Carmen de Lavallade: the Saga Continues

Carmen de Lavallade: the Saga Continues

The 81-year-old legend of the stage dishes on​A Streetcar Named Desire​, her inspiring career and what keeps her going

Kristin Braswell

by Kristin Braswell, May 25, 2012

Carmen de Lavallade: the Saga Continues

Carmen de Lavallade

things would turn out. I had no idea Alvin would become as famous as Coca Cola. We were just two kids going to New York City for a gig. We had no idea what we were getting into. We left that cocoon like existence of L.A. and the small theater that was very safe. Lester Horton had just passed. Going to New York was like going to Oz. It was such a new world. We walked into a show that had Pearl Bailey and Diahann Carroll starting her first adventure and Truman Capote. All these incredible people that you read about. It was quite fascinating.  Alvin and I had a passion for adventure. When you have a passion for adventure, if the door opens for you, you have to take it.

EBONY: You and your husband Geoffrey have worked together for many years. What has kept you all strong through it all?

​CD: I think we remain strong together because we love what we're doing. He's my fan and I'm his fan, which helps a lot. He allows me to do whatever I want to do and I allow him the same. We've always been this way. Working in theater and the arts is not like television or film. I think because we both come from this medium, it's something you stick with and take more time with. There's no rush. In the arts there's no rushing. You have to take the time to do things, and we've always taken the time.

EBONY: How you maintain your good health and sense of well-being?

​CD: It's a big job. I can't just do what I want to do. I cannot go and indulge in a lot of sweets and a lot of things that the body doesn't like. I try to stay away from alcohol as much as possible. There's nothing wrong with having wine every once in awhile though. I happen to like sweet potatoes and chicken and fish, so once in a while I'll have meat. I had to make a choice. If you want to dance, then you have to be careful. You can't eat everything. Especially at my age, I have to be really strict with my diet, because the body changes, energy changes, and you have to adjust. You can't just let it go and continue like when you were younger. It's just about being practical. You have to really take care of yourself when you're in the theater because it's grueling, like being an athlete and like life in general. You have to be kind to yourself. You're putting out a lot of energy, so it behooves you to be kind to your body. Treat your body like a friend. If you don't give it what it needs, it's going to give up on you.

EBONY: Why does dance speak to you?

CD: Dance is close to music and poetry. It's ephemeral. You cant quite put your finger on it, but you can feel it. Words can be like that too, there and then gone. You can't repeat it quite the same way every time, but you can make it mean different things. Dance is also universal. You can take it any place and people will understand it, because it's a language everyone speaks. Dance gives you an advantage over acting for me, because you can easily fall into character physically if you know what your body is doing. That's why it's so important for actors to have movement.

EBONY:  What would you like for your legacy to be?

That I did well. You hope that you lived your life well and that you've given the best of yourself. I hope that I was a good mom for my son and a good wife to my husband. I want to feel that I left a little light in the world.

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