This 102-year-old woman watches herself dance for the first time. Our hearts burst.
If you feel that my-heart-is-crumbling-into-the-pit-of-my-stomach feeling every time you look at old family photos (you and your grandma when you were a toddler! A mother-daughter photo shoot from the second grade! A cheesy mall glamour shot of you and your siblings from the ’90s!), imagine what it must feel like to watch a video of yourself dancing—80-something years ago. Alice Barker, a 102-year-old who, Elite Daily reports, “used to be a dancer during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1930s and 1940s,” caught a glimpse of herself dancing on stage. And her reaction is just heartbreakingly wonderful.
Mark Cantor and David Shuff, who work for the Celluloid Improvisations Music Film Archive and jazz-on-film.com, found this recording (a “soundie”) of one of the dancers. They soon realized they knew the woman in the footage — she was a resident in a local nursing home. According to The Washington Post, Shuff’s therapy dog used to visit the nursing home in which she lived, so he knew just where to look. “I knew Alice for several years — my dog is a therapy dog and we visited her nursing home — the recreation nurse and I always talked about how amazing it would be to find her films and show her. And we finally were able to,” Shuff says to The Washington Post. What an AMAZING gesture!
Alice, who used to shimmy and shake with stars Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in, People reports, “hot spots such as the Cotton Club” and starred in movies and commercials, was beyond taken aback when the clip was presented to her. Up until this very point, she had never, ever watched herself dance before. And you guys —she was incredible.
When asked how she felt, Barker told The Washington Post, “[It’s] making me wish that I could get out of this bed and do it all over again.” She added, “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.”
It’s so beautifully clear how much Alice loved her craft, her passion, and her career. The way her face lights up when she watches herself dance is simply breathtaking. Take a look and feel your chest fill up with so much joy!