The Kennedy Center

Carmen de Lavallade


An accomplished actor, dancer and choreographer, Carmen de Lavallade has amassed more than six decades of professional experience in the arts.
The Los Angeles native made her debut at the age of 17 with the Lester Horton Dance Theater in the role of Salome, and she appeared in four films, including Carmen Jones (1954) with Dorothy Dandridge and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) with Harry Belafonte. In 1954, she made her Broadway debut in House of Flowers, written by Truman Capote with music by Harold Arlen. Her dance career includes having ballets created for her by Lester Horton, Geoffrey Holder, Alvin Ailey, Glen Tetley, John Butler, and Agnes de Mille.

Carmen succeeded her cousin Janet Collins as the principal dancer with the Metropolitan Opera and was a guest artist with American Ballet Theatre. She has choreographed for Dance Theatre of Harlem, Philadanco, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and the productions of Porgy and Bess and Die Meistersinger at the Metropolitan Opera. She has also had an extensive acting career performing in numerous off-Broadway productions, including Death of a Salesman and Othello, taught movement for actors at Yale, and became a member of the Yale Repertory Company and the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard.

Carmen and her late husband, Geoffrey Holder, were the subjects of the film Carmen and Geoffrey (2005), which chronicled their 60-year partnership and artistic legacy. Her most recent work includes 651 ART’s FLY: Five First Ladies of Dance (2009), Step-Mother by Ruby Dee (2009), Post Black by Regina Taylor (2011), and the Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire (2012). She is currently touring a dance/theater work about her life entitled As I Remember It, which premiered in June 2014.

Lauded by numerous institutions, Carmen received the Dance Magazine Award in 1964, an honorary doctorate of Fine Arts from the Juilliard School in 2007, the Duke Ellington Fellowship Award, and the Dance USA Award in 2010. Now in her eighties, Carmen de Lavallade continues to inspire generations of artists and audiences alike.
Carmen de Lavallade