A circus artist, then a popular model, then a self-trained, occasional music hall dancer and actress, Aïcha Goblet had already taken many of the career steps that Baker would herself later attempt, and evoked a very similar response from many critics. As Salmon remarked, in language that more than obliquely references Baker, “the voluptuous beauties at the Colonial Exhibition could not vie with those in Montparnasse … The Miss Africa of Montparnasse is Aïcha.” Nevertheless, Aïcha did not become nearly as celebrated as Baker and had to content herself with making a modest living and enjoying all the while an impeccable reputation.
And Fabre quotes writer and art critic André Salmon:
If Aïcha is often naked, she rarely undoes her head kerchief—now cabbage-green, now the color of silver—which suits her so well. Aïcha is too much a girl from Roubaix not to be perfectly civilized. She sits, she dances, she is pleasant. Long before Josephine Baker launched the fashion of banana belts, Aïcha wore, at wild parties in Montparnasse, her diminutive raffia skirt.
Hampton played a bundle of instruments in her family’s band and has had a long career in music and dance. But she’s best known today for her musicality classes, and there are a couple of clips of her scaring teaching dancers about musicality at Lindyfest this year. I really like these clips because she does the sort of nuanced dancing that reminds me of dancers like Leon James – stillness and minimalism combined with sharp, dramatic movements.
A demonstration dance with Virgine Jensen, Steven Mitchell and Frida Segerdahl:
In Radio City Revels in 1938, the second couple in the jam, but the first couple after the cut from the singer at the beginning (ie there’s another couple in the jam before Gibson and partner ‘Shorty’ Davis).
I know very little about Pearl Primus, but I’ve been fascinated by this photo since I found it on the Google Life photo collection:
(“Pearl Primus performing to “Honeysuckle Rose” played by Teddy Wilson at piano, Lou McGarity on trombone, Bobby Hackett on trumpet, Sidney Catlett on drums & John Simons on bass during jam session at Gjon Mili’s studio” – Gjon Mili – New York – 1943)
She’s not a ‘jazz dancer’ in the strictest sense – she probably fits a little more comfortably into the concert dance or even ballet basket. But she was very much an activist, with a passion for African and African American dance, and she was definitely active as a dancer, performer and choreographer during the 1930s and 40s.
Then I found this video of her dancing, which isn’t too great – you can’t really see what she’s doing, and I’m not sure it really does her work justice.
NB that first photo is from a series called ‘Jam Session’ by Gjon Mili in the Life Magazine collection on google, which features many other amazing pics.
Gjon Mili is interesting because he directed here, featuring Marie Bryant) AND, the great ‘Blues for Greasy’ jam session film which starred:
Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison: trumpet
Lester Young: Tenor Sax
Flip Phillips: Tenor Sax
Bill Harris: Trombone
Hank Jones: Piano
Ray Brown: Bass
Buddy Rich: Drums
Ella Fitzgerald: Vocals
Mili worked with Norman Granz on this film, and Granz owned the Verve record label as well as organising the Jazz At The Philarmonic concerts and being hardcore anti-segregation.