This is the touching moment a 102-year-old woman who was a chorus line dancer for Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly saw herself on film for the first time.
Lying in her bed, Alice Barker snapped her fingers and sang along, as videos of her shimmying and shaking as a chorus line dancer during the 1930s Harlem Renaissance were played for her.
Barker had danced at legendary clubs, including the Apollo, Cotton Club and Zanzibar Club, and had also appeared in commercials and TV shows.
1. The touching moment 102-year-old Alice Barker sees herself dancing decades ago.
2. This is the moment 102-year-old Alice Barker, who used to dance with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, got to see herself shimmy and shake on film for the first time.
Yet, she had never seen herself dance. Barker didn’t even have any pictures or anything else to help her remember her years on stage.
Finally, David Shuff, the man who met Barker years ago when he brought his therapy dog to her retirement home, was able to show the once-famous dancer videos of her performances.
After a long and fruitless initial search, Shuff got in touch with Mark Cantor, a collector of short musical films known as “soundies”, who runs an online archive called Jazz on Film.
Together, Shuff and Cantor found that Barker’s videos were all filed under “Baker”, and that misspelling of the dancer’s name was the reason why no one was able to find them before.
The two located three of Barker’s soundies, giving the elderly woman the chance to finally see herself in her days in the chorus line, when she was almost always seen the front row.
3. Barker snapped her fingers and sang along as videos of her routines as a chorus line dancer during the 1930s Harlem Renaissance played on the screen.
4. Barker had danced at legendary clubs like the Apollo, Cotton Club and Zanzibar Club, and had appeared in commercials and TV shows.
As she watched one of her routines, Barker sang along:
Don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.
When Shuff asked Barker how many years she spent dancing, Barker responded: “that’s all I ever did, that was it!”
The ex-dancer told the men that the videos were making her wish she could get out of bed and “do it all over again”.
5. David Shuff, who met Barker years ago at her retirement home, and archivist Mark Cantor helped locate and reunite the one-time famous dancer with three of her “soundies”, known then as short musical videos.
6. Barker said the videos made her wish she could get out of bed and “do it all over again”.
Barker told Shuff and Cantor she needed to dance and move to music from a very young age.
She told a story about when she was a little girl and her mother was preparing her for a bath. Her mother went into the house to get something when Barker heard a band play nearby. She said:
When she came back I was gone. I was down there naked just going, dancing.
And then, if the band would stop playing, I’d look at them and “come on, let’s get it going, let’s get it going here.”
7. But the most special part for Barker was getting to watch herself dance again. “I used to often say to myself, I am being paid to do something that I enjoy doing and I would do it for free”, she said.
Shuff then shared Barker’s story on Reddit. He wrote that her videos were now in her possession and that they are often played in her retirement home’s communal room, adding that she’s a “rock star these days”.
Shuff added that the ex-dancer is happy that her videos are online now because she “feels connected to the world again”.
However, the most special part for Barker was getting the chance to see herself dance again. She said:
I used to often say to myself, I am being paid to do something that I enjoy doing and I would do it for free.
Because it just felt so good doing it, because that music, you know, I just get carried away in it.
8. Alice Barker was a chorus line dancer during the 1930s Harlem Renaissance.
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