Emory University Acquires the Archives of Noted African American Dance Couple

The Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University in Atlanta, has acquired the papers of dancers and married couple Carmen de Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder.

Among the materials are correspondence, photographs, scripts, manuscripts, books and periodicals; videos of dance rehearsals; and sketchbooks, including portfolios of set designs and Holder’s costume drawings for “The Wiz,” for which he won Tony Awards in 1975 for costume design and direction.

The correspondence includes letters between Holder and his brother in Trinidad, Boscoe, who was also an internationally known artist, dancer and choreographer; and between de Lavallade and her cousin, Janet Collins, whom she succeeded as principal dancer with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. Collins was the first African American ballerina to become principal dancer at the Met.

Carmen de Lavallade was born in 1931 in Los Angeles to Black Creole parents from New Orleans. She moved to New York in 1954 to appear in Truman Capote’s Broadway musical “House of Flowers.” It was there that she met Holder who was also in the cast. They married in 1955. Later de Lavallade taught at Yale University and became a member of the Yale Repertory Company and the American Repertory Theater at Harvard University.

Geoffrey Holder danced on Broadway and at the Metropolitan Opera and was a choreographer for the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater and the Dance Theater of Harlem. He also appeared in several Hollywood films.

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