Toni Basil

1943 Artist

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Toni Basil is a dancer, experimental filmmaker and choreographer.

Basil was born Antonia Christina Basilotta in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a teenager, Basil's family relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada where she was head cheerleader of her high school's squad. She would eventually draw upon this experience for her 1982 hit pop single "Mickey," in which Basil leads a group of back-up singers in a high-energy cheerleading routine.

In the early 1960s Basil moved to Los Angeles where she appeared as a dancer alongside Terri Garr on ABC's SHINDIG! and worked as an assistant choreographer on the landmark concert film THE T.A.M.I SHOW.

While in Los Angeles Basil soon became part of a close-knit community of underground artists and filmmakers in the city's idyllic Topanga Canyon. This diverse community, which included Wallace Berman, George Herms, Russ Tamblyn and Dean Stockwell, worked in both commercial and amateur art and intertwined experiments in art, music, performance and cinema.

Basil also became friends with Dennis Hopper and Bruce Conner, and famously appeared alongside Garr, Ann Marshall and Conner in one of Hopper's photographs. In 1966 Conner and Basil collaborated on his kinetic dance film BREAKAWAY, in which rapid editing compliments Basil's choreography. In 1968 she directed her own dance film A DANCE FILM INSPIRED BY THE MUSIC OF JIM MORRISON.

Like friends Hopper, Stockwell and Tamblyn she also worked in feature films and had roles in films including EASY RIDER, FIVE EASY PIECES, GREASER'S PALACE and THE LAST MOVIE.

Through the following decades Basil continued to work as a choreographer. During the 1970s she was one the founding members of The Lockers, an innovative street dance group that combined the techniques of ballet with contemporary, improvisatory moves.

Basil also worked as a choreographer for Bette Midler, David Bowie and Tina Turner. Beginning in the 1990s Basil also began to work intensively in Latin Dance and to play Latin percussion.

In 2012 her films screened as part of Pacific Standard Time, a series of exhibitions sponsored by the Getty Center and Andy Warhol Foundation.

[Source: Alison Kozberg]