Carmen de Lavallade

Carmen de Lavallade (1931-present) was born in raised in Los Angeles. Inspired by her older cousin Janet Collins, she began taking formal dance lessons at the age of 14 with Melissa Blake. Two years later, Carmen received a scholarship to study with Lester Horton. While dancing with Horton, she studied ballet with Carmelita Maracci. In 1951, Horton offered her the lead role in “Salome,” in which she was well received by critics. When Lester passed away in 1953, Carmen and her fellow dancer Alvin Ailey moved to New York City to perform on Broadway in “House of Flowers.” In New York she met her husband Geoffrey Holder, a dancer-choreographer-actor, and they married in 1955. She went on to have a successful career in dance, television, and film collaborating with many artists including: Alvin Ailey, Agnes de Mille, Martha Graham, Erza Pound, Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte, and Robert Brustein. In 2014 she debuted her one woman memoir show “As I Remember It” at Jacobs Pillow.

Carmen has received many distinctions including: The Dance Magazine Award (1964), Black History Month Lifetime Achievement Award (2004), The Rosie Award (2004), The Bessie Award (2006), Capezio Dance Award (2007), Dance USA Award (2010), Duke Ellington Fellowship Award (2010), and an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from Juilliard School (2007).

Visionary Project Interview with Carmen de Lavallade (2010):

Carmen de Lavallade and Wesley Fata in Dear Quincy (1968):

Further Reading:

Official Website:

Video Excerpt: Carmen de Lavallade performing Portrait of Billie by John Butler at Jacobs Pillow in 1992.

Collins-Hughes, Laura, “At 83, dancer Carmen de Lavallade has stories to tell.” Boston Globe, May 17, 2014.

O’Brien, Erin, “Carmen de Lavallade on a life in dance.” Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2015.

Wikipedia: Carmen de Lavallade:

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Categorized as: ARTIST, Artistic Director, Dancer, Modern, Teacher/Educator