Photographs from Emory’s Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade papers are open for research

By Anicka Austin, Emory University Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library and SGA Blog Contributor

In the gospel of Mark in the New Testament of The Bible, readers meet Salome, Herodias’ daughter. Herodias harbored a strong dislike of John the Baptist, who disapproved of her marriage to Herod, her previous husband’s brother. Herodias’ opportunity to enact revenge came unexpectedly when Herod gave a banquet on his birthday. Salome dances beautifully for Herod and his guests during the banquet, prompting Herod to offer Salome anything she wants. Salome asks Herodias what she should request, returns to Herod and says, “the head of John the Baptist on a platter”. Herod reluctantly acquiesces (Mark 6:17-29). This story has been explored by artists throughout history and choreographer Lester Horton almost obsessively recreated and reimagined it throughout his career.

Carmen de Lavallade as Salome, and in The Beloved, Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade papers, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University

Carmen de Lavallade first danced the hefty role of Salome in Horton’s production when she was still a teenager.  Frank Eng, Horton’s business manager and partner, said she possessed “a youthful, lovely lyricism; an implicit and natural feeling for drama…and, most important, the drive.” (Bizot, 1984).  De Lavallade’s commanding presence and ability to tap into the dramatic elements of a work would be a defining quality throughout her career.

For de Lavallade, dancing with Horton helped shape her formative years. She recalls working with Horton’s company as being part of a team. The group did everything from painting sets to cleaning, which she says set her up for a well-rounded career in the arts (You Might Know Her From, 2020). This is evident in early photographs of the company, including depictions of de Lavallade teaching young students, performing Salome (1950-1953) and The Beloved (created in 1948), and working intently in rehearsal processes. She would help reconstruct Salome, or as Horton later called it, The Face of Violence, along with James Truitte for the Cincinnati Ballet Company in 1972 (Bizet, 1984).

Carmen de Lavallade with children, Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade papers, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University

Throughout the collection of photographs in the Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade papers, researchers might notice de Lavallade’s commitment to a variety of projects, which explains the range with which she performs. From actor to choreographer to dancer to educator, de Lavallade made her way through commercial film, Broadway, Yale Repertory Theater, and the stages of Paris where she danced with Josephine Baker. A series of negatives, slides and photographs show her journey through Southeast Asia as headliner of de Lavallade-Ailey American Dance Theater (1962). Her work with choreographer John Butler is also well-documented, including photographs of the well-loved Portrait of Billie (1960-1992) performed throughout several years.

Carmen de Lavallade and John Butler rehearse Portrait of Billie, and de Lavallade and Alvin Ailey on Southeast Asia tour, Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade papers, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University

Through photographs, researchers can also see de Lavallade celebrated and celebrating at formal events such as Kennedy Center Honors and the “Divas of the Twentieth Century” award ceremony (1991).  De Lavallade’s life in photographs is rounded out by decades of headshots and documentation of dinners, parties and relationships with friends and family.

Carmen de Lavallade at White House, and with friends, Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade papers, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University

The photographs shown here represent a fraction of de Lavallade’s early life (circa 1949-1968), but researchers can find photographs in this series from circa 1900-2017. Photographs of Geoffrey Holder’s life and career are also prominent. For research questions, please reach out to rose.library@emory.edu

Finding aid: https://findingaids.library.emory.edu/documents/holder1432/series2/ 

References:

Bizot, Richard (1984). Lester Horton’s Salome, 1934-1953 and after. Dance Research Journal, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 35-40. https://doi.org/10.2307/1478256

Bellino, Damian and Anne Rodeman. 2020 February 20. Carmen de Lavallade [Audio Podcast Episode]. “You Might Know Her From”. https://youmightknowherfrom.libsyn.com/carmen-de-lavallade

New International Version of the Bible. Biblica. https://www.biblica.com/bible/niv/mark/6/

Scripts in the Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade papers at Rose Library are open for research

By Anicka Austin, Emory University Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, SGA Blog Contributor

Roger Moore had tough shoes to fill when he took over the job of depicting Ian Fleming’s James Bond in 1973’s Live and Let Die. Bond, up until that point, was played by a relatively well received Sean Connery and once by George Lazenby. Another Roger (Ebert) called Moore’s performance humorless, saying “Moore has been supplied with a lot of double entendres and double takes, but he doesn’t seem to get the joke.” (Ebert, 1973) While Moore’s lack of wit may have been a shortcoming, Geoffrey Holder’s scene-stealing portrayal of Baron Samedi held the “convoluted” (Mager, 2001) film together. Holder’s guttural laughter and mischievousness as the loa of the dead gave some weight to vodou themes in the film, as did his choreography.

Holder’s choreographic vocabulary is reflected in several moments in the film. In an opening scene on the fictional Caribbean island, San Monique, an MI-6 field agent named Baines cowers as Dambala dances a snake in front of his face. Behind Dambala, a crowd of people dressed in white step side to side, contracting and releasing their spines in a ritual dance. A revised Live and Let Die script described that same crowd in a later scene:

Ext: VOODOO CEMETARY – NIGHT

Lines of WORSHIPPERS and ACOLYTE GUARDS sway back and forth to the beat of drums, chanting. Oddly-dressed people of all sorts: WOMEN with cigars and bowler hats, MEN with rum kegs smoking root drugs, most wearing strange fetishes and amulets. A large cross-like stake with ropes hanging from it has been erected nearby, exactly in the place where we saw BAINES killed in the pre-title sequence. DAMBALA stands by the stake, takes in the proceedings, looks off as if waiting for something.

Holder’s relationship with Haitian vodou, and particularly with Baron Samedi, permeates through most of his work. His early writings, including Les Mysteres (undated), depict the goings-on of several loas, including Baron Samedi, Erzulie, and Agwe as well as Hector Hippolyte, a Haitian painter and spiritual leader from whom Holder drew inspiration. 

An excerpt from Les Mysteres:

The languid brown hand draws another delicate tracery on the orange earth: the vever of Ogoun. . .God of fire and might, power, authority, triumph, politics, war. Being an honest hero, a real shaker of history, Ogoun wears the sad tortured face of Christ, just unhung from the cross. The martyred warrior hero; his flesh is impervious to wounds but his spirit is not. The sword is sacred to him, the blood color of red, and the flames of burning rum on the earth are his salute. Thunder is the sound of Ogoun announcing that his balls are cold and he demands a drink of rum which he spits through his teeth.

Access to Live and Let Die and Les Mysteres is now available in the Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade papers. Holder and de Lavallade were both heavily involved in and influential to modern theatre, dance, and visual art. Scripts in Holder’s papers include other original writings such as The Odyssey of Anna and the Red Pumps (circa 1991-2002) and Sister Alice in Wonderland (circa 1998-2008). Holder, whose work truly ran the gamut, was also featured in ads for 7-up, as narrator for films like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), and as “Chef Geoffrey Lamont” on The Cosby Show (1990). These scripts and more, including several drafts of the Broadway productions The Wiz and Timbuktu, which Holder directed and costume designed, are well represented in the collection.

Researchers interested in learning more can view the finding aid, learn how to request materials from the Rose and contact reference services to make an appointment (rose.library@emory.edu).

References: 

Ebert, Roger. (1973 July 6). Live and Let Die movie review. https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/live-and-let-die-1973

Mager, William (26 July 2001). Live and Let Die. BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2001/07/26/live_and_let_die_1973_review.shtml