The artists in residence this summer are both incredible humans, merging strong choreographic experience with their own personal journeys in house, hip hop, and identity. Save the date: Their combined show is July 13 in our Rittenhouse studios.
Norma Miller, known as the Queen of Swing, passed on to the next world the morning of May 5th at her home in Florida. She was 99. Miller is a much celebrated figure in the Lindy Hop and Jazz Roots community across the globe. One of the true O.G'.'s of lindy hop and jazz dancing, Norma famously won the 1935 Harvest Moon Ball Dance contest. She was then invited to join Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, a crew of young black jazz dancers from NYC who trained and showed off socially at the world famous Savoy in Harlem, NY. Whitey's Lindy Hoppers went on to travel the globe, spreading the joyful and rebellious spirit of swing across the globe. She is one the featured dancers in the infamous, high-speed dance scene from Hellzapoppin'. In the thirties and forties, Norma had her own company of dancers with whom she choreographed and performed. She continued to hustle even in her nineties, teaching all around the globe, keeping vernacular jazz dancing alive at home and abroad. Rest in Power Norma!
Check out these article to learn more about Norma Miller's life and work.
2018 NY Times Article about Miller's work teaching around the world
NY Times Obituary
today's jazz roots bad asses
In celebration of Norma's life and legacy, I want to celebrate some of my other favorite jazz dancers. In this blog, we've already shouted out Latasha Barnes on as a powerhouse working in both jazz roots and house dance styles. Last month, I was in Paris attending the Jazz Roots festival. I was motivated to attend when I saw an internet video of her 2018 performance.
Florence Mills was the Beyonce of her day. She sang, acted, and choreographed. She had her own show, Blackbirds Revue, that toured the globe. Mills voice is often described as "birdlike" though no recordings of it remain. She was outspoken in her advocacy for civil rights and racial justice.
Katherine Dunham forever stands as the goddess and scholar who elegantly bridged vernacular jazz and concert dance theater. She was a choreographer, dancer, ground breaking anthropologist, and an activist speaking her mind until her last days. Dunham's legacy is apparent in several classes at UMA, not just Solo Jazz and Lindy Hop. Her influence is felt in Leilani Chirino's Afro-Cuban class, in Sanchel's B-more Afro House Class, and also Majestique's class.