Viewing page 6 of 47

[[double line]]

Manhattan's Upper West Side. He was five weeks away from moving to a new house and in the thick of preparations for his new show Timbuktu!, but still managed to be utterly gracious. "Rum and bitter lemon is the house drink," he said, handing me a huge goblet of the stuff.

As Holder folded his large, graceful frame into an outsized wing chair I could see why journalists have traditionally waxed so fanciful in their descriptions of him. His hands, for instance. One writer saw them as "swooping and fluttering about him like a pair of mad crows." Of his walk someone else said that he seemed to be dancing to a secret inner rhythm, "weaving gracefully on his extravagant legs."

The apartment seemed more museum than living quarters. ("The new house will take care of all this, darling.") On the walls and occupying every corner of floor space were primitive artifacts from Mexico and Angola, sketches by Matisse and Modigliani, paintings by de Kooning and the Mexican painter, Miguel Covarrubias, and off in front of a mirrored wall, a bare wooden carousel horse. There were tribal masks, crosses, and his latest addition, pur- chased that very afternoon at the Tribal Arts Center--a lifesized wood carving of a pregnant stomach, the sort of thing African men wore during tribal fertility rites. "I've always wanted one of these," he said, holding it up. "Isn't it wonderful?"

Holder's aesthetic eclecticism, as well as his attitude toward the color of his skin, ("Who is white?" he will ask. "Every white man has a black grandmother some- where.") were influenced by his childhood 

The Ambassador.
Recently sighted off St. Thomas.
[[image- color photograph of a man and a woman. The man holding a glass of Ambassador Scotch]]
[[caption]] Ambassador. Representing Scotch at its lightest. [[/caption]]
[[image - color photograph of a bottle of Ambassador Scotch]]

[[end page]]
[[start page]]

[[image- a young Geoffrey Holder standing in front of his paintings]]
[[caption]] Geoffrey Holder, age 14, at the first exhibition of his paintings in Trinidad.[[/caption]]

in Trinidad, an island which has been vari- ously owned by the French, Spanish and Dutch. "Growing up, my friends were Chinese, Indian, Portuguese, English. Every- one on the island is totally mixed.  We breed, we intermarry, we produce magnificent children."

Holder attributes his artistic nature to the family environment he had as a child. "Mother and Daddy met on a dance floor and we've all been dancing ever since," he says. Actually, his father was a sales- man but very encouraging both of Geof-frey and his older brother, Boscoe, a painter who lives in London. Holder is still close to his family, visits Trinidad several times a year and racks up a huge monthly telephoe bill. "So many times you grow up and you don't get the opportunity to thank your parents. To hug them, to kiss them, to throw them up in the air like they threw you up in the air as a child."

Another influence on him, he says, was the stammer he had in early childhood. "I couldn't even read in school because the class would just break up, so I turned to the physical, to art and to dance. I wanted to express myself, and for a while, I could only do it physically."

[[image - Black and White photograph of Geoffrey Holder]]
[[caption]]"Director Holder on the set of The Wiz."[[/caption]]

The first time he performed in public, as a dancer, Geoffrey Holder was seven.By the time he was fourteen he was having his first painting exhibits. (Holder's most recent exhibition of paintings was in the Comsky Gallery, in LA, last year.) "I finally broke the umbilical cord when I was twenty," he recalls. "My dance company was invited to participate in a huge Carib-bean arts festival in Puerto Rico. There I was seen by Agnes de Mille, who got an audition for me with Sol Hurok."

Holder came to the States and Hurok saw him, but, as it happened, didn't takehim on. Still, in only three months, he was chosen by Saint-Subber to dance in House of Flowers, where he worked with a cast that included Alvin Ailey, Diahann
Please note that the language and terminology used in this collection reflects the context and culture of the time of its creation, and may include culturally sensitive information. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution, but is available in its original form to facilitate research. For questions or comments regarding sensitive content, access, and use related to this collection, please contact