Classics Workshop: The Big Apple

Learn the iconic group solo jazz routine choreographed by Frankie Manning in the 1930s, and loved by lindy hoppers worldwide!

There will be a lunch break to break up this 3-hour workshop:

11:00-12:30 Big Apple Part 1
12:30-13:30 Lunch
13:30-15:00 Big Apple Part 2



Some history from The Lindy Circle:

“Despite its name the Big Apple did not actually originate in New York. It evolved and first became recognized as a dance form in Columbia, South Carolina [in the 1930s]…

“Betty Wood, an original white Big Apple dancer, said “It all began at an abandoned synagogue that had been turned into a Juke Joint”. In 1930 she was aged sixteen and heard music coming from a juke joint when out driving with friends. They went in and were allowed onto a mezzanine reserved exclusively for whites. The racial segregation of the time meant there was no mixing of races (particularly in the deep south). The main floor and dance area were only for African-Americans with the whites confined to watching from a mezzanine above…

“They came away with the idea of a dance made up of individual jazz steps, performed in a circle, as called by a leader. The dance was an instantaneous hit in the white community with people coming to South Carolina from all over the country to see the new Big Apple dance they’d heard about…

“In 1937 the Roxy Theatre chain commissioned a travelling stage show based around the Big Apple… The show was a great success playing for two years all over the country. While the show was in New York it was seen by Herbert (Whitey) White, the manager and driving force behind Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers. Whitey described the dance to his lead dancer Frankie Manning, asking him to create a Big Apple piece for their group.

“Frankie had never actually seen the Big Apple but remembered the summers he’d spent as a child at his father’s family farm near Aiken in South Carolina. This would have been in the 1920s and he recounts often seeing African American farm workers doing what he called a “ring shout”. The workers would get in a circle, sing and clap, urging each other to get in the center and improvise. He reminisces “I remember my grandmother putting me in that circle”. Many of the steps that Whitey had described were already part of the Lindy Hop. Frankie simply combined these into the circular concept and created the historical blue print for what is now often remembered as the Big Apple. He says “It had already exploded in New York. We started doing it in the Savoy every Saturday night, but it wasn’t always the same Big Apple.”

“The version that Frankie created for Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers was used in the movies and has thus been preserved for all to see. The film was called “Keep Punching” and is about a young black boxer on his way to the top. It premiered in Harlem on December 7th 1939 and the cast includes some famous black actors and performers of the time. The Big Apple sequence features one of the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers’ troups including of course Frankie Manning.”


18 Mar 2023


11:00 - 15:00




Observatory Community Centre
Observatory Hall, Rawson Street, Observatory, Cape Town, South Africa


+27 62 072 3376
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