Meet our New Visiting Faculty Chairs – Alicia Holloway and Leyland Simmons
For the first time this fall, SAB welcomed alumni Alicia Holloway and Leyland Simmons as Visiting Faculty Co-Chairs for the 2020-21 Winter Term. Originally established as a Visiting Faculty Chair position in 2017, this year’s Visiting Faculty Co-Chairs represent an expansion of the School’s mission to increase the presence of faculty of color in SAB studios. Alumni Andrea Long-Naidu and Aesha Ash (now a permanent faculty member at SAB) have held the position in recent years.
We spoke to Alicia and Leyland about their new appointment at the School and asked them to share some of their plans for their time as Visiting Faculty Co-Chairs.
“It means the world to me that I am a part of SAB’s guest faculty,” Alicia shared. Originally from Morgantown, West Virginia, she began dancing when she was three years old at Kat and Company Dance Studio. She attended the School of American Ballet for four years, from 2011-2015, which made joining the guest faculty an especially gratifying achievement.
“It’s amazing to be on the other side of the classroom because it wasn’t very long ago that I was a student at the School. I do think that I can connect to the students because I’m not much older than them, and I think it will be helpful being able to relate to them on that level.”
Alicia began her professional career dancing with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, and is now dancing her sixth season with the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Leyland describes joining the guest faculty at SAB as “truly a full-circle experience. I was totally shocked when I received the news about this wonderful opportunity.”
He began his formal dance training with Barbara Devereaux of the Royal Academy School of Dance in Anchorage, Alaska and later studied at Interlochen Arts Academy, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Miami City Ballet, The School of American Ballet, Creative Outlet Dance Theatre of Brooklyn, The Ailey School and Ballet Divertimento in Montreal, Canada. He is a former member of Ailey 2 and Complexions Contemporary Ballet and performed with the New York City Ballet, Peridance Ensemble, Forces of Nature Dance Company, Nathan Trice’s/Rituals, George Faison and Ballet X.
Currently, Leyland is a member of SAB’s Alumni Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, an adjunct faculty member for NYU’s Tisch Dance Program, and the Dance Chair for Harlem School for the Arts.
“It’s really beautiful to be a part of the lineup of guest faculty members at SAB who all have such vast information and experiences,” Leyland continued. “I’m honored to be on the roster with teachers whose work I respect and admire.”
In class, Alicia is hoping to focus intently on what she described as the “in-between steps,” which she recalls being a major focal point in her time at SAB. “I always struggled with transition steps, and I think being a professional dancer has taught me that those little steps are just as important as the big steps.” She pointed out that it is beneficial for dancers to have guest teachers with a wide variety of professional experiences. “When I was in the School, we didn’t have a ton of guest teachers that were outside of New York City Ballet, so it’s really nice to see the School taking action to bring other dancers in to work with the students.”
Leyland intends to focus his classes “on placement, control, details, and strength building,” while blending the influences of his past SAB teachers, Peter Boal and Andrei Kramarevsky, with what he learned from working with Desmond Richardson at Complexions.
“I always remind myself that I am in service of the students,” Leyland explained. “So I do my best, wherever I am teaching, to give them the information that will help them grow as students, artists, and people.”
Alicia had this piece of advice for the students and the year ahead: “Sometimes you might have off days where you don’t feel your best,” she said. “But it’s important to know that each and every teacher is rooting for you and wants you to become the best possible dancer that you can be. Continue to work hard, even on the days where you don’t feel like enough, because in the end it will be so worth it.”