Sylvia Lewis, born in York, Pennsylvania, first performed as a young child in the last days of vaudeville in Baltimore, Maryland. She received her first classical training as a scholarship student at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, studying dance, voice and piano. Coming to Hollywood at the age of 12, she continued to study and secured parts in such films as Singin' in the Rain (1952) and Red Garters (1954) as a dancer, then in Drums of Tahiti (1954) as an actress. Later she added choreography to her list of credits, which began while she was a regular featured character on the TV series Where's Raymond? (1953), that starred Ray Bolger and ran for 60 episodes on ABC.
She choreographed dozens of TV shows since then, including Who's the Boss? (1984) and Married with Children (1987). Guest appearances on shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961), The Beverly Hillbillies (1962) and Gomer Pyle: USMC (1964), plus a healthy stage career on both coasts, earned her a reputation as a triple-threat performer. Her career in theater, nightclubs, films, and TV which spanned 50 years continued until the 1990s. She now lives in Thousand Oaks, California, with her husband of 30 years, attorney Philip Gunning. She has one daughter (Catherine) from her early marriage to director John Rich.