What’s Kept Vernard Gilmore Thriving at Ailey for 25 Years

April 13, 2022

At age 46, Vernard Gilmore considers himself “the Tom Brady of Ailey” (minus the recent retirement announcement). 2022 marks 25 years at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and the veteran dancer says he’s still excited to get onstage each season. “I feel like every year I’m progressing,” he says. “I just keep setting goals for myself, and trying to reach those goals.” Gilmore believes the key to his longevity boils down to passion: “It’s because of my desire to always want to be better, to strive for excellence, to keep investigating and discovering.”

His cross-training regimen: Although his gym time varies based on the company’s weekly schedule, Gilmore­ always prioritizes conditioning. He typically fits in strength training (focused on stabilizing his core) twice a week, resistance training (using weights) two to three times a week, yoga two to three times a week and floor barre every day.

His daily must-do: Gilmore is certified in the Zena Rommett Floor-Barre technique. “It’s a low-impact, very efficient way of thinking about movement without having gravity work against you,” he says. “You’re the car and the car mechanic at the same time, so you can investigate what’s going on.”

A favorite exercise: Squats with a 22-kilo (nearly 50 pounds) kettlebell held at the chest to strengthen his back.

Self-care strategy: Once a week, Gilmore sees a chiropractor who’s also an osteopath. “You have to build a village around you that keeps you healthy,” he says.

Major injury: In 2019, Gilmore tore his bicep while practicing a lift before a show in London. “Because I’d already been keeping my body in great shape, I was able to recover in three or four months, but it was definitely a reckoning,” he says. “It made me want to figure out how to work more efficiently, to be more attentive to everything I’m doing.”

The mind game: Gilmore uses the app Elevate, a brain-training tool that he’s found sharpens his communication skills and helps with his public speaking for Ailey outreach activities.

Favorite healthy snack: “I call wheatgrass ‘the fountain­ of youth.’ ”