Carmen de Lavallade celebrates 80th: We'll be loving you always

Misani | 1/3/2012, 2:22 p.m.
A beautiful legend was celebrated on Sunday, March 6, on the occasion of her 80th...
Carmen de Lavallade celebrates 80th: We'll be loving you always

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Carmen de Lavallade celebrates 80th: We'll be loving you always

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Standing: Carmen de Lavallade; Leo Holder, graphic illustrator; seated: Geoffrey Holder, director/costume designer/painter (Misani photos)

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Carmen de Lavallade celebrates 80th: We'll be loving you always

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Carmen de Lavallade, dancer/choreographer/actor/educator, entertaining at her 80th birthday celebration (Misani photos)

A beautiful legend was celebrated on Sunday, March 6, on the occasion of her 80th birthday. Her name: Ms. Carmen de Lavallade, the internationally renowned dance queen. And oh, what a super special afternoon for the multifarious award-winning great lady of culture and her wonderful guests who came to share her momentous milestone!

Orchestrated by several of de Lavallade's dear friends, including John Martello, executive director of the Players Club, the early afternoon soiree was held at a magnificent private club at 16 Gramercy Park in New York City, where everything was absolutely perfect.

From 12:30 p.m. to just before 4, as a drenching rain crescendoed rhythmically against the landmark mansion, the fashion maven de Lavallade, a name synonymous with "Best Dressed List," welcomed everyone inside. Attired in an alluring cherry-red two-piece ensemble, she floated gracefully through the spacious opulence and old-world grandeur, priceless paintings warmly greeting her delightful company of dancers, actors and other brilliant partygoers. In turn, they exchanged hugs and kisses with the treasured grand dame.

There were those who shared her dance world: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Judith Jamison and Robert Battle, Paradigm Dance Company's Gus Solomon Jr., Hope Clarke and Dudley Williams, Philadanco's Joan Myers Brown and Complexions' Desmond Richardson, as well as Louis Johnson, the fabulous Maurice Hines and Chita Rivera.

From the theater: Federico Castelluccio, Tony Goldwyn and his wife, Jane Musky, Joey Grisanti, S. Epatha Merkerson, Lynn Norment, James Norton, Corice Arman, Mrs. Camille Cosby and Linda Atkinson and Nick Doob, filmmakers of the award-winning documentary "Carmen and Geoffrey."

And of course de Lavallade's family was also present: her beloved husband, Geoffrey Holder, the Tony Award-winning director, costume designer and painter, and their remarkable son Leo and his fiance, Alison Slon, as well as her nephew, Gregory Johnson.

Leaving the comfortable spacious parlors, the party meandered into the vestibule of the historic mansion, founded in 1888 by the renowned Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth as a place for those in the arts to gather socially with patrons who wanted to support the arts.

Soon everyone was seated in the dining room around the festively decorated tables set for eight with keepsake place cards designed by Leo Holder, depicting de Lavallade as a little girl with her hands on her hips, which opened to a stunning image of her dancing several decades later. Holder also designed a fabulous souvenir poster that all the guests signed.

During their meal, Martello welcomed everyone to the Players, giving them a brief history of the membership-based club, the first of its kind in U.S. history, which continues Booth's wish to honor the players (actors) of the theatre and "to maintain the Hampden-Booth Theater Library relating especially to the history of the American stage and the preservation of pictures, bills of the play, photographs and curiosities connected with such history."

Martello shared: "I've been captivated by the de Lavallade/Holder charm, presence and talent." Then he asked, "What do you give a bad guy (Geoffrey Holder) and a woman like Carmen de Lavallade who has everything?" He responded, "The Executive Committee has requested this duo join us by being lifetime members in our club." Amidst thunderous applause, Martello said, "Until this moment there was something incomplete about us. Now we are complete!" Everyone in the room applauded heartily in agreement.