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Josephine Baker Dancing

The talent of world-famous dancer Josephine Baker ushered in The Jazz Age of the 1920s.  Ms. Baker was born in 1906 in St. Louis’ former African American neighborhood of Chestnut Valley. As a child, she performed and absorbed the jazz aesthetics of the vibrant theater district through mentorship of her locally-famous cabaret-dancer mother and musician father. Her legacy is that she famously spread jazz dance to Europe and the world through her stage and screen performances.

The Research Working Group for “The Land on Which We Dance: Reclaiming the Spaces of Black Dance in St. Louis” will focus on the trajectory and intersectional context of Ms. Baker’s life and career: looking both backward and forward.  We are in the process of uncovering and bringing forward the relevance of the histories of Black dance in St. Louis.


Many scholars note St. Louis’ contributions to the music side of jazz’s birth and development. The historical record falls silent when it comes to dancing bodies.  

By combining historical research, choreography, and film, and by bringing together people from multiple St. Louis institutions, our Research Working Group will create a vibrant plan for a ‘living’ dance monument that honors and recognizes those who danced before us on this land.

Dance makes history come alive.  Our project aims to achieve this goal.  We are planning the shape and form of a ‘living’ dance monument that honors the people and the places of our research.