As you know, we are taking Decadent: 100 Years of Burlesque to Boston next month, so we thought we’d take a moment to introduce you to the fabulous performers who will be joining us.
First up, meet Harley Foxx, who will rep the 1920s. This swing and jazz aficionado shares some of her favorite things about this glamorous decade, including her love for the iconic Josephine Baker.
1. What is your favorite thing about the 1920s?
My favorite thing about this era is defined by the music and the dancing. My mother used to play Duke Ellington and Count Basie records, and she sang Billie Holiday around our house. As I got older I started swing dancing and it became even more infused into my soul.
I really love listening to “hot jazz” music, and those old syncopated rhythms. I have gradually been building this collection of swing music and I am totally amazed and humbled by the never-ending wealth of great music just waiting to be heard.
But aside from that, as a DJ I like to play whatever I think will keep people dancing – whether it’s chunky, up-tempo, or even contemporary swing. Some of my favorite artists include the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, Chick Webb, Django Reinhardt, Mildred Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Fats Waller (of course), Bob Crosby, as well as Wingy Manone. My love for both the music and dance are something that I try to share with everyone in my life.
2. If you could have drinks/dinner with any person from that era, real or fictional, who would it be?
I would love to sit down with the great Josephine Baker.
She had an independent spirit and had to learn to provide for herself and make her own way. This free and bold behavior led her to perform across the country and eventually she was able to sashay away to the Paris stage during the 1920s.
She was confident in her abilities and performed with a comic, yet sensual appeal that took Europe by storm. She had a perfect blend and I try to embody her character and flair in some of my pieces. Baker went on to perform and choreograph for 50 years in Europe.
Although racism in the States often restricted her from gaining the same fame at home as she did abroad, Baker fought segregation through organizations like NAACP. I would love to chat with her about where we are now in entertainment, burlesque and politics. Things are different from the 1920’s but I definitely feel like she would be a great mentor and be able to offer some insight and guidance.
3. Is there anyone from today you think embodies the idea of the 1920s?
Beyoncé is a great pop superstar who isn’t afraid of celebrating black brilliance and has often given nods to the black women performers who’ve inspired her. Beyoncé has paid tribute to Tina Turner and in 2006, she celebrated Jospehine Baker.
Beyoncé’s affinity for Baker comes as no surprise. Baker’s control of her art and her image were unprecedented for her time. Baker, a black woman beloved by white audiences, built her name by working within the status quo to transgress social boundaries. In her later life she became a civil rights activist.
Beyoncé does the same. Beyonce has also been able to navigate a space that tended to exclude (or at the very least limit) black women for a long time. Mainstream music and pop music specifically. Her album Formation made a lot of people realize how political and “woke” Beyoncé is. But she has always given nods in her music and videos on where she stands, her support to the artists who came before her, and her black culture.
Josephine baker and Beyoncé are two artists I love and admire and the fact it’s their blackness that makes them unique. I have found I don’t have to separate the blackness from the art. If you want to participate, indulge, be entertained, you must acknowledge black lives and black issues in the process. That is what they do and what I hope to do too.
Come see Harley and the rest of our magical lineup on October 7 at The Rockwell, 255 Elm Street, Somerville, MA, 02144. Doors open at 9:30. A portion of proceeds will benefit The Hispanic Federation to help with hurricane and earthquake relief.
READ MORE ABOUT THE 1920s HERE.