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Photo: Brian Taylor Johnson.
Leyland Simmons was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. He began his formal dance training with Barbara Devereaux of the Royal Academy School of Dance in Anchorage, Alaska and the Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy. He 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. Leyland is a Graduate of the Professional Performing Arts High School in New York City and a former member of Ailey 2 and Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Simmons has also performed with the New York City Ballet, Peridance Ensemble, Forces of Nature Dance Company, Nathan Trice’s/Rituals, George Faison and Ballet X. Leyland has also performed at Jacob’s Pillow, the Cincinnati, Moscow and Miami International Ballet Festivals. One performance of Simmons noted that he was “vibrant in his solo, whipping off multiple pirouettes…,” and “he added powerful turns and jumps while remaining sensitive to the otherwise gentle ending.” Simmons is also a sought after teacher having taught at notable institutions like the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Steps on Broadway, Ailey School. He has also appeared in numerous film, television, and print projects such as the History Channel’s Honor Deferred, The Conan O’Brien Show, YRB magazine, Law and Order, Starbucks Red Campaign, Puma, Sansha, Exberliner.com and Broadwayworld.com. Simmons’s choreography has been presented at City Parks Summerstage, Bryant Park, The Apollo Theater, the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage in Washington DC, and E-moves 18 at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse. He has also choreographed an industrial for Pier 59 Studios RED Camera event and for alternative rock band Opium Ink’s music video “Porcelain Doll.” Mr. Simmons is also a graduate of the Workshop in Business Opportunities Program and a member of the School of American Ballet’s Alumni Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. Leyland holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Masters Degree in Dance Education (K-12 concentration) from NYU.
In 2017 Simmons began teaching for the NYU Steinhardt Summer Intensive and in 2020 he began teaching as an adjunct instructor at NYU Tisch. Leyland is a recipient of the 2008 Harlem Stage ‘Fund for New Works’ Grant, the 2011 NYFA Build Grant, and the 2018 Boissak/ Heilbron Charitable Grant. In the fall of 2017, Simmons became the resident choreographer at the Harlem School of the Arts and in 2020 the Chair of Dance. In 2020-2021 he became the first male visiting faculty Co-Chair for the School of American Ballet. Simmons is honored to be one of the first African-Americans invited to the American Ballet Theatre National Training Curriculum’s Board of Examiners.