At 83, Dancer Carmen De Lavallade Looks Back At A Life Spent Onstage De Lavallade's husband of 59 years, dancer Geoffrey Holder, died on Oct. 5. "He was my biggest fan and I was the same way with him," she says. De Lavallade's one-woman show is called As I Remember It.
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At 83, Dancer Carmen De Lavallade Looks Back At A Life Spent Onstage

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At 83, Dancer Carmen De Lavallade Looks Back At A Life Spent Onstage

At 83, Dancer Carmen De Lavallade Looks Back At A Life Spent Onstage

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

For Carmen de Lavallade, The show is going on, even without her most important collaborator - her husband. Geoffrey Holder died earlier this month. He was 84. They were a power couple - dancers, actors on Broadway, off-Broadway, on screens big and small. NPR's Elizabeth Blair caught up with de Lavallade to talk about her new one-woman show, and about Geoffrey Holder.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: You were married for 59 years.

CARMEN DE LAVALLADE: Correct (laughter).

BLAIR: Carmen de Lavallade says she wasn't counting, but she's pretty clear why she and Geoffrey Holder stayed together for so long.

DE LAVALLADE: He allowed me to be myself. He was my champion. He was my biggest fan.

BLAIR: And he was smitten with her instantly. They met in the 1954. De Lavallade and her friend, Alvin Ailey, were cast in the Broadway musical "House Of Flowers," starring Pearl Bailey.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOW, "AS I REMEMBER IT")

PEARL BAILEY: (Singing) When you flyin' too high.

DE LAVALLADE: Music by Harold Arlen, written by Truman Capote. Alvin and I got a featured duet.

BLAIR: This is from de Lavallade's one-woman show, "As I Remember It."

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOW, "AS I REMEMBER IT")

DE LAVALLADE: This one tall, handsome man from Trinidad, named Geoffrey Holder, took us under his wing. Three days later, he proposed.

(LAUGHTER)

DE LAVALLADE: Four months later, I accepted (laughter).

(APPLAUSE)

BLAIR: They were a glamorous couple. Between them, their credits include the Metropolitan Opera, movies, TV shows, Tony Awards. Holder lent his famous voice to commercials.

(SOUNDBITE OF COMMERCIAL)

GEOFFREY HOLDER: Crisp and clean and no caffeine - never had it? (Laughter) Never will.

BLAIR: There's a great video of de Lavallade dancing in the 1960s, in high heels, a low-cut, tight-fitting black dress. She's got hips and she shimmies them elegantly.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOUL BOSSA NOVA")

BLAIR: Today, at 83, de Lavallade is still gorgeous and still graceful. Her moves and her solo theater piece are just gentler. Videos of her dancing in old movies and TV shows are projected on a big screen behind her. She critiques herself, reminisces, jokes about her hips and the famous people she called friends.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOW, "AS I REMEMBER IT")

DE LAVALLADE: I remember Duke Ellington kissing me on the cheek four times and whispering one for each cheek.

BLAIR: Carmen de Lavallade is scheduled to perform "As I Remember It" at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. this week. She says she thought about canceling when her husband died, but she says Geoffrey would not want that.

DE LAVALLADE: I really want to do it for him, and for my friends and the other people who I've missed that are in it because they made my life.

BLAIR: De Lavallade says she's not yet sure how to talk about Geoffrey Holder's death in the show - her closest companion and collaborator 59 years. But she says she is planning to. Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

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