Geoffrey Holder, the West Indian-born dancer, choreographer and painter who won Tony Awards for his work on The Wiz, an all-black version of The Wizard of Oz, and who died last fall, will be honored August 1, on what would have been his 85th birthday, in a special, multi-part celebration at Lincoln Center Out of Doors.
The celebration will include, in the afternoon, at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, a panel discussion on Holder’s life and work, moderated by his son, Leo Holder, a graphic artist and art director for films, and a screening of Carmen and Geoffrey, a documentary about Holder and his wife, the 84-year-old dancer/choreographer/actress Carmen de Lavallade. In the evening there will be a dance program, at the Damrosch Park Bandshell, featuring Garth Fagan Dance and a performance by de Lavallade of “The Creation,” a 1972 solo choreographed and scored by her late husband. Fagan, who was 75 in May and founded his company—whose dance combines modern and post-modern idioms and ballet, with Afro-Caribbean roots–almost 45 years ago, has created a “New Work” that also will be performed, in tribute to Holder.
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, located at Lincoln Center, also is offering a special multi-media exhibition, though August 29, on “The Genius of Geoffrey Holder.” This covers his performing career; his Tony Award-winning work as director and costume designer for The Wiz; and his contributions to the repertory of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company and Dance Theatre of Harlem.
An excerpt of “The Creation” is also featured in de Lavallade’s solo performance, “As I Remember It,” which uses dance, film and storytelling to explore her own six-decade-long career, in which she has worked with Lena Horne, Harry Belafonte, Josephine Baker and Alvin Ailey, among others, as well as Holder.
She began dancing as a youth in Los Angles, where she performed with the Lester Horton Dance Theater, the first multi-race dance troupe in the United States; she persuaded her neighbor, Alvin Ailey, to join her studies with Horton. Horne introduced de Lavallade when she was 17 to filmmakers at 20th Century Fox , where she appeared in movies with Dorothy Dandridge and Belafonte.
De Lavallade said she hoped to perform “As I Remember It” in Los Angeles, where she grew up, next year; she performed it this year in New Haven, where she was a choreographer at the Yale School of Drama, and at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York, where de Lavallade developed it during two residencies.