Women Every Woman Needs to Know: Carmen De Lavallade

Photograph by Julieta Cervante

Photograph by Julieta Cervante

Name: Carmen De Lavallade
Occupation: Dancer, Choreographer, Professor, and Actress 
Birthday: March 6, 1931 (Age 83)
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California
Zodiac Sign: Pisces

  • With a scholarship to study under modern dance pioneer Lester Horton, she became a member of the Lester Horton Dance Theater at age 18, where she danced as a lead dancer for 4 years.
  • Became proficient in painting, acting, music, set design, and costuming, as well as ballet and other forms of modern and ethnic dance.
  • Studied dance with Martha Graham and Margaret Craske, acting with Stella Adler, voice with Gian Carlo Menotti and was protégée of Lena Horne
  • Choreographed her signature solo, “Come Sunday,”  to a black spiritual sung by Odetta Gordon
  • Danced as the prima ballerina in Samson and Delilah and Aida at the Metropolitan Opera
  • Staged musicals, plays, and operas
  • Has received numerous awards including the Black History Month Lifetime Achievement Award, the Rosie Award, the Bessie Award, the Capezio Dance Award, the Dance Magazine Award and the Clarence Bayfield Award
  • Holds an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from Julliard, an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from the Boston Conservatory, and was a professor and member of the Yale Repertory Theater
  • Danced for Dance Theatre of Harlem, Glen Tetley’s Dance Company, the Metropolitan Opera Company, John Butler’s Dance Company, and the Ailey Company
  • Was a guest artist for the American Ballet Theatre
  • A muse to choreographers such as Lester Horton, Alvin Ailey, Donald McKayle, and Glen Tetley
  • Taught movement and acting to Meryl Streep, Henry Winkler, and Sigourney Weaver
  • Starred as Madame Zzaj in Talley Beatty’s “A Drum is a Woman” for Duke Ellington’s CBS presentation
  • Co-founded Paradigm Dance Company with Gus Solomons, Jr. and Dudley Williams
  • Has been married for 59 years and has one son
  • Her works have been performed by notable companies such as the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, and Joyce Trisler Danscompany
  • Focus of the 2005 documentary Carmen and Geoffrey

“Carmen de Lavallade displayed to a generation that dance transcends the social stigma of race. In the mid-20th century the concept of a black ballet dancer was widely perceived as physically unattractive and artistically invalid.”

Irlanda Esteli Jacinto for the Dance Heritage Coalition

*Feature Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Lindsay M. About Lindsay M.
Lindsay is a newly minted Coloradan. She's many things: a woman, a wife, a sister, a daughter. Currently living with SLE Lupus and wrangling a pair of dachshunds in her off-time. Lindsay enjoys the absurdity and profound beauty of life and aims to capture a chunk of it in her writing.

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