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A Life in Motion

A Life in Motion

Each year since 1978 the Kennedy Center Honors has, according to Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein, spotlighted "the extraordinary careers of five artists whose talent and ingenuity have enriched and shaped cultural life in America".  

This year one of the most exceptional is Carmen De Lavallade. At 86, Ms. De Lavallade can celebrate many achievements along with a career that continues into it's the seventieth year.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Carmen at age 17, began studying and performing with the modern dance choreographer Lester Horton. Eventually, she brought a friend from Thomas Jefferson High School to study with Horton. The two became important members of Horton’s dance company. That friend was Alvin Ailey. 

Horton’s school was the theater,  “Everything happened on the stage. We had to come in early, iron the costumes, hang them up. We were the stage crew. We did the lighting. And then at the end, we had to clean up. So it taught us independence, and that everything's not given to you. We didn't have any money, but every one of us has never forgotten that experience.”

After Horton's death in 1953, De Lavallade and Ailey, along with the rest of the company, had to make a new life in dance. "As uncredited dance soloists in the 1954, Otto Preminger movie “Carmen Jones”  she and Ailey met were invited by the film's choreographer, Herbert Ross, to join the cast of a Broadway musical he was choreographing, “House of Flowers.”

Moving to New York brought her Broadway debut and an introduction to her future husband Geoffrey Holder. Their artistic partnership and marriage were portrayed in “Carmen & Geoffrey,” a 2005 documentary. Holder died on Oct. 5, 2014, at age 84, without her husband of 59 years, De Lavallade continues to create and perform including in her one-woman show As I Remember It. 

I encourage you to learn more about this remarkable woman and her life :from her site. She is a true perennial to celebrate inspiring, dancing and teaching. 

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