The world of arts and entertainment lost a true Renaissance man this weekend with the death of Geoffrey Holder. The dancer, choreographer, actor, composer, designer and painter was 84. According to the New York Times, Holder died at his home in New York of complications from pneumonia.
Summarizing Holder's achievements is no easy task. Among the many things he accomplished over his five-decades-long career was winning a pair of Tony Awards for directing and costume design for the groundbreaking Broadway musical The Wiz.
He was also the spokesman for 7-Up, which he famously called "the un-cola," and appeared on the big screen as tribal chief Willie Shakespeare in the original Doctor Dolittle, Eddie Murphy's colleague in Boomerang and the mystical Punjab in the 1982 musical Annie.
Raised in Trinidad, the 6-foot-6 artist came to New York in 1953 with his own folk dance company and the following year danced on Broadway. For two years, Holder was a principal dancer of the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and he remained active in the world of dance, choreographing works for the Dance Theater of Harlem and Alvin Ailey. In 1957, he played Lucky in an all-Black production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot.
Holder's paintings hang in some of the most prestigious museums in the country, and patrons of his art included Lena Horne and William F. Buckley. He also wrote a cookbook with recipes from his native Caribbean called Geoffrey Holder's Caribbean Cookbook.
Holder is survived by his wife, Carmen de Lavallade, and their son, Léo. Our condolences go out to his friends and family.
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(Photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
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