mater mea - Celebrating Motherhood and Women of Color

Alice Barker, 102-Year-Old Former Dancer, Reminds Us Why You Should Do What You Love

Alice Barker

Alice Barker, 102-Year-Old Former Dancer, Reminds Us Why You Should Do What You Love

Words: Ashley Poag

A former dancer during the Harlem Renaissance gets a second-chance to relive her glory days in this sweet video.

“It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that swing,” sings 102-year-old Alice Barker.

The centenarian got a chance to relive her younger days as a chorus-line dancer at the Apollo Theater and Cotton Club in the 1930s and ‘40s, thanks to “soundies” discovered by music researchers, The Washington Post reports.

“It makes me wish I could get out of this bed and do it all over again,” she said.

Though Barker danced in clubs, movies, and television with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, this was the first time she ever got to see herself perform. It was an experience three years in the making. David Shuff, a director and a regular visitor at her retirement home, wanted to find videos of Barker’s days as a dancer to show his friend. He reached out to a jazz film collector Mark Cantor, who was able to locate at least three short music videos called “soundies” that featured Barker.  In a moment of nostalgia, she twirls her hands around in the air as if she’s still dancing as she did in 1943.

“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.”

Watch the video below and tell us: What’s a passion you hope to carry with you into old age?

Ashley Poag is mater mea's intern and an aspiring multimedia journalist.