#TBT: Carmen de Lavallade and Desmond Richardson in "Precious Blood" (2007)

February 17, 2021

It’s not every day that you get to see two living legends share the same stage. In 2007, Carmen de Lavallade and Desmond Richardson, trailblazers generations apart, premiered Dwight Rhoden’s Precious Blood at The Joyce Theater in New York. In this clip, the then 76-year-old de Lavallade gives a stunningly elegant performance alongside Richardson, who co-founded and co-directs Complexions Contemporary Ballet with Rhoden.

This short ballet, to music by Kevin Keller, imagines an emotional though distanced duet between a mother and son. De Lavallade is striking in a long red skirt and her movements are penetrating. With her deep contractions and sharp gestures that melt into softness, its as though she’s never left the stage. Richardson, whose company is known for celebrating its dancers’ unique range and qualities, displays astounding physicality. Maneuvering over, under and around the table, he alternates between moments of strength (like when he jumps onto the table at 0:58) and touching vulnerability.

The influence these two iconic artists have had on the dance world is undeniable. De Lavallade, in her decades-long career, has touched many facets of the entertainment industry: she danced with modern dance pioneers Lester Horton and Alvin Ailey; performed as a principal dancer with the Metropolitan Opera and as a guest artist with American Ballet Theatre; and appeared on Broadway, television and in film. In 2017, she was awarded a Kennedy Center Honor for her achievements and lasting impact on the nation’s performing arts. Richardson was a principal dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater before he and Rhoden founded Complexions in 1994. He also danced with Frankfurt Ballet under William Forsythe and then ABT, becoming the company’s first African-American principal in 1997. Later he performed on Broadway in musicals including Fosse and Movin’ Out, and in films including Chicago and High Strung Free Dance. Happy Black History Month and #ThrowbackThursday!