Friday, November 4, 2011

Tranky Doo

The Tranky Doo is a Jazz Dance choreography. It was choreographed by Pepsi Bethel and first appeared at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem during the 1940s. 

Frankie Manning remembers: "Using different jazz routines was a way of varying our act a little bit for the patrons who sometimes stayed on from the first to the second show. We had another number called 'Bibeau' (the nickname of the guy who created it for us), and one that I choreographed and named in tribute to the chorus girl who inspired it. I knew Tranky Doo (her nickname) from the Club DeLisa in Chicago, and she could really get down. Oftentimes, in show business, as the chorus girls were exiting the stage, one of the best dancers would be featured at the end of the line doing a couple of special steps before going into the wings. Tranky Doo held that spot. I used her exit steps, fall-off-the-log, shuffle, and bogeys, for the beginning of a moderate-tempo, two-chorus routine, made up of a bunch of other jazz steps that I put in a certain order. We sometimes did the Tranky Doo for an encore.

The Congaroos used to do the Tranky Doo in the corner of the ballroom when we stopped by the Savoy, which was only occasionally at this point. People who watched us picked it up, and it got spread around that way. I still teach the Tranky Doo, using 'Tuxedo Junction' for music, although I've lengthened the choreography. The Rhythm Hot Shots, a Swedish jazz dance company, do it faster and have added some steps, which is fine with me. I don't mind if people change my choreography, as long as they stay in the same groove. In my opinion, that's what's kept the Lindy hop going all these years" (F. Manning & C.R. Millman, Frankie Manning - Ambassador of Lindy Hop, 209).

At that time, it was danced to "Tuxedo Junction," however many modern day performances of the dance use other swing jazz songs. It is most common these days to perform the dance with the song "Dipsy Doodle" by Chick Webb & his Orchestra featuring Ella Fitzgerald because the dance appears in the Spirit Moves documentary film with a playback of the song. However the film originally had no sound, and the song "Dipsy Doodle" was artificially superimposed on that section of the film.

It was common to Lindy Hoppers, like the Shim Sham.  

On YouTube I also found the Tranky Doo performed with Slim Gaillard's and Slam Stewart's "Jump Session", which goes very well with the choreography.



The Spirit Moves: A History of Black Social Dance on Film, 1900-1986 is a documentary film by Mura Dehn chronicling the evolution of African social dance throughout most of the 20th century.

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