CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When Jamal Sims answers the phone, he's preparing for auditions for a new commercial.
"We're shooting a commercial for Microsoft," the choreographer said. "We're in the middle of auditioning 60 dancers for [an ad for] one of their new devices."
The commercial will be directed by John Chu, with whom Sims worked on the movies "Step Up 2 the Streets" and "Step Up 3D." Sims has been part of all four "Step Up" films, including "Step Up Revolution," which is in theaters now.
The Pomona, Calif., native is the Garnet High School Vanguard inductee at the West Virginia All Black Schools Sports and Academic Hall of Fame 2012 ceremony Aug. 10 in Charleston. "Vanguard" inductees are distinguished relatives of hall inductees -- Sims is the great-nephew of 2012 posthumous inductees Gurnett E. and Daniel Leroy Ferguson, brothers who lived in the Charleston area.
"I was [visiting West Virginia] as a kid, and I have all these pictures and stories about growing up in West Virginia," he said. "Now, being able to come back as an adult and really get to see it, I'm looking forward to that."
In addition to the "Step Up" films, other selected highlights from Sims' impressive choreography career include the 82nd and 83rd annual Academy Awards telecasts, 2007's "Hairspray" and last year's "Footloose" remake, as well as tours for Madonna, Britney Spears, Usher, Jennifer Lopez and Miley Cyrus (whom he worked with on "Hannah Montana: The Movie" as well). He also choreographed three numbers for Cirque du Soleil's "Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour."
Before he began creating dance moves, though, he performed them. His first job was in Michael Jackson's Egyptian-themed "Remember the Time" video in 1992. He was 17.
"There was an ad in the local paper, and a friend of mine challenged me to audition, so I did. That was my first job and first audition," said the 41-year-old, who originally envisioned himself as a singer.
Prior to that gig, Sims had no formal dance training.
"I learned everything off of MTV and 'Soul Train' growing up," he said.
After he began his career as a dancer, he began training in many types of dance. He said he's mainly hip-hop based but has "dabbled in everything throughout the years."
Sims danced for five years before switching fields to choreography at age 23.
"It was really organic. I've always loved to dance, but I always liked to create even more than dancing. I was always creating.