Well he couldn’t be cuter, could he? A New Year’s Baby — with a tail! A very good tale accompanies this photo …
Christian Holder was born in a trunk, but not in Pocatello, Idaho; rather, in the faraway island of Trinidad. Moving to his mother’s native London while still an infant, as part of an esteemed artistic family (his uncle was Geoffrey Holder), he came of age amidst a community of creative exiles from corners of the then British Empire. There began a global career in dance and the related arts.
“This was taken on the stage of Wyndham’s Theatre in London in 1958. The photographer was Lord Snowdon (Anthony Armstrong-Jones at that time, a friend of my father’s). I was part of Dad’s Carnival in Trinidad number for the Sunday Ballet Club. What a life!”Christian Holder by email December 2020
The newspaper clipping attached to this precious photo bears a reprint. Barely readable but chockful of English dance gossip … the “little red devil” pictured above caught the attention of “The Red Shoes” filmmaker Emeric Pressburger.
The dance world knows, and treasures, Holder as a superb principal dancer, one of the crop of highly individual early members of The Joffrey Ballet. From 1966 to 1979, the long-and-lean Holder worked directly with great 20th Century choreographers like Leonide Massine, Agnes de Mille, and Alvin Ailey. A key name on that list is Jerome Robbins, whose choreography Holder found particularly enthralling. Among his renowned roles in the Joffrey repertoire — spanning from great works of the early Century to the uber-modern ballets by Gerald Arpino and Robert Joffrey, was his interpretation of “Death” in “The Green Table,” for which he received personal coaching from choreographer Kurt Jooss. But in early years, born to Boscoe Holder and his wife Sheila Clarke Holder, two professional dancers, Christian was pounding theatrical floorboards from the tender age of four.
As the junior member of Boscoe Holder and his Caribbean Dancers, the lad danced on British television and at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. (Hey, “The Crown”! You left that out!) At age five he was directed by Orson Welles in a television production titled Moby Dick Rehearsed. By seven, private ballet tuition had begun.
In a recent London/Los Angeles Zoom call, I enjoyed his many amusing stories and total recall of a young manhood in New York as a scholarship student at the Martha Graham School; his stint with the London Contemporary Dance Theatre; then a return to New York just as the ‘dance boom’ was blasting off. His studies at the High School of the Performing Arts led to being discovered by Robert Joffrey.
His existence as a multifaceted artist has included painting, theater, costume design, and his current cabaret act in which he sings and shares his gifts as a raconteur.
But the tale began with a tail. Happy New Year, 2021, to us all.