Introducing our final muse, the incredible
Calvin Royal III.
Learn about his experiences with digital dance festivals, American Ballet Theatre, and his recent promotion to Principal Dancer!
Q: What kept you inspired in isolation?
A: I’ve been finding inspiration in slowing down. Pre-pandemic, I was always on the run. Having time to step back and do one thing at a time has helped me to focus my energies. I wake up earlier; I’m able to have breakfast at home. I’ll do my morning exercises and class, or some days I mediate first. I’ve been carving out time in the afternoons or evenings to write or read. I’m adapting and staying flexible these days.
Q: Where is the first place you'd like to travel to when it's safe to do so again?
A: To Florida to visit my family, and out west. I’ve always loved Colorado, Arizona, and California.
Q: You recently choreographed for the opening weekend of The Kaatsbaan Summer Festival. How was that? Have you choreographed before?
A: It was a light at the end of the tunnel! I was happy to be back on stage again. It was my first time up at Kaatsbaan Cultural Park, and the first time putting my choreography, which has mostly been seen in films I’ve created, on stage. Choreographing has always been a creative outlet for me.
Q: With digital seasons and festivals becoming more the norm for 2020/2021, The Vail Dance Festival was forced to go digital this year. You were a part of their opening night. How did it feel compared to previous years you have performed there?
A: It was different for sure, and I missed it a lot this year. Vail is such a beautiful place to be in the summertime. I did have a chance to collaborate on a dance film featured in the digital festival with choreographer Bobbi Jene Smith and Melissa Toogood. We worked remotely on the choreography for a few weeks, and came together to shoot it at Rockaway Beach with film director Derrick Belcham. I thought it was a great way to still be in a creative space despite not being able to be in person at Vail. I also loved getting a chance to watch the festival which was something I didn’t get to do in past years.
Q: How do you think ballet can stay relevant and capture new audiences without our traditional performance venues?
A: Online presence is crucial to keep the arts at large on people's radar. I also believe a continued commitment to be more inclusive and building bridges with people and communities globally that don't have access or exposure to the arts is key. We are in a time when our art forms have gone into the digital space, and my hope is that people who didn’t have exposure pre-pandemic to the arts will have a greater opportunity during this time. In hopes that when things are up and running again, they’ll be more inclined to be part of the action.
Q: Have any cross-training tips to stay strong while not having rehearsals all day or access to a proper gym/pilates or ballet studio?
A: ABT has been offering daily company classes that have been a huge help for me. For those of you out there looking for something similar I’d say go to Youtube! I’ve found so many channels from companies, like Dutch National Ballet and Mariinsky Ballet, that have pre recorded ballet barre classes that I really love taking from time to time. I also do floor barre, pilates and gyrokinesis for strength, flexibility and core work.
Q: When and where did you begin taking ballet lessons? How was it being a dancer of color and did it affect your path to becoming a professional?
A: I took my first ballet class in freshman year of high school at the Pinellas County Center for the Arts in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was one of the most challenging points in my early training, not because of my race, but because ballet is an extremely demanding art form and requires such a commitment and skill to excel in it. I always knew I loved dance, but it wasn’t until I came back from my first summer intensive that I discovered how much progress I’d made and how much further I wanted to go.
Q: How long have you been with ABT? What have been some of your favorite experiences dancing with this iconic company?
A: My ABT journey started back in 2006 when I joined the JKO School. It’s kind of been my home these past fourteen years. I have moved through every step of ABT which has been a dream come true for me. The most memorable experiences have been traveling and performing in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and especially at the Met. I’ve been fortunate to dance in the classics, but also work with some of the greats like Twyla Tharp, Mark Morris, and have new ballets created by Alexei Ratmansky.
Q: The entire Elevé team would like to congratulate you on your recent promotion to Principal Dancer! What are you most looking forward to with this incredible accomplishment?
A: Thank you all! This has been such an incredible moment for me. I was surprised that there would even be talks of promotions given the fact that our spring and fall seasons had been cancelled. I feel incredibly thankful that I get to step into this new position at a time where the world is figuring things out. The show will go on, and it gives me so much to look forward to when things are back up and running again. Being in the studios, creating, performing, mentoring, traveling. Being able to see and hug my friends. I’m excited for it all.
Q: Eight male ABT dancers including yourself recently contributed to a children's book called Boys Dance. What was it like being depicted as a character for this book? How has the process and message impacted you?
A: Yes! I was happy to see Boys Dance come together so beautifully. I love that I’m in a place in my life where my dance has the ability to inspire others. It’s what brings me so much joy and the impact of a book like this is bigger than words can say. When I see it, I believe it will help normalize and celebrate boys everywhere that dance.
Q: Do you have a favorite Elevé style? If so, which one?
A: I love that Elevé has many styles to choose from, but you can customize them to make your own unique style.