Glenn Allen Sims and Linda Celeste Sims did what many couples do: they had a baby. But they are no ordinary couple.
Two esteemed veterans of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – Glenn for 23 years and Linda for 24 years – they have long held onto jobs that have pushed them to their physical limits. With the birth of their son Ellington James Sims in April 2019, they faced a new challenge.
Your last season in the city center in December 2019 was exhausting – not that you knew it from her dance: refined, passionate and, as always, full of life. Your coping mechanism? “We went to the theater and fell asleep,” said 45-year-old Sims in a joint interview with Ms. Sims. “We’d take a nap in our locker room.”
At the time, Ellington – now nearly 20 months old and chirping happily in the background – did not sleep through the night. “Originally, our plan was to keep dancing and staying with the company, ”said Ms. Sims, 44 years old. “But at Ailey, traveling is really the problem.”
It is not just the dancing that ailey dancers require; It’s the tour that can take five months or more in a normal year. When they decided to retire before the outbreak of the pandemic, one question became increasingly easy to answer: “Are we taking him on the streets?”
“Why should I raise my child in a hotel?” Ms. Sims said. “And don’t get me wrong – two weeks, three weeks on tour? It can be done. But not months at a time. It was like we needed the best for the baby. “
In this virtual Ailey season, the couple’s farewell performance will be shown on Wednesday, which includes a number of video clips from their repertoire. as well as a new film about the romantic central duet in “Winter in Lisbon”, a solemn work by Billy Wilson on Dizzy Gillespie; and a discussion with the couple, led by choreographer Ronald K. Brown. But it’s not that they’ll never dance again.
“Guest artist?” Ms. Sims said. “I’ll be there when you need me. Or occur for certain special events. “
Mr. Sims, who said his career was spent in minimal clothing, won’t miss the form-fitting full body.
Shortly before the January pandemic, the couple moved from New Rochelle to a home in Mahopac, NY, where Ms. Sims teaches at Marymount College, Ballet Hispánico, and Ailey Extension.
Mr. Sims is pursuing a degree from SUNY Empire State College, where his focus is on performing arts management. Oddly enough, the timing of her decision to retire from Ailey during the pandemic has proven itself. “We were able to walk and didn’t feel the pressure of having to be at work during that time,” said Ms. Sims.
When life returns to normal, Ms. Sims will become the rehearsal director for Ballet Hispánico, where she trained and danced. Mr. Sims is in talks to become the company’s head.
“I don’t feel like I’m leaving anything or my career has not fulfilled,” Ms. Sims said. “I feel very well nourished and fed. And I still have a feeling that there could be another story. “
Their story first began in Ailey, where they met and secretly dated. “We were really, really young – 19 and 20,” Ms. Sims said. “We wanted to keep the space where we are professional at work. No love dove stuff. “
They married in 2001 and eventually started being cast together. Sometimes couples don’t have the same chemistry on stage, but their partnership has been a striking example of support and sophistication. In the most regal and inconspicuous way both remained in the service of the choreography and showed themselves in their full strength.
While Ailey has given them a lot – in addition to traveling the world, they’ve each danced in nearly 100 works over the years – Mr. Sims can pinpoint exactly what he’s missed: family. “Our family has always been a part of us and around us, but now there are more ways to just talk to them when I feel like I want to talk to them,” he said. “And now we have our own.”
What follows are edited excerpts from a current interview.
You just shot “Winter in Lisbon” for the virtual gala last month. What does this achievement say about you?
GLENN We are today.
LINDA The second time I saw it, I thought, my goodness, how many people can actually say they dance like that at 44? As dancers we are so hard on ourselves that we forget that we have to be thankful too. And so I am very grateful that, even after having a child, I can still do the things that I can physically do.
What did you notice when you were actually on stage in your last season in New York together?
LINDA Being away from the stage for a whole year felt different. I thought I hope I fit into all of my costumes. And I did! But to be on stage with Glenn was just wonderful. Dancing fixed me. We made many “revelations” and the way I would hear the music would be different. I just felt very mature.
GLENN I was more attuned to my body, but I heard more nuances in music because my life was full of nuances.
LINDA I cried”. [The Ailey solo is dedicated “to all Black women everywhere — especially our mothers.”] I had two chances to play it in the season and the first time I had so much to say – like when you want to eat something and eat it that fast, but you didn’t have time to enjoy it. I didn’t let it simmer. So I thought what are you holding back What are you afraid of? Why don’t you just do it
How did that feel
LINDA It was all. I think I cried the whole thing. I don’t know what it looked like! [Laughs] Sometimes ugliness can be beautiful; I allowed myself to be so vulnerable. There’s the whole experience of childbirth and – women don’t talk about it – how exhausting [motherhood] is. There are really ugly moments when it’s not just joy. It’s like your baby has been born, you will feel this joy and love. And it is like that, no, it doesn’t always happen all the time. I thought I will talk about it. [Laughs]
They weren’t planning to have children. What changed your mind
LINDA In Europe we always went sightseeing with the company and I saw these families. I got the urge to get. It was pretty much like that when I turned 40. I feel complete with Glenn so I don’t want this to sound wrong, but I still felt like something was missing.
GLENN And I gave her those crazy eyes because then you have to look around. … I looked around our apartment and thought, OK, everything will change. The art on the wall, the glass table. How will it work financially? I started to freak out. It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time, but I never wanted to put pressure on Linda about children. Ever.
LINDA And that’s a nice thing. After 18 years of marriage, we had Ellington.
Are you obsessed with Duke Ellington?
LINDA No! We weren’t obsessed at all. But one of the pieces that I think we sculpted on stage every time we performed was “The River”. [set to Ellington]. The musicality, the choreography of Mr. Ailey – it’s just one of our favorite pieces. We fell in love with [Ellington’s] Music; It’s not that we hear it every day, but we can actually perform with its music. So we just thought, how do we find a name that connects the two of us but is also unique enough to be itself?
GLENN It’s also about the partnership Ailey had with Duke Ellington and the way we met – through Ailey. It was something we could always carry with us. So how do we honor our own careers and our son? With a great name.