My Visit With Carmen de Lavallade, New Kennedy Center HonoreeCarmen de L

Carmen de Lavallade at her home in New York City. Photos by Michael McAndrews. 

Carmen de Lavallade at her home in New York City. Photos by Michael McAndrews. 

The following is a piece I did for The Hartford Courant at the home of Carmen de Lavallade in New York in June, 2015. This week she was named to be among the recipients of this year's Kennedy Center Honors. 

NEW YORK CITY -- Walk into Carmen de Lavallade's Upper West Side apartment in New York, and you immediately get a sense of the woman who lives there.

Its French doors between the living and dining rooms signal a slightly European air; the elegantly painted silk screen adds a Zen touch; some striking African masks offer a dash of boldness and color; two Spanish baroque chairs offer a dramatic flair; the herringbone flooring evokes a Manhattan from another era.

In a way, so does de Lavallade, who at 84 looks like a serene but approachable highness: gracious, elegant and as warm as the sunlight filling the rooms.

De Lavallade began her professional dance career in the late '40s and performed her artistry in theater, film, television and on dance stages. Over the years, she worked with a wide range of astonishing artists: Lena Horne, Josephine Baker, Diahann Carroll, Ezra Pound, Duke Ellington, Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte, Martha Graham, Agnes de Mille and Alvin Ailey, just to name a few.

Her career path went in many directions, taking a surprising turn in the early '70s when she became an esteemed resident artist, choreographer and professor of movement in the early days of New Haven's Yale Repertory Theatre and the revitalized School of Drama under Robert Brustein.

De Lavallade will tell much — but not all; there's discretion in her nature — about her life, on stage and off, in her solo show "As I Remember It," which she will perform at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas Thursday and Saturday, June 25 and 27, at the Yale Repertory Theatre. The show, which she co-wrote with Talvin Wilks, premiered last year at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in the Massachusetts Berkshires where she first performed 62 years ago.