During the 1930’s, a woman named Alice Barker danced with the best of them. Not only did she appear onstage with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, she regularly performed at legendary clubs including the Apollo, Zanzibar Club, and Cotton Club.
Due to a misspelling of her name, however, it appeared as if all footage of her dancing was lost. Thus, the artist lived her life never having seen a video of herself on stage. Thanks to a man named David Shuff, who met Barker when he brought his therapy dog to her retirement home, that all changed.
Shuff was stunned to learn who Barker was, and made it his personal mission to help find footage of her dancing. His efforts were fruitless for a time, but then he connected with Mark Cantor, a collector of short musical films called “soundies.” He also runs the online archive Jazz on Film. With the help of Cantor, Shuff found three of Barker’s soundies. Reportedly, they had been “lost” because they were filed under “Baker.”
Decades after Barker shimmied and shook across the stage, she finally received the opportunity to see herself dance. Shuff played the soundies, which showed her strutting herself on stage. Barker couldn’t help but sing along. “Don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing,” she called out, joyfully watching one of her routines.
When the 102-year-old was asked how many years she had danced, she replied: “That’s all I ever did, that was it!” Mashable reports that Barker was so elated to see herself dancing, she wanted to get out of her bed and “do it all over again.” That’s true passion.
The feel-good story was shared on Reddit. Shuff wrote that the videos are now in Barker’s possession and are often played in the retirement center’s communal room. Apparently, she has become something of a “rock star these days.”
Shuff added that the centenarian knows her videos are online now and that makes her happy. Why? Because she “feels connected to the world again.” For those who spend a time in the limelight, it’s never easy walking off stage.
Barker appreciates being able to watch 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.”
Watch the video below to learn more:
Stories like these are always heartening. This is because they remind the populace that the elderly are just as worthy of love and attention, and because they re-inspire faith in humanity. Shuff had no reason to assist Barker, other than to want to brighten her day. If more people behaved like him, our world would be a drastically different place.
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