Thursday, March 4, 2010

March is Women's History Month: Carmen De Lavallade


Dance luminary Carmen De Lavallade was born on March 6, 1931, to Creole parents in New Orleans, Louisiana. De Lavallade was raised in Los Angeles, California by her aunt, Adele, who has the distinction of owning, the Hugh Gordon Book Shop, one of the first African American history bookshops on Central Avenue.

Her cousin, Janet Collins, was the first African American prima ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. De Lavallade discovered her talent for dance early. In 1945, she began studying ballet with Melissa Blake, and at the age of sixteen, upon graduation from Thomas Jefferson High School, she was awarded a scholarship to study dance with the renowned Lester Horton.

In 1949, De Lavallade became a member of the celebrated Lester Horton Dance Theater, where from 1950 to 1954, she enjoyed the status of lead dancer. During this time, De Lavallade continued to study dance and to become proficient in ballet and other forms of modern and ethnic dance. Lester Horton insisted that she study other art forms including painting, acting, music, set design and costuming. De Lavallade began studying ballet privately with Italian ballerina Carmelita Maracci and later acting with Stella Adler.

In 1954, De Lavallade made her Broadway debut in House of Flowers, and that same year, Alvin Ailey, the founder of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center School, moved to New York City to partner with her in that production.


During that engagement in 1955, De Lavallade met and married dancer and actor Geoffrey Holder. With Holder, she completed her signature solo, Come Sunday, to which he suggested choreographing to a black spiritual, sung by Odetta Gordon.

In 1956, De Lavallade danced as the prima ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera performances of Samson and Delilah, and Aida. Also in 1956, she made her television debut in John Butler's ballet Flight, and in 1957, she appeared in the television production of Duke Ellington's A Drum is a Woman.

In pursuit of also an acting career, Lena Horne introduced her to the executives at Twentieth Century Fox, and between 1952 and 1955, she appeared in several films including Carmen Jones with Dorothy Dandridge. In 1959, she starred in Odds Against Tomorrow with Harry Belafonte. De Lavallade also appeared in several off-Broadway productions, including Othello and Death of a Salesman.


By the early 1960s, De Lavallade was a principal guest performer with Alvin Ailey's Dance Company and on the company's first European tour in 1962, the billing was De Lavallade-Ailey American Dance Company.

In 1964, she danced with Donald McKayle and in 1965 appeared in Agnes deMille's American Ballet Theater productions of The Four Marys and The Frail Quarry.

In 1970, De Lavallade joined the prestigious Yale School of Drama as a choreographer and performer-in-residence. She staged musicals, plays and operas, and later became a professor and member of the Yale Repertory Theater. Between 1990 and 1993, De Lavallade returned to the Metropolitan Opera as choreographer for Porgy and Bess and Die Meistersinger.

De Lavallade resides in New York City with her husband, Geoffrey Holder.

Find out more about Carmen and her husband in the film Carmen and Geoffrey which is available on dvd. I've seen it and it's really interesting.



Content from The HistoryMakers

6 comments:

uglyblackjohn said...

LMBAO
"Spare Parts For Sex"?
"Are Negroes More Amorous Than Whites"?
Interesting taglines - where do you find these photos?

Val said...

@UBJ

Yeah those Jet mag articles from back in the day were kind of crazy. But, they give great insight into what we thought of ourselves at those points in time.

Don said...

It's a wonderful thing for me to read your blog cause had it not been for you I would probably never be introduced to such history makes such as these women. Especially for the performing arts talent each woman truly possessed.

I recall Dandridge and the film Carmen Jones, but De Lavallade escapes me.

Where in the world did you find those pics of thmagazine covers? LOL.

Val said...

@Don

The next time you see Carmen Jones you'll be looking for her!

I search for the photos. Sometimes I get lucky and find great pics like those Jet covers.

And thanks! :-)

cactusrose said...

Beautiful lady, beautiful story! I love it when I see marriages like this one, that have withstood the test of time. It makes me believe in love.

And ditto, thanks for the wealth of info that you post.

Val said...

@cactusrose

I agree, their marriage is very inspiring. They are a truly amazing couple.

Thanks :-)

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Soldier Of Love

I've lost the use of my heart
But I'm still alive
Still looking for the life
The endless pool on the other side
It's a wild wild west
I'm doing my best

I'm at the borderline of my faith,
I'm at the hinterland of my devotion
In the frontline of this battle of mine
But I'm still alive

I'm a soldier of love.
Every day and night
I'm soldier of love
All the days of my life

I've been torn up inside (oh!)
I've been left behind (oh!)
So I ride
I have the will to survive

In the wild wild west,
Trying my hardest
Doing my best
To stay alive

I am love's soldier!

I wait for the sound
(oooh oohhh)

I know that love will come (that love will come)
Turn it all around

I'm a soldier of love (soldier of love)
Every day and night
I'm a soldier of love
All the days of my life

I am lost
But I don't doubt (oh!)
So I ride
I have the will to survive

In the wild wild west,
Trying my hardest
Doing my best
To stay alive

I am love's soldier!

I wait for the sound

I know that love will come
I know that love will come
Turn it all around

I'm a soldier of love
I'm a soldier

Still waiting for love to come
Turn it all around
(4x)

I'm a soldier of love
I'm a soldier

Still waiting for love to come
Turn it all around
(3x)

Still waiting for love to come

Miss Keri Baby!

Tracee!

Solange!

Solange!
The only interesting Knowles

un·for·get·ta·ble: Earning a permanent place in the memory; memorable: an unforgettable experience.

Alicia says...

Rest in Peace Mitrice

Rest in Peace Mitrice
Mitrice Richardson