CARMEN DE LAVALLADE
Carmen was born in New Orleans, moved at an early age with her father and two sisters to Los Angeles, where she won a scholarship to study with the pioneering choreographer, Lester Horton. She soon took along a high school class-mate, Ailvin Ailey, for his first dance class. She came to New York with Horton’s company, dancing the principal role in his production of Salome. As a result of this exposure, she was offered several movie roles. She appeared in Lydia Bailey, and in Carmen Jones, choreographed by Herbert Ross and subsequently Ross selected her to dance in the ground breaking Broadway production of Truman Capote’s House of Flowers. It was at this time she met her future husband, Geoffrey Holder.
De Lavallade was soon a well known dance presence in New York. She made her debut as a principal dancer at the Metropolitan Opera and went on to work with every prominent choreographer from Agnes deMille to Glen Tetly, Joe Layton, and John Butler. Butler’s A Portrait of Billie, set to four songs by Billie Holiday became Carmen’s signature piece. She also performed internationally, sharing a stage with Josephine Baker and touring the Far East with the De Lavallade-Ailey Dance Company.
While Carmen has never stopped dancing, she began to train as an actress also and joined the Yale Repertory Theater in the 1970’s. She has continued to act on stage and in films since Currently, she is at work with Debbie Allen on Soul Possessed, a work-in-progress which she performed last year at the Kennedy Center. She has formed a new company, Paradigm, with two other living legends, Gus Solomon’s Jr. and Dudley Williams. She has just completed remounting John Butler’s Carmina Burana, and will restage Joe Layton’s Porgy and Bess, for the Ailey Company.
Geoffrey Holder with his 6 foot 6 inch frame, extraordinary voice, and exuberant virtuosi seems larger than life. Two time Tony-Award winner, Drama Desk winner, Clio Award winner, and recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Geoffrey’s many and varied talents have won him recognition as an actor, dancer, singer, choreographer, composer, librettist, director, costume designer, scenic designer, writer, photographer and painter. His talent as a painter is the one least known to the public. His sense of community, love of bright colors, and ability to depict the visual imprint of memory, dream and deeply felt experience are strikingly evident in his work. With such a remarkably broad range of talents, it is natural that Geoffrey is a master at using the stage as a personal canvas.
Geoffrey is currently working on a feature film version of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Red Slippers, as well as an African-American version of Alice in Wonderland. In addition, he is the collaborator and subject of a book by the New York Times dance critic, Jennifer Dunning, The Marvelous World of Geoffrey Holder.
Linda Atkinson first met Carmen and Geoffrey while she was studying acting at the Yale School of Drama. She graduated with an MFA, having won the Carol Dye Acting Prize. She has performed in theaters around the country including The Old Globe, the Yale Rep., the Indiana Rep., the Folger, and the Alaska Rep. In New York she has performed at Playwright’s Horizons, Manhattan Theater Club, The Public, and with Lyn Austin’s Lenox Theater Group. She began directing in 1983 and worked at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, the Indiana Rep, the Peterborough Players, WestBank Theater Bar and for NBC’ s Another World. She then began working with her husband, Nick Doob, to produce a prize winning series of health related documentaries for high school students. She is currently producing a film based on a chapter from Robert Coles’s Women of Crisis. In addition, she has recently directed an original play, FINEPRINT, at Sing Sing Correctional Facility.
Nick Doob has been director, cinematographer and editor on numerous award-winning films. He shot four films which were nominated for Oscars, including From Mao to Mozart, which won. He has received eight grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures and the Director’s Guild. He directed Down from the Mountain with D A Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus and Elaine Stritch at Liberty, which won an Emmy. In 2000 he won an Emmy as a producer on American High, the acclaimed verité TV series. For HBO he co-directed with Rory Kennedy A Boy’s Life, and has shot a number of Pennebaker-Hegedus films, including Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1973), The War Room (1993), and directed with Chris Hegedus, Al Franken: God Spoke. Recently he directed Carmen & Geoffrey with his wife, Linda Atkinson, a film about the dancers Carmen de Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder. Currently he is directing and producing a 90 minute film for HBO about Alzheimer’s.