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Norma Miller (2009).
December 2, 1919 |
Harlem, New York
The daughter of parents from Bridgetown, Barbados, Miller was born and raised in Harlem, New York. She was interviewed along with dance partner Frankie Manning in Ken Burns documentary Jazz. Discussing the early days of swing dancing, Norma describes the start of her dancing career at the Savoy Ballroom (which was across street from where she lived) during the early 30s in Harlem. Discovered at the age of twelve by the Savoy Ballroom's legendary dancer Twistmouth George, Ms. Miller has been in show business ever since.
Miller was a member of Whitey's Lindy Hoppers. The author of several books, Norma Miller's Swing Baby Swing, chronicles the evolution of the swing dance culture into the 21st century. Norma Miller's biography, Swingin' at the Savoy: A Memoir of a Jazz Dancer, recollects her youthful encounters with Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Ethel Waters, and other jazz musicians.
Miller was honored with a 2003 National Heritage Foundation Fellowship from the National Endowments of the Arts for her role in creating and continuing to preserve “the acrobatic style swing dance, known as the Lindy Hop”.
Miller has been featured performing in a number of movies, including some of the most viewed vintage movies by Lindy Hoppers and swing dancers worldwide: the Marx Brothers' A Day at the Races (1937) and Hellzapoppin' (1941); Spike Lee's Malcolm X (1992); Stompin' at the Savoy (1992), John Biffar's Captiva (1995), along with documentaries such as the National Geographic's Jitterbug (1991) and the Smithsonian Jazz series on NPR.
In the 1960s, Miller began working with Redd Foxx at his comedy club and later joined him on his 1970s television series Sanford and Son, serving as a stand up comic, actor and choreographer. In Ken Burns's documentary Jazz (2001), Miller's recollections provide a first-hand account of the Harlem music and dance scene of the 1930s and '40s.
Her latest documentary, Queen of Swing, narrated by Bill Cobbs, takes an inside look at Miller's influence in the globalization of America's jazz culture and her and her fellow artists' role in racial integration. The documentary features interviews with Bill Cosby, Bill Cobbs, Frankie Manning, and Leonard Reed. Miller currently lives in Fort Myers, FL.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Norma Miller.|
- DC Swing Dancers and Musicians Interview Norma Miller
- Norma Miller's oral history video excerpts at The National Visionary Leadership Project
- Norma Miller website