Carmen de Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder met on Broadway and made waves in theater, dance, and art.
Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Liz and Dick. Creative couples do not often a harmonious union make. Of course, there are exceptions. Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade are one shining example. Not only has their marriage endured since 1955, but it has also formed a solid base from which the two have pursued amazingly productive artistic lives. Each has been the other’s muse, and their talents have touched the worlds of theater, dance, and art. This month, the DuSable Museum of African-American History celebrates their personal and professional achievements with “Geoffrey and Carmen: A Memoir in Four Movements.”
The Trinidadian-born Holder and Los Angeles–bred de Lavallade met in the Broadway musical House of Flowers. Dancers from the start (Holder formed his own company, and de Lavallade enjoyed a fruitful association with Alvin Ailey), they were equally at home as film actors (her credits include Otto Preminger’s Carmen Jones, while his résumé includes Live and Let Die). Although far from household names, the two have lived enviable lives in the arts. He has been active as a painter and earned two Tony Awards for direction and costume design when he brought The Wiz to the stage; she collaborated with a string of musicians including Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington, and as an instructor at Yale, she shared her aesthetic insights with Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver. “Geoffrey and Carmen” captures the vitality of their imaginations through paintings, sculptures, photographs, costumes, dance films, and archival television footage from programs such as the renowned Playhouse90 and The Ed Sullivan Show. “They did so much,” notes their son, Leo Holder, “long before it became common for artists to wear multiple hats.” “Geoffrey and Carmen: A Memoir in Four Movements” runs February 9 through May 5 at the DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Pl., 773-947-0600