'Was that me?' Touching moment 102-year-old woman who was a chorus line dancer for Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly sees herself on film for the first time

  • Alice Barker danced in legendary Apollo and Zanzibar clubs during the 1930s Harlem Renaissance, as well as movies, TV and commercials
  • But she had lost her old photographs with time, and no one could find her videos because of a misspelling of her name 
  • David Shuff, who met Barker years ago, reunited her with some of her short musical films known then as 'soundies'
  • The videos now play in the common room of her retirement home, where Shuff says she is a 'rock star' 

This is the moment a 102-year-old woman 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.

Alice 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. 

Barker had danced at legendary clubs like the Apollo, Cotton Club and Zanzibar Club, and had appeared in movies commercials and television shows.  

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

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

Barker (pictured far right in the video) 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

Barker (pictured far right in the video) 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

But she had never gotten the chance to watch herself dance. She didn't even have any photographs or memorabilia to remember her years on stage.

It was David Shuff, who met Barker years ago when he brought his therapy dog to her retirement home, that finally reunited the one-time famous dancer with her videos.

After a long and unsuccessful first search, Shuff connected with Mark Cantor, a collector of short musical films called 'soundies' who runs the online archive Jazz on Film.

It was then Shuff and Cantor discovered that Barker's videos were filed under 'Baker', a misspelling of her name - which was why no one had been able to find them before, according to Mashable

They located three of Barker's soundies, giving her the chance to finally watch her days in the chorus line, where she was almost always in the front row.

'Don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing,' Barker sang along as she watched one of her routines.

When Shuff asked her how many years she danced, Barker replied 'that's all I ever did, that was it!' 

She said said the videos made her wish she could get out of bed and 'do it all over again'.

Barker (pictured right in the video) had danced at legendary clubs like the Apollo, Cotton Club and Zanzibar Club, and had appeared in movies commercials and television shows

Barker (pictured right in the video) had danced at legendary clubs like the Apollo, Cotton Club and Zanzibar Club, and had appeared in movies commercials and television shows

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

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

Barker found herself needing to dance and move to music at a young age.

She told Shuff a story about when she was a child and her mother was preparing her for a bath. 

Her mother had gone to the house to retrieve something when a young Barker heard a band play nearby.

'When she came back I was gone,' said Barker. '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."' 

Barker said said the videos made her wish she could get out of bed and 'do it all over again'

Barker said said the videos made her wish she could get out of bed and 'do it all over again'

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

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 shared Barker's story on Reddit, where he wrote that the videos were now in her possession and that they are often played in her retirement center's communal room, noting that she's a 'rock star these days'.

He added that Barker knows her videos are online now and that it made her happy because she 'feels connected to the world again'. 

But the most special part for Barker was getting the chance 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. 

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

 

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