At 102, Alice Barker was given a gift from the past.
Alice had been a Harlem Renaissance dancer of the 1930s and 40s, but was 102-years-old before she ever saw one of her performances. For years she had danced at legendary clubs including The Apollo, The Cotton Club, The Zanzibar Club, and on Broadway.
Alice had never seen any of her performances.
Her photographs and memorabilia had sadly disappeared over the years.
With the determination of Alice’s friends, David Shuff, Alicia Thompson, and Mark Cantor, the “Soundies” that Alice appeared in were found. Because of their dedication, Alice was able to see herself on camera for the first time in her life.
Alice shared the stage with legends like Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.
She danced for movies, commercials, and TV.
In the “Soundies,” Alice stands out like a star with her effortless dancing and bright smile. It’s obvious she was in her element on stage.
The video of Alice seeing herself perform has been viewed over 35 million times.
The recognition in her eyes is noticeable and she even starts to sing some of the tunes. In the video you can hear Alice singing, “It don’t mean a thing, if you ain’t got that swing.”
Her voice is soft but her face seems to light up with joy at seeing her younger self.
Alice commanded the stage with her poise and beauty.
As Alice watches herself in a video, her friends chuckle in the background at how a younger Alice went right up in front of the camera. She obviously wasn’t afraid of being front and center. A true superstar.
When asked how many years she had danced, she responded with, “That’s all I ever did, that was it.”
The “Soundies” were found thanks to the hard work of Alice’s close friends.
Gail Campbell never gave up on finding Alice’s films and with the help of historian Alicia Thompson, the “Soundies” were discovered. Mark Cantor, a jazz historian, was able to share three of Alice’s soundies from his collection on his YouTube channel.
Alice smiled at seeing herself on stage.
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“It’s just fabulous…fabulous to see these. I often used to say to myself, I am being paid to do something that I enjoy doing and I would do it for free.” – Alice Barker
Alice was shocked and over the moon to see herself in the videos. You can see on her face how she is transported back to a time when all she did was dance.
Not long after this beautiful gift, Alice passed away peacefully.
Her friends said that she was in good spirits on her last day and enjoyed listening to music and receiving mail, which was read to her. Alice’s friends were grateful at the outpouring of love when she passed.
“Thank you to all the thousands of fans who sent in cards, flowers, and art. You truly gave her deep joy and meaning in the last years of her life!” – Tenfresh
“It felt so good doing it…because that music you know? I get carried away in it.” – Alice Barker
Alice’s friends have set up a website to honor Alice’s memory and accomplishments at http://www.alicebarkernotbaker.com/
See Alice watch herself perform for the first time at 102-years-old in the video below!
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