He began his dance career as principal dancer with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in New York from 1955 to 1956. As a choreographer, Holder created dance pieces for many companies, including the Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre for which he also provided music and costumes.
Holder began his movie career in the 1962 British film, ‘All Night Long’ and earned himself roles in several other movies, including the James Bond flick, ‘Live and Let Die’ for which he also contributed to the film’s choreography.
In 1975, Holder won two Tony Awards for direction and costume design for ‘The Wiz’, the all-black musical version of the Wizard of Oz. Holder was the first black man to be nominated in either category and also won the award for best costume design.The show ran for 1,672 performances over a four-year period; it was revived in 1984.
Married to Carmen de Lavallade, Holder was also a prolific painter, ardent art collector, author and music composer.