102-Year-Old Apollo & Cotton Club Dancer Sees Her Old Performance Videos for the First Time

Just beautiful!

alice barker

Our elders are historic jewels, and here’s one awe-inspiring story to prove it.

During her heyday, 102-year-old Alice Barker was a notable dancer who shimmied and shuffled alongside the likes of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra.  She performed in famed establishments such as the Apollo, Zanzibar Club and Cotton Club during the tail-end of the Harlem Rennaisance in the 1930s and ’40s. With all that history surrounding one woman, it would’ve been a shame if we didn’t have the opportunity to experience at least a piece of it.

But thanks to a man named David Shuff, and this little thing called technology, Ms. Alice Barker and her jazzy dance moves are getting even more time to shine.

According to Mashable, Shuff meet Ms. Alice when he brought his therapy dog to her retirement home a few years ago. Known around the establishment as a once-famous performer, Barker told the newbie all about her days as a successful jazz dancer. Intrigued by her story, Shuff began his quest to find as much information as he possibly could on the then-TV star.

On his first attempt, Shuff ran into a stump. But when he connected with Mark Cantor, the curator of Jazz on Film, an online archive of old, short musical clips called “soundies” (the early 19th century version of music videos), BOOM–magic happened!

Together, they discovered that all of Barkers old videos were filed under “Baker,” which was why no one had ever been able to find them before, and why everyone believed that all of Barkers memorabilia had just been lost in history. But once the duo solved that mystery, they were able to discover three soundies featuring this lovely gem, and she was able to watch herself perform for the first time ever.


As Barker watched herself dance and prance, she automatically lit up and didn’t hesitate to get back into the groove of things. “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing,” she snapped her fingers and sang.

Barker said that dancing had been her life and that she’d been practicing since she was a small child, recounting a time when she ran naked from her tub to dance with a local band playing down the street from her house. So the fact that she was able to make a career out of her passion was just icing on the cake.

“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. “Because it just felt so good doing it, because that music, you know, I just get carried away in it.”

That’s why getting the chance to watch her young self dance was so special to her. When asked how she felt viewing the videos, the century-young knockout said she felt “just fabulous” and it made her wish she could get out of bed and “do it all over again.”And now that the videos are being played in the common room of her nursing home on a regular basis, Ms. Baker’s really being treated like a star.

With a mind still as sharp as a knife, Shuff said that Ms. Barker is aware that her videos are being shared online and it’s made her happy because she “feels connected to the world again.”

Aww! You gotta love it!

Watch the video of this beautiful tale unfold below.

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