From JKO to ABT: Calvin Royal III

Published in the April/May 2012 issue.

Photo by Nathan Sayers

Calvin Royal III is the sort of exuberant dancer who always draws the eye. You’ll never catch the 23-year-old corps member performing at less than full volume—every inch of his impossibly long body projects confidence. He’s a natural showman.

A showman who got a very late start (in dance, at least). Royal, who studied piano as a child, wanted to “explore something new” when he auditioned for a performing arts high school near his Florida hometown. On a whim, the then-14-year-old went out for the dance department—and made it. He began training intensely to make up for lost time, supplementing his high school studies with extra classes at the nearby Academy of Ballet Arts.

When Royal was 17, he shocked himself by earning a scholarship to JKO at Youth America Grand Prix. “I thought, Oh my gosh—I came to YAGP just hoping to get feedback, to hear what I was doing wrong! It was crazy.” He moved to New York City, where the JKO teachers began refining his technique. “There was a lot of cleanup for them to do,” he says. But he understood the end goal: “I knew that I had to get my technique solid so that, onstage, I could really let go and be free.”

Royal spent two and a half years in ABT II before entering the main company as an apprentice in 2010; he was made a corps member just a few months later. One of the most important lessons he has learned since, he says, is to be patient. “There are people who’ve been in the company for years and are just now getting variations, and they’re some of the most talented dancers I’ve ever seen,” he says. “So I’m making the most of every opportunity I get, and not taking anything for granted.”


Fun Facts

Most embarrassing onstage moment: “I don’t think there’s anything worse than falling. After I’d been dancing two years, I was doing this performance, and I wiped out right as I went onstage—before the music even started. It was the worst.”
If he weren’t dancing, he would: “Be running my own business. I don’t know what it would be, but I definitely would be my own boss.”
Secret talent: “I tend to sing but kind of…badly. When I was in ABT II, we used to have these talent shows, and I would always sing, and it was not pretty.”
What he does to relax: “I put on a classical station, turn off the lights and zone out. My brother and I were rowdy at bedtime, and my mom would turn on classical music to calm us down. I guess it’s stuck with me.”