Josephine Baker rose from a life of hardship to become the sensual and sensational darling of Art Deco Paris. Born in St Louis, Missouri in 1906, working for an abusive white woman at the age of 8 and dropping out of school to live rough aged 12, her dancing on street corners got her noticed. She moved to New York to take part in the renaissance gripping the neighbourhood of Harlem, and it was not long before she crossed the Atlantic to dance in the French capital. It was at the notorious Folies Bergere that she performed her infamous Danse Sauvage in 1925, wearing the iconic banana skirt that became her trademark.
The French embraced Josephine as their own and she shot to super stardom, for her singing and acting as well as her dancing. Continuing to perform until 1975 (the year she died) she pioneered the elevation of the black performer and was highly involved with the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 60s. The energy, skill and playfulness with which she danced is amazing! Here is a clip of her performing at the Revue des Revues in 1927. There's no sound, but put on an upbeat song in the background - I listened to this - it works!