If you've been out to either of the Tampa Swingang's regular dances, Sunday night at the Zendah Grotto or Tuesday at the Don Vicente, you might have seen a small group of us attempting (and humbly fumbling through) the Tranky Doo.
The Tranky Doo is an old Jazz routine which, according to the Wikipedia article, was choreographed by Frankie Manning.
If you're familiar with the Shim Sham or solo Jazz you should recognize a lot of the movements, and practicing it is a challenge but also a wonderful way to work on Jazz movements that you can use in your Lindy Hop.
This video above shows the first recorded appearance of the Tranky Doo from the movie "Spirit Moves" and features some of Frankie's contemporaries - Al Minns, Pepsi Bethel, and Leon James. The song "The Dipsy Doodle" is overlaid onto the video as the film was originally silent (as far as I understand, please correct me if I'm wrong.) The original song used was "Tuxedo Junction".
If you were in attendance at Swing Dance USA in 2010 at the Coliseum in St. Petersburg you might remember this rendition featuring instructors Gina Helfrich, Joel Plys, and Crista Seipp.
Here's one of my favorite instructional breakdowns of the Tranky Doo. It's filmed from behind, at a slow pace, with a mirror, and with the count (a 1, ah ah ah, a 2 ah ah ah). Many of us have used this and other videos to practice on our own so we look like we know at least a little bit before trying it in public.
Like all Jazz dancing there is room for personalization and interpretation. You shouldn't ever see two Tranky Doo's that look exactly alike as the performers will often improvise and insert their own personalities into the dance.
I'll leave you with one of my favorite interpretations of the Tranky Doo. It features Mike Faltesek, Bethany Powell, and Stefan Durham from a dance in Montreal in 2008. Notice how coordinated and yet how uniquely they each interpret the dance.
I hope to see you on the dance floor trying this out with us.