Hip hop (Before It Had A Name) Vol 2:Josephine Baker by Rouge Une

Josephine Baker (b. June 03 1906  d. April 12 1975)

If you want to see the personification of that curious mix of confidence, swagger, humour,  challenge and braggadocio that we call the hip hop attitude, then look no further than this controversial decorated war hero and civil rights champion, mother to 12 adopted multi-cultural children as a message to the world about our shared humanity, dancer, singer, actress and spy.
This beautiful, eccentric, talented woman embodies all the traits that our culture holds dear and she did it  in a time when even the most basic of rights were denied her in her own country.
In self imposed exile in France Baker would put together a catalogue of routines that are referenced to this day, her sexy, cocky (some would say arrogant – but I would make them take it back) style challenged not just race but also gender stereotypes, they encompass everything from the sensual  to the comedic. They provide the template for many of the moves that we hold dear from the “running man” to Beyonces “butt dance” from “the wop” to the B-boy “prance”.
It would be difficult to argue that she invented these moves (echoing as they do traditional African dances) but what is sure is that she was the first to present them as separate specific routines, she was the first to showcase them as African American dances and the first to do so while being all “B-boy and that.”

There is a moment during one of the precious few recordings of  her infamous “banana dance” where she looks directly at the audience and pokes her tongue out and then breaks into a broad smile all the while doing the side foot stutter prance (that’s what I call it, you start a regular prance then you foreshorten it with your legs together and you push your feet out and to the side)., to my mind you can’t get more B-boy then that

On you tube there is a video that someone has put together that mixes a short section of one of Bakers routines with déjà vu by Beyonce, it is incredible because it does not look dated, the moves are not out of place and Josephine Baker looks just like what she is The greatest female dancer the world has ever seen, a B-Boy to the highest degree and Hip hop before it had a name.

Josephine Baker”s Official Website

Ya Man,

Rouge Une

~ by Professor Mike on January 19, 2011.

2 Responses to “Hip hop (Before It Had A Name) Vol 2:Josephine Baker by Rouge Une”

  1. Love this article!!! I haven’t seen the video clip yet (at work now) but will when I get home. I’ve always been a big Josephine Baker fan and have seen the only two of her movies I could get ahold of. I agree with the ‘old is new’ in hip hop dance. I saw an old film from 1940 where a dancer they called “String Bean” was doing what was clearly the Harlem Shake!! The movie was “Broken Strings”, and it featured Stymie Beard as a teenager. The scene with Stringbean was hilarious, but it goes to show that there’s nothing new under the sun. Except for sagging…

  2. @ Alicia
    Hellzapoppin has probably my favourite dance routine of all time, but so many opf those old Black and white movies have cameos from some great dancers, look for articles about the Nicholas Brothers and Bill Bailey in this series.

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