Geoffrey Holder
National Visionary

Born on August 1, 1930 in Port of Spain, Trinidad

Dancer, Painter, Choreographer, Designer, Actor, Photographer, Writer

With an award-winning career spanning six decades, Geoffrey Holder has done it all. His inherent creativity thrives through dance, painting, choreography, costume design, acting, photography, and writing.

Holder was born on August 1, 1930 in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. Inspired by his artistic family, particularly his older brother Boscoe who taught him painting and dancing, Holder joined his brother’s dance troupe, the Holder Dance Company, when he was seven. He took over as director of the ensemble a decade later when Boscoe moved to London.

As a young dancer, Holder toured the West Indies and Puerto Rico before making his New York stage debut in 1954, a pivotal point both personally and professionally because the towering (6’6”), breathtakingly limber interpretive dancer was chosen to perform in Harold Arlen’s Broadway musical House of Flowers. It was there that he met the beautiful young dancer Carmen de Lavallade, who became his wife in 1955. He was a principal dancer with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, and in 1956, he formed his own troupe, Geoffrey Holder and Company. His talents as a performer were increasingly in demand and would eventually lead to his creation of classic works for both the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Dance Theatre of Harlem.

de Lavallade & Holder on their
wedding day

This interview has
been archived in the
NVLP Collection of
African American
Oral Histories at the
Library of Congress
American Folklife
Holder made his dramatic theatrical debut in 1957 in the near-mime role of Lucky in the all-black production of Waiting for Godot. His subsequent stage work has earned him numerous awards, including two Tony Awards for his groundbreaking work as a director and costume designer for the hit Broadway musical, The Wiz, in 1974. He followed in 1978 with another Broadway smash, directing and choreographing the lavish production Timbuktu!

Holder’s talent as a visual artist was initially noticed at the age of 15 with the sale of two paintings. In 1957, the accomplished artist won a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in painting. His success in other endeavors notwithstanding, Holder has never stopped painting; his works continue to be showcased in major museums and galleries around the globe.

Also well known for his mesmerizing film performances, he has entertained film audiences through such roles villain Baron Samedi in the James Bond classic, Live and Let Die (1973), and as Punjab in Annie (1982). He also appeared with Eddie Murphy in the 1992 film Boomerang. He is best known to television fans for his series of Seven Up commercials, in which he elegantly and laughingly extolled the virtues of “Un-Cola Nuts.”

Holder is also the author and illustrator of many books. He co-wrote with Tom Harshman and illustrated Black Gods, Green Islands, a collection of Caribbean folklore, as well as Geoffrey Holder’s Caribbean Cookbook. His latest book is the massive achievement Geoffrey Holder: A Life in Theater, Dance and Art.

Holder resides in New York, where he continues to paint, choreograph, and act. He and his life partner and wife, Carmen de Lavallade, have one son.


Geoffrey Holder's Wikipedia Page

Carmen de Lavallade's Visionary Page (Holder's wife)
Roundtable discussion with Carmen de Lavallade & Geoffrey Holder

URL (Click to bookmark): http://www.visionaryproject.org/holdergeoffrey