This project celebrates the illustrious life and career of Josephine Baker, an international celebrity of dance, musical revues, and humanitarianism from the Jazz Age through Civil Rights Era. Baker was an international figure in developing a platform for female artists and artists of color. Her daring exploration of women’s roles in the performing arts, the French Resistance of World War II, and the American Civil Rights Movement are keys to understanding society and culture in the 20th century.
This research provides artists and scholars with necessary perspectives for addressing cultural and societal topics of gender, race, and appropriation through the lens of an artist ahead of her time. Through Baker’s unique experience, creative and artistic mediums for communicating with the general public become more compelling, progressive, and stand out in sharper relief. Research draws on interviews, choreographic case studies, biographies, and historical artifacts.
A 2018 research trip in France to study the life, culture, and time period of Baker provided the foundation and inspiration for an originally choreographed dance performance inspired by Baker’s life and career. The choreography illuminates key historical events of Baker’s life to reveal the magnitude and scope of her influence across the 20th and 21st centuries.
This project was supported by and funded through a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), McGlothlin Award for International Education, Scholar Citizen in Action grant, the Honors College, and the Department of Dance at Radford University.