Calvin Royal III is now the first black male director of the American Ballet Theater in more than two decades

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“When I heard my name spoken on promotion day, I really felt like the sky was opening. Whether or not I’ve featured over the years, I’ve pushed and strived to be the best version of myself on and off stage. So to finally get to the main one with ABT, it was a dream come true! “

These were the words of Calvin Royal III in a maintenance in September. That month, he became the first black principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater (ABT) in more than two decades. Desmond Richardson was ABT’s first black principal dancer, who went on to dance with Complexions Contemporary Ballet.

Royal, after her promotion in September, joins Misty Copeland in ABT’s lead dancer roster. It comes a year after Royal and Copeland became ABT’s first black duo to dance the lead roles in ballet, performing Ratmansky’s rendition of Harlequinade.

First studying ballet at age 14, Royal was first introduced to dance performance at a community project in his hometown, but it was in college that he paid more attention to it. There he auditioned with friends for the High School of Performing Arts and won a scholarship for the summer program at the famous Philadelphia Rock School where he studied ballet.

Royal went on to participate in numerous dance competitions before obtaining a scholarship to ABT’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in September 2006, a pre-professional ballet training program for students aged 12 to 17. It was tough from the start, he says.

“It was a challenge in many ways, not just being the only black kid in my class, but being away from home for the first time… I got that feeling of ‘Okay, I am an adult now at 17 ‘. That’s a lot of things to settle down with, ”Royals noted. “Then despite the longing for a sense of community, knowing that I came here because I have something that has earned me this scholarship to be here. I always knew that because I didn’t see people who looked like me at the top, I wanted to get there so that I could help bridge the gap and open that door.

Royal, while at JKO School, appeared in original works by Raymond Lukens and Jessica Lang. Joined ABT II (now ABT Studio Company) in December 2007, he apprenticed with the main company in 2010, member of the corps de ballet in 2011 and soloist in 2017. So far, Royal has danced leading roles including AFTERITE , Prince Siegfried in the footsteps of White Swan and Black Swan from Swan Lake and Allegro Brillante by George Balanchine. Her graceful performances were born out of hard work involving repetitions and core exercises.

“The thing with ballet, when you go to a show and you see the beauty and the ease, it takes so much to get there,” Royal says IF in June. “For most people who don’t know ballet, it’s not as easy as it sounds. We are working hard to make it look easy.

The award-winning dancer, who has also featured in global campaigns for Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, GAP, Target, Ralph Lauren and Canali, was preparing earlier this year to perform with Copeland in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ when the coronavirus hit hit.

In an interview with All the arts, he explained what this performance meant to him. “… I was delighted to finally be able to dance the part of my dreams. I’ve been watching Romeo since I was a kid at JKO school and have always aspired to dance it. I was learning the choreography in my free time “just in case”, and once I had the opportunity to undertake it, I felt like I had staved off it in some way. another and I couldn’t wait to get to work! I’m still excited for the day that happens, ”he said.

Royal recently appeared on the 2019 Pirelli Calendar alongside Misty Copeland and was named the 2020-2021 Artist in Residence for the Vail Dance Festival in Vail, Colorado. The American Ballet principal dancer now hopes his story will pave the way for other black dancers in classical art forms.

“I’ve seen things change and I hope there will be more Misty (Copeland) and Calvins in ballet companies in the US and around the world,” Royal said. noted. “I really see the change happening. “


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