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Spotlight on: 'Carmen de Lavallade'

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  • multiracialbookclub
    Carmen de Lavallade Carmen de Lavallade was born of Creole parents in New Orleans, Louisiana and
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 25, 2007
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      Carmen de Lavallade


      Carmen de Lavallade was born of Creole 
      parents in New Orleans, Louisiana and
      raised in Los Angeles, California by her aunt.

      She studied dance as a young child, and at 16
      received a scholarship to study with Lester Horton.

      She joined the Lester Horton Dance Theater in
      1949 and was a lead dancer from 1950 to 1954.

      Horton believed in broad-based training, so
      de Lavallade was taught ballet, modern and
      ethnic dance forms, as well as painting,
      music, sculpting, acting (with Stella Adler),
      set design, costuming, and lighting.

      An extraordinarily gifted dancer, she kept
       ballet as her first love, studying privately
      with Italian ballerina Carmelita Maracci.

      Possessing physical beauty, elegance, and
      technical polish, de Lavallade entranced
      audiences with the sensual quality of her dancing.

      The first of many roles Horton created for
      her was Salome in "The Face of Violence".

      It was when they were both with Horton that de
      Lavallade began her long association with Alvin Ailey.

      Concurrently, another aspect of
      her career was taking shape.

      Lena Horne had seen her in Los Angeles and
      had introduced the 17-year-old to the filmmakers
      at 20th Century Fox, and between 1952 and
      1955 de Lavallade appeared in four movies,
      including CARMEN JONES (1955).

      During the filming, she met Herbert Ross, who asked
      her to appear as a dancer in the Broadway musical
      "House of Flowers" (1954), which he choreographed.

      During that engagement in 1955, de Lavallade met
      and married the dancer and actor Geoffrey Holder.


      De Lavallade succeeded her cousin, Janet Collins, as
      "prima ballerina" of the Metropolitan Opera in 1956.

      Shortly after that, de Lavallade became a principal
      in John Butler's company and made her television
      debut in 1956 in Butler 's ballet, FLIGHT.

      She also performed with the New York City
      Opera, dancing in her husband's works.

      As a freelancer, she worked with
       several choreographers and
      had many roles created for her.

      Her son was born in February 1957.

      With Geoffrey Holder, de Lavallade danced in
      West Indian-influenced style and performed
      modern dance (he set her signature solo,
      "Come Sunday," sung by Odetta)

      In 1957 she appeared in the television production
      of Duke Ellington's A DRUM IS A WOMAN.

      Her later film credits include ODDS AGAINST
      TOMORROW (1959), with Harry Belafonte.

      She has also acted in off-Broadway productions.

      Ever since de Lavallade worked with
      Alvin Ailey in Horton's company, Ailey
      had been one of her major influences.

      By the early 1960s, de Lavallade was an important
      guest artist in his company, and on the company's
      first European tour (in 1962), the billing was
      "de Lavallade-Ailey American Dance Company."

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

      In 1966 she won the coveted DANCE MAGAZINE
      award for her contribution to the art of dance.

      De Lavallade also pursued an acting career and
      appeared in several off-Broadway productions,
      including "Othello" and "Death of a Salesman."

      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 full professor at Yale
      and a member of the Yale Repertory Theater.

      De Lavallade left Yale around 1980, but
      continues to teach, lecture, and perform.

      In October 1993 she appeared with the Bill
      T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Co. t the Joyce
      Theater in New York City , still commanding
      admiration with her unique stage presence.

      In the fall of 1993 she also choreographed the
      dances for a new production of Antonìn Dvoràk's
      opera Rusalka at the Metropolitan Opera.

      -- written by Derry Swan





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