Celebrating the life and legacy of dancers Frankie Manning and Chuck Davis

Last week we celebrated the lifework and legacy of two legendary dancers, Frankie Manning and Dr. Charles “Chuck” Davis.

Frankie Manning (26.5.1914–27.4.2009) was a pioneer of lindy hop, a Tony award winning choreographer and a celebrated teacher, who spread the joy of swing to new generations of dancers all over the world. The movie “Hellzapoppin’” (1941) includes one of his most iconic performances:


You can find more information on Frankie’s life and legacy here:



Check also the brief documentary on the history of swing on our Youtube channel, featuring dancers Frankie Manning, Norma Miller, Clyde Wilder, Mickey Davidson, George Lloyd, Chazz Young, among others:



We recently received the sad news of the passing of Baba Chuck Davis (01.01.1937–14.05.2017). Both as a dancer, choreographer and producer, Chuck Davis was instrumental in introducing dance traditions of the African diaspora in the United States. You can read his obituary in New York Times here:

Chuck Davis was the founding artistic director of the Dance Africa festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He started the festival in 1977 after which it has become one of the most remarkable annual events celebrating African dance in the U.S. This year’s festival 25.–29.05. was dedicated to Mr. Davis’ lifework:



The co-artistic director of Helsinki Traditional Jazz Dance Company, Clyde Wilder, had the privilege to work and perform with both Frankie Manning and Chuck Davis.


“I want to thank them for their inspiration, energy, and the motivation that I received from them for my own work. I feel proud that I have know them, worked with them and experienced their love for their work and level of artistry,” Clyde Wilder says.


The both of us were happy to celebrate Frankie Manning with our New York swing dance community, dancing to George Gee Swing Orchestra at Swing 46 on May 26th, and Chuck Davis with the U.S. African dance community at the Dance Africa festival on May 27th.

Thank you, Frankie and Chuck, and may your legacy live on. And to borrow Mr. Davis’ slogan:

Peace, love and respect for everybody!


(c) Malin Grahn-Wilder



BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) celebrated the 40th year of the Dance Africa festival, founded by dancer and choreographer Chuck Davis in 1977. In the picture, a performance by International Afrikan American Ballet at the Dance Africa festival in 1983.


April in the Archipelago!

Dear friends!

We are excited to announce our upcoming tour in the Finnish archipelago!

On April 4th, Clyde Wilder and Malin Grahn-Wilder invite the audience at Åland Islands on a historical journey through the development of jazz from West Africa to the U.S., through plantations to juke joints and ballrooms. The journey continues all the way to the Nordic countries, where during the glory days of Charleston and other jazz crazes, people created their own variations of movements that have a long history in the African diaspora.

At the end of the show, the audience will get the change to learn some fun and rhythmical jazz dance steps with the performers in an introductory workshop.

The show is hosted by Nordens Institute på Åland, and performed together with the Åland-based jazz band Red Beans & Rice.

Join the rhythmical and dancing journey at NIPÅ’s Kulturklubben on April 4th 2016, starting at 7 PM at Alandica Kultur & Kongress, Strandgatan 33, 22100 Mariehamn.

More info:



On April 8th, we welcome you to the Saari residence in the beautiful Turku Archipelago. Malin Grahn-Wilder and Clyde Wilder’s lecture-demonstration “Freedom Movement” explores emotions and movement in the African American dance tradition.

Jazz is often called ‘freedom music’ because of the space it opens for the musician’s own freedom of expression. The same holds for the traditional jazz dance, which is at the same time individual and connecting, enabling an immediate communication between the dancers. The lecture-demonstration shows how still today, the language of jazz unites people over cultural and racial differences.

Freedom Movement at Saari residence, Saaren rantatie 21, 23140 Hietamäki, on April 8th, 6-7 PM.

We look forward to swinging in the archipelago!

Tea Dance Concert Series starts on October 18th at Kääntöpaikka with Kallion Karavaani!

We are proud to have Kallion Karavaani to open our tea dance concert series of this Fall! At our last year’s tea dances, Kallion Karavaani captivated the audience with their uplifting gypsy jazz sound. We look forward to dance our way back to the 1930’s Paris on the October 18th!

Tea Dance Concert with Kallion Karavaani

at Cultural and Community Center Kääntöpaikka, Intiankatu 1, Helsinki

at 17:00-20:00

Free entrance!


Swing Makes You Happy!

George Gee Swing Orchestra’s latest CD “Swing Makes You Happy!” travels through a wide scale of human emotions from the exhilarating, uplifting swing numbers to the touching, heartfelt blues.

The CD includes traditional jazz tunes such as “Midnight in a Madhouse” and “No Moon at All” in fresh arrangements by David Gibson. The orchestra does a wonderful job bringing us back to the swinging ballrooms of the 1930’s–50’s and to the days when swing was the latest thing, but the greatest merits of the recording are even deeper than this. Through David Gibson’s new compositions, George Gee’s orchestra renews and creates the genre, and shows that today, in 2015, big band swing still is a living and exciting art form.

Further reasons why any jazz enthusiast should want to add George Gee to her/his record collection next to the Basie’s and Ellington’s are the fantastic musicianship as well as the outstanding vocalists John Dokes and Hilary Gardner. There is a beautiful harmony between the players that makes you feel like you are among friends. Gardner’s voice stems from a very clear spring, and “Sweet Pumpkin” is one of the tunes that stays in my head after having heard this CD. Listening to the nuances of Dokes’ deep voice, I cannot help thinking about Joe Williams, but certainly Dokes adds his own personality into his interpretation of both of the shadowy and the sunny, even funny sides of life. As to the latter, Doke’s and Gardner’s fantastic duet “If I Were a Bell” always brings a smile on my face. “Well Sir, all I can say is if I were a gate I’ll be swinging.”

And you certainly will be swinging listening to George Gee Swing Orchestra. The orchestra has a great sensitivity for playing for dancers, and appreciation for the fact that swing fundamentally is dance music. I have had the privilege to see this band many times, and even though the energy of their live performance is difficult to capture on a recording, even their recorded music is great to dance to. And yes, you can definitely also enjoy it in a sitting position! And yes, swing does make you happy!

(c) Malin Grahn-Wilder

Meet us on the restaurant day 15.11. at Theater Museum and Bokvillan!

Lauantai 15.11. on tanssia täynnä! Lisäksi silloin vietetään ravintolapäivää ja tanssin lisäksi pääsee nauttimaan myös kahvion herkuista!

Klo 13 Jazzin heijastuksia – rytmillinen tanssimatka Teatterimuseolla. Koko perheen tanssiesitys, missä yleisönkään ei tarvitse istua hiljaa! Lähde mukaan rytmilliselle tanssimatkalle Afrikkaan ja sieltä Yhdysvaltoihin ja halki jazzin vuosikymmenten. Vapaa pääsy! Sopii 3 v. ylöspäin.


Klo 17 alkaen House Rent Party – hyväntekeväisyystanssiaiset idyllisessä Bokvillanin huvilassa Arabianrannassa. Tanssiesityksiä sekä Helsinki Traditional Jazz Dance Society ry:n perinteiset teetanssiaiset. Tänä vuonna kiinnitämme huomiota kodittomuuteen kansainvälisenä ongelmana ja luovutamme tapahtuman tuotot Punaiselle Ristille.


Saturday 15.11. is full of dancing! It is also the restaurant day and you can enjoy tea, coffee and tea with the dances!

1 PM: Reflections of Jazz at Theater Museum. A dance show and work shop for the entire family. The show takes you on a rhythmical journey to Africa and from there to the United States, and guides you through the golden decades of jazz. The audience does not have to sit still: the performers needs your help to create rhythms and, at the end, to join the dance with them. From 3 years of age.

From 5 PM: House Rent Party – charity ball at the idyllic Bokvillan in Arabia, Helsinki. Dance performances and the traditional tea dance ball by Helsinki Traditional Jazz Dance Society ry. This year we pay attention to homelessness as a global problem and donate all the profits to the Red Cross of Finland.

Tervetuloa! Molempiin tapahtumiin vapaa pääsy!
Welcome! Free entrance to both events!