March 21, 2019

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From Harlem to Herrang: An Original Lindy Hopper Blooms in Sweden

From Harlem to Herrang: An Original Lindy Hopper Blooms in Sweden
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One figure in the book was the master Lindy Hopper Frankie Manning, who by the early ’80s had left dancing for a steady job at the post office. Mr. Westerlund invited him to teach at Herrang. A lead performer in Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, Manning was a longtime friend of Ms. Miller, who was then living in Las Vegas, doing comedy and writing her memoir.

Mr. Manning and Mr. Westerlund’s friendship changed Herrang, opening the door for dancers like Ms. Miller to teach and perform. The camp soon became a platform for black performers whose popularity had waned stateside, including the master drummer George Reed, who played behind jazz giants like Charlie Parker; the singer and tap dancer Mable Lee; and the tap dancer Skip Cunningham.

Chester Whitmore, a dancer from Los Angeles, has taught and performed at Herrang for more than 25 years alongside Ms. Miller. He said that Swedes respected the black performers and their careers in a way that he hadn’t seen in the United States, and praised the Herrang approach. “The other camps,” he said, “they’ll do the music and stuff, but they won’t tell you the story.”

In the past three decades, the Lindy Hop has grown internationally, with ballroom scenes, swing clubs and Lindy Hop camps opening in places like Singapore, Russia, Israel and Nepal. (It even had a resurgence in the U.S. in the 1990s.) Mr. Whitmore says Ms. Miller is a source that keeps the movement rooted, adding: “It’s a shame that you got to go all the way of Europe just to find it.”

Angela Andrew, a Londoner, met Ms. Miller in a hotel room in New York during a visit to celebrate Frankie Manning’s birthday in 1994. She now serves as her stand-in at Herrang workshops, demonstrating movements while Ms. Miller, who needs help walking these days, instructs from a chair. During a recent workshop, Ms. Miller could be heard shouting at Ms. Andrew and other longtime instructors to stay on beat: “No! It’s BE-dop buh bop!”

Ms. Miller, who splits her time between Florida and Italy, said she planned to celebrate her 100th birthday in December 2019 in Herrang, but remembers that when Manning first told her about the camp, she couldn’t believe it.

“I said: ‘You’ve got to be kidding talking about some goddamned Lindy Hop in Sweden. Who the hell’s gonna come here?’”

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