manning and information about the Shim Sham are also included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic reasons.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Frankie Manning for his dance legacy. Thanks also to all those who are featured in these videos, the publishers of these videos, and all those who are quoted in this post.

Click for a pancocojams post on the 1939 record "Tain't What You Do" as recorded by the Jimmy Lunceford band. That record has become closely associated with the Shim Sham dance.

Other pancocojams posts that feature Frankie Manning can be found by clicking the Lindy Hop tag or the Big Apple tag that are found below.

"Frankie Manning (May 26, 1914 – April 27, 2009)[1] was an American dancer, instructor and
choreographer. Manning is considered one of the founding fathers of the Lindy Hop.

Manning was born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1914. He moved to Harlem at the age of three, with his mother, who was a dancer. Frankie began dancing as a child, then started attending the early evening dances for older teens at the Renaissance Ballroom. When he was older, he started going to the Savoy, which was for better dancers. He frequented Harlem's Savoy Ballroom in the 1930s, eventually becoming a dancer in the elite and prestigious "Kat's Corner," a corner of the dance floor where impromptu exhibitions and competitions took place. During a dance contest in 1935, Manning and his partner, Frieda Washington, performed the first aerial in a swing dance competition against George "Shorty" Snowden and his partner, Big Bea, at the Savoy Ballroom. The airstep he performed was a "back to back roll" and was danced while Chick Webb played "Down South Camp Meeting," which was Manning's request after having heard the song earlier in the evening. The airstep went flawlessly to the music and astonished the more than 2,000 audience members.

In 1935, Herbert White organized the top Savoy Ballroom lindy hop dancers into a professional performance group that was eventually named Whitey's Lindy Hoppers. Manning created the troupe's first ensemble Lindy Hop routines and functioned as the group's de facto choreographer, although without that title. The troupe toured extensively and made several films. While with Whitey's, Manning also danced with Norma Miller, who became known as the Queen of Swing. Whitey's Lindy Hoppers disbanded around WWII when many of the male dancers were drafted. After the war, in 1947, Manning created a small performance group called the Congaroos. When the Congaroos disbanded in 1955, Manning quietly settled into a career with the United States Postal Service. Some 30 years later Frankie Manning started his second career in dancing: travelling the world as a renowned instructor and inspiratory...

In recent years, Manning's annual birthday celebrations have drawn together dancers and instructors from all over the world....

Before his death in April 2009, Manning had been planning to celebrate his 95th birthday in May 2009 in New York City at a special Lindy Hop dance event over Memorial Day weekend. The event, commonly referred to as Frankie Fest or Frankie 95, proceeded without him but in his memory and gathered dancers and instructors from around the world. In anticipation of the event, dance groups from all over the globe posted more than 160 videos to YouTube of local performances of the Shim Sham (a swing line dance long associated with Manning) as well as many videos of a Savoy-style routine choreographed especially for the Frankie 95 celebration by noted swing dancer and Lindy instructor Peter Strom. On Sunday of Frankie 95, attendees attempted to set three Guinness world records in Central Park, including one for the greatest number of people dancing the Shim Sham simultaneously in one place.

Proceeds from the five-day Frankie 95 celebration were used to create a Frankie Manning Foundation.[4]."...

"The Shim Sham Shimmy, Shim Sham or just Sham originally is a particular tap dance routine and is regarded as tap dance's national anthem.[1] For swing dancers, today it is a kind of line dance that recalls the roots of swing.

In the late 1920s, when Leonard Reed and Willie Bryant were with the Whitman Sisters troupe on the T.O.B.A. circuit, they danced what they called "Goofus" to the tune Turkey in the Straw.[1][2][3] The routine consisted of standard steps: eight bars each of the Double Shuffle, the Cross Over, Tack Annie (an up-and-back shuffle), and Falling Off a Log.[1][3][4]

In early 1930s, the Shim Sham was performed on stage in Harlem at places like Connie's Inn,[3][4] Dickie Wells's Shim Sham Club,[1][3] the 101 Ranch,[5] the LaFayette Theatre,[1] and the Harlem Opera House.[1]

At the end of many performances, all of the musicians, singers, and dancers would get together on stage and do one last routine: the Shim Sham Shimmy. Tap dancers would perform technical variations, while singers and musicians would shuffle along as they were able.[3] For example, in 1931 flash dance act The Three Little Words would close their show at Connie's Inn with the Shim Sham, and invite everyone to join in, "and the whole club would join us, including the waiters. For awhile people were doing the Shim Sham up and down Seventh Avenue all night long," according to Joe Jones.[4]

According to tap dancer Howard “Stretch” Johnson the word "Shim" was a contraction of the term "she-him", a reference to the fact that the female chorus line dancers at the 101 Ranch were played by men.[5]...

There are several variations of "shim sham" choreography. There is the choreography used by Leonard Reed and Willie Bryant, as well as a number of variations by Leonard Reed and others. Other "shim sham" choreographies include ones by Frankie Manning, Al Minns and Leon James (also called the "Savoy Shim Sham"), and Dean Collins....

The Dance
The Shim Sham is 10 phrases of choreography (each phrase lasting four 8-counts), so it does not usually take up an entire song. After the Shim Sham was over, the dancers then would exit either stage left or right, depending on what was agreed upon for that show.

Today in the Lindy Hop scene, once the Shim Sham choreography is over, dancers typically grab a partner and break into lindy hop for the remainder of the song. During this portion of the song, the band or a DJ may call out "Freeze!" or "Slow!" instructing the dancers to either stop where they are or dance slowly, then call out "Dance!" to tell everyone to resumes normal dancing. The Frankie Manning version repeats the basic choreography (replacing each of the break steps with an 8-beat hold), then adds two Boogie Back/Boogie Forward phrases and two Boogie Back/Shorty George phrases to the end of the second repetition of the basic choreography.[9] Only after the final Shorty George is completed do the dancers break into freestyle Lindy Hop.

The Shim Sham goes best with swing songs whose melody lines start on beat eight, as does the choreography. An obvious choice is The Shim Sham Song (Bill Elliot Swing Orchestra), which was written specifically for this dance and has musical effects (e.g., breaks) in all the right places. However, today the Shim Sham — particularly the Frankie Manning version — is danced more often to "'Tain't What You Do (It's The Way That Cha Do It)" by Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra, or "Tuxedo Junction" by Erskine Hawkins. In fact, it is typical now at a Lindy dance party for dancers to start up a Shim Sham whenever "'Tain't What You Do" is played. There is also a recording "Stompin' at the Savoy" with the George Gee band where Manning himself calls out the moves."

These videos are presented in chronological order based on their publishing dates on YouTube with the examples with the oldest dates presented earliest, with the exception of Examples #4 and #5.

Example #1: Shim Sham

Peter Blaskowski Uploaded on Apr 14, 2006

Demo of the classic line dance "Shim Sham", from the instructional video starring Frankie Manning

Example #2: Frankie Manning, Shim Sham


SwingPatrol Uploaded on Oct 2, 2006

Frankie Manning comes to Melbourne and leads 'The Shim Sham', a Lindy Hop 'stroll', at the Swing Patrol Frankie Manning Ball, 2002 (full DVD available from
The song is Bill Elliot Swing Orchetra's "I Wanna Learn Shim Sham." Click for a video of performance of that song while the Shim Sham is being danced.

Example #3: Frankie Manning's Funeral Services - Shim Sham led by Chazz Young - 2009-05-02

vwluong, Uploaded on May 7, 2009
Here's a comment from that video's discussion thread:
Dreambro1, 2014
"This is not a funeral, This is a Home going Celebration. ! ;-)"
"Home going" is an African American contemporary term for a funeral service that include celebratory elements such as dancing (particularly when the person who died was a dancer or enjoyed watching dancing. The funeral service is referred to as a "home going service" since the person who "passed on" is going home to be with God.

Example #4: Shim Sham for Frankie

stuartmath Uploaded on Mar 17, 2009

Frankie's Wednesday Nite Hoppers, sometimes Thursday Nite, now Monday Nite perform the Shim Sham for Frankie's 95th birthday at the You Should Be Dancing Studios in NYC. Happy Birthday Frankie!
Here's a comment from that video's viewer comment thread:

Sing Lim, 2009
"Hahahhahahahahaaha! no fair! u have Dawn!!!"
"Dawn" is "Dawn Hampton" (the older woman in the video). Dawn Hampton was a Jazz vocalist who was a contemporary of Frankie Manning. Although she wasn't a professional dancer, in their later years, Dawn Hampton did Shim Sham and other Swing dances with Frankie Manning and both of them are beloved by the worldwide Swing community. Click for Dawn Hampton's biography.

Example #5: Frankie100 Birthday Shim Sham

DowntownswingPublished on May 27, 2014

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1 comment:

  1. My maiden name is Manning, but I don't think that I'm related to the great dancer, choreographer, and dance instructor Frankie Manning.

    Frankie Manning's family is from Florida and my father's family is from Michigan.