Carmen de Lavallade has had an unparalleled career in dance, theater, film and television beginning in her hometown of Los Angeles performing with the Lester Horton Dance Theater. While in Los Angeles, Lena Horne introduced the then 17 year old de Lavallade to the filmmakers at 20th Century Fox where she appeared in four movies, including Carmen Jones (1954) with Dorothy Dandridge and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) with Harry Belafonte. During the filming of Carmen Jones, she met Herbert Ross, who asked her to appear as a dancer in the Broadway production of House of Flowers. Her dance career includes having ballets created for her by Lester Horton, Geoffrey Holder, Alvin Ailey, Glen Tetley, John Butler and Agnes de Mille.
Carmen de Lavallade succeeded her cousin Janet Collins as the principal dancer with the Metropolitan Opera and was a guest artist with the American Ballet Theater. She has choreographed for the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Philadanco, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and the productions of Porgy and Bess and Die Meistersinger at the Metropolitan Opera.
Ms. de Lavallade also has had an extensive acting career performing in numerous off-Broadway productions including Death of a Salesman and Othello. She taught movement for actors at Yale and became a member of the Yale Repertory Company and the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard.
She and her husband, Geoffrey Holder, were the subjects of the film Carmen & Geoffrey (2005), which chronicled their sixty year partnership and artistic legacy. Her most recent work includes 651 ARTS’ FLY: Five First Ladies of Dance (2009), Step-Mother by Ruby Dee (2009), Post Black by Regina Taylor (2011), and the Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire (2012).
Ms. de Lavallade is currently touring a dance/theater work about her life entitled As I Remember It, which premiered in June 2014. Lauded by numerous institutions, Ms. de Lavallade received the Dance Magazine Award in 1964, an honorary doctorate of Fine Arts from the Juilliard School in 2007, the Duke Ellington Fellowship Award, and the Dance USA Award in 2010. From Broadway to the Metropolitan Opera, Ms. de Lavallade has performed on the world’s greatest stages and with such legendary artists as Josephine Baker and Duke Ellington. In her eighties and still performing with a supreme level of grace and elegance, Carmen de Lavallade is an icon in the truest sense of the word – inspiring generations of artists and audiences.
Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes