We have just three theatre stops to go on Ailey’s 2016 UK tour – Southampton Mayflower, Marlowe Theatre Canterbury and Festival Theatre in Edinburgh – and it’s dance, eat, sleep repeat for Ailey dancer Glenn Allen Sims.
We have been thrilling audiences up and down the country! Which is a great thing, but much has happened since I last wrote about my experience here in the U.K. It is the beginning of week 6 out of 8 weeks and I for one am starting to feel fatigued. Honestly, I have to admit, this is just as gruelling as our NY City Center Season, which is 8 performances a week for 5 consecutive weeks! You may ask why is it just as fatiguing? Well, the company is rehearsing everyday, even on Saturdays when we have a 7:30pm curtain; when we return to NYC we will only have a week and a half of rehearsals before we open for City Center. Therefore, to maximize time, we are not just rehearsing current repertory for the upcoming cities, but rehearsing and learning repertory for December… Winter in Lisbon, Deep, r-Evolution Dream to name a few. Every night that I return from an evenings performance I basically crash; too tired to even attempt to take a hot bath to relax my body! London was a breeze compared to what we are currently doing. Two cities in one week will surely take its toll, and yes, the bus rides are a great way to either muse at the scenery or sleep, but it’s not great on the body, especially the lower back and hamstrings. You just feel tight! Imagine: dancing the night before in 2 or 3 pieces, packing your belongings from the theater and the hotel to wake up early for an 11am bus drive of 2-3 hours! Check-in at the next hotel, run to the grocery store, eat, sleep, and wake up to start the cycle over in the next city. (I’m not complaining just explaining to you what it takes to be a travelling performing artist at this level and still love what I do.)
While we were in Plymouth and Birmingham, I had the privilege to take care of the company while the Artistic staff returned to the states for a special performance, the opening of The African American museum at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. I have to admit, when I was first asked to be “boss” I was a tad nervous, but the dancers were super supportive! It was an honor for me to remove the lens off of myself and my dancing, and focus that energy on my colleagues. It was an opportunity for me to see how beautiful each individual dancer is as an artist, and if need be, how I could assist them in any way.
"It was an opportunity for me to see how beautiful each individual dancer is as an artist."
In Bradford, I taught a masterclass with a group of young ladies dedicated to dance from the Deana Morgan Academy, which couldn’t have come at a better time. Teaching for me is a personal recharge, it’s another form of giving back to the next generation of dancers besides performing on stage. In this setting, I have the ability to share my nuggets on the one instrument that we use, the body, on technique, or how to make a shape look “longer”. It is special for me because it is the one hour that I have to influence these dancers, whether or not they become a professional. It is their intimate moment with me in the sacred space, the studio, where there is no wrong, just growth and an opportunity to find something new about yourself that you haven’t discovered before.
Lastly, I had great day off with my queen, Linda Celeste! We visited the Cardiff Castle, which we did not do the last time we performed there. I know it’s cliche and touristy, but it was magical! To be transported back in time where lavish decorations were a symbol of wealth; to hear the history behind each room, or formation of the surrounding walls and its architecture. Previously, tours of the U.K. we did not venture off to visit castles, like most of the other dancers did, we were busy working out, but this trip, we are making the time to enjoy every moment that we have together, to share the history of this wonderful country, and to be enriched by life’s beautiful moments. Ms. Judith Jamison would always encourage us as young dancers to, “Go out and enjoy the cities, visit the museums, be amongst the people, it is the only way that you can give back to the audience…” Wise advice.
Although we are nearing the end of our time under Dance Consortium, it has been an honor for me to share with you my personal story. I hope it was insightful and inspiring. Looking forward to the audiences in Southampton (at the Mayflower), Canterbury (Marlowe), and Festival Theatre in Edinburgh (where I recall eating the best Sticky Toffee Pudding EVER, a well deserved treat with my queen)!
Glenn Allen Sims is a dancer for Alvin Ailey; Glenn joined the Company in 1997.