Dancing Barefoot traces Smith's life and career from pretty much her birth right to 2010. While a great deal of this was covered in Smith's Just Kids, Thompson switches the focus away from her relationship with Mapplethorpe, although as that was such a formative part of who she is he can't ignore it, and focuses instead on those aspects of her life more directly related to her career. While there is still quite a bit of overlap between the two books, his emphasis on how her career was being shaped by those events distinguishes his work from hers. We also hear from those who knew Smith and Mapplethorpe during this time, and their observations at least offer a different perspective on things Smith described in her book. While at times it feels somewhat strange to read these third person accounts it does help to explain how Smith was able to begin establishing herself as a force to be reckoned with in the artistic community of New York City in the late '60s early '70s.
There are also details, like Smith's fascination with Jim Morrison of the Doors, which she had barely touched on in her own book, that Thompson recounts. With descriptions of things like Smith standing at Morrison's grave in Paris for two hours in the pouring rain hoping to receive some sort of communion from beyond, Thompson makes a case for Morrison's combination of rock and roll and poetry as one of the bigger influences on her career. While he never comes right out and says it in so many words, the fact that Thompson keeps bringing up Morrison time and time again in relationship to Smith's work is an indication of the importance he places on it — and his ability to cite her own references to the late rock and roll singer gives the suggestion credence. Personally I never thought that much of Morrison, so my own personal prejudices made it difficult to accept that Smith's work would have been inspired by someone whose work was, what I'd consider, far inferior to hers, but he does present a very convincing case in support of the theory.
Thompson's meticulous research pays off for the reader in his recounting of Smith's near fatal accident during a performance in Tampa Bay, Florida when, while dancing on stage, she tripped over a monitor and fell over the edge to the concrete below, damaging vertebrae in her neck. While rumours have circulated as to the cause of the accident, the truth was as the opening act on the tour her group was forced to work around the headlining group's gear and the monitor was not where she thought it would be. I'd never even heard of this incident, it's not mentioned in either her book or the movie, so was shocked to discover how serious it had been. For a while after the accident there was not only doubt as to whether she would ever perform again, but if she would ever walk again. Smith was part of the reason the fall was downplayed so much, as she was never aware of how serious the problem was. Unused to pain medication she would cheerfully answer "fine" to people's queries as to how she was feeling. So unless you were actually in the hospital room to see her immobilized, you'd not have known the risk she was at.