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Geoffrey Holder, We Love You

Geoffrey Holder, Courtesy Ailey

This Saturday, August 1, the Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival devotes a full day to celebrating the larger-than-life figure of Geoffrey Holder. He captivated audiences as a dancer, choreographer, character actor, director, and visual artist. If you saw him perform (say, as Punjab in the movie Annie), you never forgot his tall, delightfully eccentric but good-natured presence. With his fantastic sense of theatricality, he drew your eye like a magnet. As a choreographer, his highly festooned, Trinidad-accented ballet Dougla (1974) became a signature piece for Dance Theatre of Harlem. As a director, he created The Wiz (for which he won Tonys for both direction and costume design) and Timbuktu!, both overflowing with vibrant and outlandish costumes. If you ever visited his loft in SoHo, or seen Jennifer Dunning's book about him (Geoffrey Holder: A Life in Theater, Dance and Art), you'd know he was an amazingly prolific painter and sculptor.

Holder was full of life up till the end. As Kina Poon wrote in our December 2010 issue, “He still retains a vivacious, slightly mischievous air.” On his deathbed last year, he was still dancing. His son Léo’s description of his dancing hands during his last breaths went viral on Facebook.

Carmen de Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder in the documentary "Carmen and Geoffrey"

The legendary Carmen de Lavallade, Holder’s widow and muse, will perform a solo, and Garth Fagan Dance will perform a new work in tribute. Also on the schedule are a screening of the beautiful documentary Carmen and Geoffrey and a panel discussion that includes de Lavallade and their son Léo.

And it won’t end there. An exhibition of gorgeous photos will stay up at the Library of Performing Arts until Aug. 29. Holder remains inspiring for his many talents, his humanity, and his dancing, laughing spirit. The richness and glamour of the photos capture Holder's originality and greatness.

Click here for the full calendar of The Celebration of the Life of Geoffrey Holder on Aug. 1. All events are FREE!

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