Sunday, May 25, 2008

Exotica - Josephine Baker

From the 1999 book 'Exotica. Fabricated soundscapes in a real world' by David Toop:

"Paris in a later age became the spiritual, and actual, home of Josephine Baker, one of the most celebrated exotics of the twentieth century. Born in St Louis in 1906, Baker traveled to France as a dancer in La Revue Nègre. According to biographer Lynn Haney, the show's producer had been advised by the Cubist artists, Fernand Léger, to bring an all-Black show to Paris. 'Give them Negroes,' Léger told André Daven, after he had seen an exhibition of African sculpture at the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs. 'Only the Negroes can excite Paris.'

So Baker arrived in Paris in 1925, where she performed alongside Sidney Bechet at the Théatre des Champs-Élysées. Picked out from the troupe as a relatively uninhibited body beautiful, she was persuaded to expose her breasts when she danced. The show-stopping climax was Baker's dance with Joe Alex: 'The drummer beat out a steady jungle rhythm, a tom-tom call. Josephine returned with Joe Alex to do their savage dance. She rode onstage upside-down, carried on Alex's broad shoulders. All she wore was a bright pink feather tucked between her thighs ans a ring of feathers circling her ankles and neck. Alex swung her around in a slow cartwheel ... Josephine and Joe then engaged in a primitive mating dance, filled with ardent passion.'


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