Wrist, knuckle, knee, toe, neck, pop, hit! To a dancer, this just might make perfect sense. For Jamal Sims, choreographer to the stars, this could be easily the first 4-count. I met Jamal on the Toni Braxton Secrets Tour in 1996. It is hard to believe that it was so long ago. Nevertheless, we have remained friends to this day. Although Jamal moved with an accuracy that amazed me, even in rehearsals, I did not know that Jamal had appeared in the Michael Jackson video, Remember the Time, just a few years before. I would have probably been even more goo-goo gah-gah of his dance skills than I already was. While on tour, Toni Braxton, Whitney Houston, and New Edition were some of the singer royalty we met, but I had no idea that dancer royalty was forming right before my eyes. Usher, Christina, and Madonna, to name a few (literally) are some names to Jamal’s credit; and believe me, these are not resume fillers. What is most amazing about Jamal is that he has remained humble, gracious, and grateful throughout his illustrious, catapulting career.
It took a couple days to connect with Jamal between his rehearsals on Dancing with the Stars, his plans to board a plane for his biggest gig yet, and editing his documentary with World of Wonder about the southern-born Bucking dance craze. You might be familiar with Bucking from Beyoncé’s Single Ladies video. Oh, and as a side-note, if you have seen any one of the multiple installments of the Step Up movie franchise, you have seen Jamal’s work. Jamal has 35 films under his belt including the remakes of Hairspray, Get Smart, and Footloose.
Jamal, like many dancers, got his start by watching videos and dance shows. Soul Train was one of his primary influences. In High School, Jamal signed up for a ballet class, despite the fact that most boys were boasting about being on the football team. I bet more of them regret not taking a dance class now. Hey, it might just have improved their football skills. I’m sure Jamal would have made a pretty good football player too. But fortunately for us, Jamal realized that he was stamped MADE TO DANCE when he auditioned for MJ, initiating him into the world of dance from what he considers as one of the greatest entertainers of our time.
Jamal credits the Nicholas Brothers, Gregory Hines, and Bob Fosse for not letting labels define them. Jamal walks with an air of humility but dances with a confidence and precision that cuts through the air like a knife. At the end of our conversation, I joked that I was a dancer in another lifetime. I didn’t expect him to cut me off and agree, but he did just that. Instinctively, I straightened myself in my seat and for a split-second I was transported to the stratosphere of dance and back again. I relish in the fact that I had the opportunity to be instructed by Jamal Sims. Oops! I mean, Jamal Terry-Sims. How could I forget? Jamal married his longtime partner Octavius with whom he founded GROOM (GROOMofficial.com), a one-stop shop and life experience for groomsmen. Mr. and Mr. Terry-Sims were married in 2014 on the Grammys by none other than their good friend Queen Latifah. Some of you may know who she is. Wink wink. I asked Jamal how he and Octavius have managed to maintain a relationship of this magnitude due to their heavy workload. Jamal simply stated communication is key. And for some reason, it made as much sense as a dancer’s first 4-count. And watching Jamal dance is pure communication.
If you would like to communicate with Jamal, you can find him @jamizzi on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and coming very soon, and very big to a theater near you. (I’m sorry. I promised I wouldn’t tell what his biggest gig is. But stay tuned for the follow-up article.)
By Julio Hanson