In 2019, lindy-hopping may have a reputation of an artform solely for vintage dressing-wearing white people who can sit through more than 25 seconds of Postmodern Jukebox without vomiting, but it was originally an authentic, vital African-American artform. And its last living great performer, up until congestive heart failure saw her off a few days ago, was Norma Miller.
Miller was born into poverty in Harlem and was her family’s main breadwinner, via her dancing, from the age of 5. She joined Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, America’s leading lindy-hop dance troupe, at the age of 15 and made her film debut in the Marx Brothers’ A Day at the Races two years later. Her most notable screen appearance was in 1941’s anarchic Hellzapoppin’, where she and other Whitey performers steal the show with their Congaroo Dancers routine.
As the youngest of her peers, and living to such a long age, Miller spent a long time as the sole remaining Queen of Swing, and was still dancing and travelling to Europe to spread the lindy-hop gospel into her late 90s. Sadly, Miller time was called before she could reach 100.