As one of the most seasoned dancers in Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Linda Celeste Sims has been through many pivotal life moments while with the company: she met her now husband, fellow Ailey dancer Glenn Allen Sims, got married in 2001, and last year, she lost her father. Now, the 42-year-old dancer is pregnant with her first child, due in April.
For many professional dancers like Sims, the decision to have kids is a challenging one. "I think women are sort of scared to do it and step up," Sims says. There's worries about how much time off someone will need during pregnancy, concerns about how their body will change after childbirth, plus an expectation that they'll be back and ready to dance right after giving birth.
But Sims says "it's time" to change the societal expectations that women in dance face. "So many women, like Judith Jamison and other very famous former dancers, are like, I'm so happy for you, because I didn't even know I had a choice," she says. "You don't realize how much women have sacrificed: either your family or your career, which ends pretty short," she says. She plans to return to work and show other dancers that it is possible to have a baby and dance professionally.
Here, Sims spoke to Refinery29 about dancing while pregnant, and her hopes for her future child.
As someone who's very in tune with their body, what has the experience and sensation of pregnancy been like for you?
"Pregnancy changed my body a lot. Every day, I wake up, and do some sort of stretching, because [pregnancy] hormones soften the bones. I'm in the last stages of the pregnancy, so the belly’s kind of growing and my joints feel sort of achey. What I do for that is I like to swim. When I swim, my joints feel amazing."
I can’t wait to get on stage, because I feel like I have so much more to say now. It’s an incredible moment in a woman’s life to give birth.
Linda Celeste Sims
"I kept dancing for as long as I was capable of doing it, not performing, obviously, I couldn’t be on stage with a huge belly. I performed all the way up until five months; it was just showing very slightly. My body sort of stiffened to protect the baby and the belly area the uterus area. I was on tour with my husband, and there were things that we're like, Okay, we can’t touch there to lift, or we shouldn’t do that there. I danced and performed as long as I could, but once I was already seven or eight months, I pretty much had to stop. But I continued slowly, kept moving and doing ballet barre just at my own pace."
"I feel so blessed, because I used to think that being pregnant was just easy — this beautiful thing. And it actually is a very serious nine months. You have to really take care of yourself, so it's a lot more work. The worrying starts once you know you're pregnant. But I do feel good though. It’s an amazing feeling, amazing time. I'm very happy that I've been able to be pregnant."
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I’ve waited months in order to share this moment. Glenn and I are thrilled to announce WE ARE EXPECTING SOON!!!! ✨🎊🎉 We’re having a baby Boy who is making his debut April 15, 2019 LOVE ❤️ LOVE 💕 AND MORE LOVE IN THE AIR ! Why can’t Women have a career and a family ? I’m choosing BOTH 👊🏽@classickids_eastside @lindsaymayphoto #TheSims2019 @glennallensims #newbeginnings #babyonboard #april #loveisonitsway #momlifetobe #daddylife #dancemom#1 #cantwaittomeetyou #themostincrediblemomentinmylife
For a while, you said you didn't want kids. What made you change your mind?
"I started dancing professionally at a very young age. I was 19 when I joined Ailey, so you're not really thinking about motherhood just yet, you're like, This is my career I'm going to dance as long as I can. When I found my husband in the company and we married in 2001, conversations [about kids] didn’t really start, because we were still pretty young. A couple years later, we were like, We’re not gonna have kids, then we never spoke about it again."
"What really made me think about it was tour. We've been traveling for 23 years, seeing the entire world, and going places where I thought I would never go. Every year would go by, and we'd see these families, and they were so cute. It didn’t hit me until I turned 40; I rolled over and I knew there was something missing."
"I've seen everything, and I still felt slightly empty. [My husband] said, We could try, and here I was at 40 trying. It's not as easy as it sounds, but I got pregnant. A lot of it had to do with when my father passed away as well. That feeling when you lose a parent, I never felt like it was possible to love somebody like that. I want someone — I know my husband loves me — but I want someone that comes out of me to love me like this. It was like losing someone and bringing someone back into life. It was very spiritual for me in some way."
Are you eager to get back on stage or do you have any apprehensions?
"As a dancer, it’s hard, because you focus your life on performing, dancing, and sharing your art to the world. What would happen if I get pregnant? Would my life and dancing career end? It’s going to be a challenge, but I'm willing to take a risk, because why can’t female dancers have both? So many women would join a company, then they get married, and then they have to leave because they want kids. Why do you have to leave? You're beautiful."
"I can’t wait to get on stage, because I feel like I have so much more to say now. It’s an incredible moment in a woman’s life to give birth. There's so much more experience and so much more to share; it's another thing to give to the people. I'm going to be a whole new dancer."
Do you have any aspirations for your kid to dance, too?
"He will be surrounded by a lot of dance, I'm not going to pressure him, though. I want him to have his own thing — maybe he'll play an instrument, or maybe be a lawyer, whatever you want. I do want expose him to as much of the arts as possible, because I feel like it really changes a person. And if he decides to do dance, okay great, no problem. He'll be in the studio a lot."