Bronx native wins the dance world’s highest recognition

Bronx native wins the dance world’s highest recognition
Linda Celeste Sims, dancer, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (l) with Jennifer Stahl, editor-in-chief of Dance Magazine
Photo by Christopher Duggan

Following your dreams will take you far.

That’s how Bronx native Linda Celeste Sims, who was awarded the dance world’s highest honor earlier in December, described her career.

On Monday, December 4, Sims, along with three others affiliated with professional dance, was honored at the 60th Annual Dance Magazine Awards.

Sims, who has been dancing with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for 22 seasons, said when she got the call about winning the award, she thought Dance Magazine was only calling to interview her.

“It’s a very big thing and when she called my mouth just dropped to the floor because I couldn’t believe what she was saying,” the Parkchester native said.

Sims said Wendy Perron, the magazine’s editor at large, contacted her with the news.

“I felt very grateful because it’s just such a special moment,” the 41-year old explained. “I think I even asked her why me? And she replied, “well it’s been well overdue” or something like that, “why not you?”

Dance Magazine’s editor in chief, Jennifer Stahl, said the finalists for the awards were narrowed down from about 100 nominations.

“Linda is definitely one we wanted to honor mostly for her magnetism on stage with Alvin Ailey. She’s just an incredible performer,” Stahl explained. “We look for people who have made an impact that can’t be ignored and we really felt that way about Linda.”

Held at the Ailey Citigroup Theater in Manhattan, Sims said the day she received the award was very emotional for her.

That same day, she was even scheduled to perform and Sims recalled having to lie down and take a nap to calm herself down for the ceremony.

“I just couldn’t believe it was happening,” Sims said.

“It doesn’t change anything about me. When I received it, Judy and Robert were there and it’s the things they both said that were just amazing,” Sims added.

Judith Jameson is the artistic director emerita of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the person who hired Sims to the dance company in 1996. Robert Battle has been the current artistic director of Alvin Ailey.

“I never knew they felt that deeply,” Sims said. “To have Judy present one of the Awards, I mean she’s a legend. That to me was special.”

Sims has been dancing since she was very young and was trained at Ballet Hispanico in the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

“Dance was always in my heart and I always loved it,” Sims explained.

After graduating from the Fiorello H. Laguardia High School Of Music & Art and Performing Arts, she auditioned for a spot on Ballet Hispanico’s Dance Company and performed there for a few years before auditioning for the Alvin Ailey.

“I just kept striving and striving and it’s really just your vision and your passion and believing that you can do it and having teachers and mentors that say, “you got this,” Sims advised.

“Don’t restrict yourself to just staying in the Bronx. It’s a melting pot of rich culture and we can bring all of that to dance.”

The Dance Magazine awards do not have any specific distinction for its honorees.

They honor everyone from physical therapists to choreographers, individuals to groups, who have made lasting impacts on the dance world.

Unlike other dance awards that focus on specific genres or professions, the Dance Magazine awards honor everyone in the wide spectrum of dance.

Reach Reporter Sarah Valenzuela at (718) 260-4584. E-mail her at

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