Within the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater family of performers, arguably the most recognized are real-life family, husband and wife Glenn Allen Sims and Linda Celeste Sims. The popular pair, married 14 years this January, has been wowing audiences for almost two decades as stars in their own right and in their dazzling partnering.
The Company's schedule for its 43rd consecutive year at New York City Center signals a banner season, with exciting, eagerly anticipated premieres by a wide variety of choreographers and performances of over two dozen ballets. But it is also proving to be banner for the Sims. In October, Linda was a recipient of the prestigious "Bessies," New York Dance and Performance Awards, recognized as Outstanding Performer for her work with Ailey. She will also be highlighted in a special program celebrating the women of Ailey on December 16. And Glenn is the face of the Company on this season's poster; Linda holds the record for most appearances on the coveted poster.
In addition, Glenn has performed for the King of Morocco and on several TV programs, including BET Honors, Dancing with the Stars and The Today Show. He holds a certificate as a Zena Rommett Floor-Barre instructor and as a Pilates Mat trainer and was a guest blogger for Dance Magazine in 2011. Linda has performed as a guest star on So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars and The Today Show and was listed in the "Best of 2009" in Dance Magazine. They both performed at the White House tribute to Judith Jamison, former Ailey dancer, choreographer and artistic director emerita of the Company.
In a telephone interview with the couple, on a break from rehearsing, they talked effusively about their relationship, their partnering and how they strive to maintain a delicate balance between their onstage and offstage lives.
Glenn admitted that when they first started dating, they were scared to tell Ms. Jamison, then artistic director. "We've always been workers and have always been very respectful of not having the relationship come into the studio," he said.
Linda added that they knew whatever they did outside the studio remained outside. "No kissie, kissie," she said. "Work is work."
Linda was working on a new production of Ulysses Dove's "Bad Blood" and "The Pleasure of the Lesson," choreographed by Robert Moses, created on a cast of ten especially for the Company, which had its recent world premiere at Lincoln Center. Glenn will appear in Hofesh Shechter's rousing "Uprising," which features seven men in high-octane performances.
They are both in Jacqulyn Buglisi's "Suspended Women," which illuminates the challenges and strength of women across the ages; there are also roles for four men. Buglisi was their Graham teacher when they were students. "We are excited about it," said Glenn. "Each time we rehearse, we find some deeper meaning in the dance."
They will be partnering in Alvin Ailey's classic "The River"—"The Lake" and "Twin Cities" and the iconic "Revelations"—"Fix Me Jesus" and "Take Me to The Water." "Judy is refreshing us on a lot of it," said Linda of the latter. They will also perform a sensational pas de deux in "Polish Pieces" by Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen and are prominently featured in a quartet in "Four Corners" by Ronald K. Brown.
Linda and Glenn love partnering together. "You spend 365 days, seven days a week, tour together, travel together, live together, so a connection is already there," said Glenn. "The heartbeat, the two of us are in sync. When dancing with somebody else, there are certain nuances you have to work on in order for it to read across the stage, 'I'm really in love with this person. I'm really feeling this person.'"
Said Linda, "I don't have to put on a fake love. There's an underlying layer I can't reach with other partners. When I release and throw myself back, I know Glenn is going to catch me without doubt. I can feel him, and he's completely devoted and determined to be there for me. Being in this company for 19 years and him being here for 18 years, we kind of start to think alike and do things alike.
"So many things I pick up when I watch him dance that inspire me. As we're dancing together and I go for a movement, he's doing the exact same thing. Even though he's behind me, partnering me, he's moving with me. It's an important quality when it's part of a duet. I could be dancing with someone else, he just lifts and catches. When I dance with Glenn, I feel him there, he's present, looking into my eyes, and we're one."
She concluded, "That's what makes the woman shine more in the artistry."
Communication offstage is key as well, they both acknowledged. "Whenever I go into my crazy neurotic dancer head, I have somebody there to understand that," stated Glenn.
"And I am there to hear it in friend mode, not as a wife," responded Linda.
"It's a very fine line to play between friend and husband, " added Glenn, "but you have to make sure that line is there."
They are on tour nine months out of the year, but back home in New York City they make time to go out on dates—to art museums, parks, jazz clubs, ride their bikes, take a class together. "I need to be friend, husband and lover and do the courting thing to keep the romance alive," Glenn recognized.
They have also grown as artists being in the Company. Linda related that when she got the job at Ailey after two years with Ballet Hispanico, she felt blessed. "I have been able to work with choreographers legendary to the dance world, like Donald McKayle, Donald Byrd, George Faison and European ones," she said. "They have different styles, but Alvin's works are my favorites. They always takes you back to humanity, like 'Revelations' and 'Blues Suite.' Every year it's pushing something else out of me I didn't know I had. I feel very grateful."
"It molds you in a way you personally never think of," added Glenn. "The beauty of being an Ailey dancer is you can do ballet, African, jazz, all in the course of an evening. It makes you a well-rounded performer and artist."
Reflected Glenn, "I am a 39-year-old man who has been on a journey, and I wouldn't choose anyone else to have gone on this entire life journey besides Linda. I get to know more about her as the years go by, and it's interesting watching her on stage, in rehearsal. I learn through her example. I have the opportunity to watch my wife grow on a daily basis."
"Bad Blood" riffs on the war between the sexes and poses the question, "Can we be a duo and an individual at the same time?" The Sims would respond in the affirmative. "Each day we try to work on being better and being stronger as individuals separately so that the marriage as well can blossom," said Glenn.Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Season: December 3, 2014 – January 4, 2015
New York City Center
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AAADT's Linda Celeste Sims & Glenn Allen Sims in Alvin Ailey's "The River".
Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik
AAADT's Linda Celeste Sims & Glenn Allen Sims in Hans van Manen's "Polish_Pieces".
Photo © & courtesy of Andrew Eccles
AAADT's Linda Celeste Sims & Glenn Allen Sims in Alvin Ailey's "Revelations".
Photo © & courtesy of Christopher Duggan