Carmen de Lavallade Set for World Premiere of AS I REMEMBER IT at Jacob's Pillow This Weekend
Carmen de Lavallade's career as a dancer, choreographer, and stage and film actress spans more than six decades working with luminaries such as Lena Horne, Josephine Baker, Harry Belafonte, Alvin Ailey, and many others. She already holds the distinction of the longest Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival performing career on record, having made her Pillow debut with Lester Horton Dance Theatre in 1953 and performing at the Festival as recently as 2004 (with Paradigm), and she now extends that record by another decade. In the world premiere of her new solo show, As I Remember It, de Lavallade combines powerful movement and poignant storytelling to weave a theatrical memoir about her venerable life on stage. This exclusive engagement opens the 2014 Festival in the Doris Duke Theatre with a limited three-show run, this weekend, June 20-22.
Ella Baff, Executive and Artistic Director of Jacob's Pillow, comments: "Carmen de Lavallade is a national treasure, and her remarkable career is unparalleled. She is an elegant, charismatic performer who has an amazing life to tell us about in this world premiere of As I Remember It. Carmen and the Pillow have a deep shared history, and we are thrilled to be the first to present this new work."
As I Remember It combines dance, film, and spoken word to present a retrospective of the extraordinary career of Carmen de Lavallade. For this intimate production, de Lavallade collaborated with director Joe Grifasi (One Slight Hitch, The 39 Steps, Heaven Can Wait, and more) and dramaturg Talvin Wilks, who has worked on productions with Ping Chong and Bebe Miller, including Miller's Landing/Place, for which he received a New York Dance and Performance ("Bessie") award for Dramaturgy in 2006.
De Lavallade says, "Jacob's Pillow has played such an important role in my career. It is hard to believe that my first performance at the Pillow was 61 years ago, which makes this upcoming presentation incredibly special for me. As I Remember It is my personal tribute to the phenomenal artists I have had the great pleasure of working with. I am thrilled to be returning to the Pillow and to have the opportunity to share my stories."
Carmen de Lavallade's early performing career took place with the Lester Horton Dance Theater, the first multi-race dance troupe in the U.S., and she persuaded a neighborhood friend named Alvin Ailey to join her in studying with Horton. She was later a principal guest performer with Ailey on his company's tour of Asia and in some countries the company was billed as the "de Lavallade-Ailey American Dance Company." She went on to appear on Broadway in Truman Capote's House of Flowers, onscreen in Carmen Jones and Odds Against Tomorrow, among other films, and on the concert stage with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Metropolitan Opera, and American Ballet Theatre. Dance critic Jennifer Dunning praised "her gift for the equally convincing expression of earthiness, playful sensuality and raw pain," saying of a 1993 appearance in Milton Myers' Ain't No Way: "her performance, measured yet harrowing in its rawness, ought to be required viewing for today's young dancers" (The New York Times).
In addition to her early Pillow appearances with the companies of Lester Horton (1953-54) and Alvin Ailey (1961-62), de Lavallade has also performed at the Festival with her husband, Geoffrey Holder (1956 & 1960), and in the companies of Glen Tetley and Donald McKayle. John Butler created his iconic Portrait of Billie for de Lavallade and danced in its world premiere with her at the Pillow in 1960. As a tribute to Butler, she revived the duet with Ulysses Dove and presented it here with the choreographer in attendance for a 1992 Jacob's Pillow gala performance. An excerpt of that 1992 performance can be seen within Jacob's Pillow Dance Interactive: http://danceinteractive.jacobspillow.org/dance/carmen-de-lavallade.