Imagine having a career as a dancer, but never seeing any of the work you had done. Until recently, 102-year-old Harlem Renaissance dancer Alice Barker had never seen herself dance. When a group of volunteers, led by Mark Cantor of jazz-on-film.com, presented her with footage of herself performing in the '30s and '40s, her touching response went viral.
A young Barker shimmies and shakes in glittering costumes, her feet tapping along at the speed of light. "It's just fabulous, it's fabulous to see this," she said as she relived her past, a time when she shared the screen in "soundies" with greats like Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson and Frank Sinatra.
What most resonated with me, though, was not only the pure joy that she experienced watching the clips, but the unfaltering pride she still has in her work. Barker recalled feeling, even some 75 years ago, that "I am being paid to do something that I enjoy doing, and I would do it for free."
It's a gentle reminder of why we, as dancers, do what we do. Like Ms. Barker, we pursue dance—whether it be commercial, concert or otherwise—mostly for the fulfillment it brings us.