I first met today’s guest on the Bodies Never Lie Artist Interview Series during my audition for the NYU Steinhardt graduate program.
I was incredibly sick on the Sunday when I was SUPPOSED to audition and was all prepared to fly back home to St. Louis, defeated, when the program allowed me to come in on Monday and take a choreography class with the current students instead.
I found out a few weeks later that not only was I accepted into the Master’s program at NYU, but that I was invited to dance in a piece in the fall concert from the audition alone.
I can still picture the moment of reading that email in my kitchen back in St. Louis so perfectly. When something is really your destiny, it calls to you even if you don’t know if you’re ready or deserving.
The choreographer of that piece was Leyland Simmons, current Chair of Dance at Harlem School of the Arts, NYU Tisch adjunct faculty, and Artistic Director/Choreographer of Leyland Simmons and Dancers Company. Leyland also serves on the Diversity Advisory Panel with School of American Ballet. He attended Interlochen Arts Academy, SAB, and danced professionally with Ailey 2 and Complexions, among other impressive accolades.
How someone comes to a successful life as an artist is often a push-pull between destiny and determination, and it was so much fun to learn more about Leyland in this interview.
We talked about everything from connecting (or being afraid of) our early teachers, body expectations in different genders and forms of dance, where we received support growing up and how we try to provide it for our students now. Guess which sport Leyland almost pursued INSTEAD of dance? Don’t worry, destiny stepped in.
- More on that experience of dancing in Leyland’s work in the NYU concert: It’s Showtime
- Dancing again with Leyland at the Dumbo Dance Festival and other important choreographers: Who Choreographed the ‘Jump On It’ Dance?
It was a pleasure and a privilege to dance in his work and to do this interview. You never know how destiny will speak to you, but I’m very lucky that mine was influenced by a friend and phenomenal artist like Leyland Simmons.
Let’s keep the conversation between ourselves and our destinies going.