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.”
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.”
Nothing's more impressive than a fluttery entrechat six. Here, School of American Ballet's Suki Schorer gives her tips for perfecting this tricky jump.
1. Your power is in the plié: One of the most common problems Suki Schorer sees is dancers taking too short of a plié. "They bounce off the floor and then don't have the power to go high in the air," she says. You'll need that height to create the beats. A juicy plié will also allow you to control the landing and hold on to the tempo.
2. Timing can help. As you plié, think "and-down-entrechat six" rather than "and-up-entrechat six."
3. Keep legs and chest forward: "As students start to jump, they often throw their upper bodies back and then their feet get behind their bodies," says Schorer. As a result, the legs swing front and back instead of scissoring through first and fifth. "You need your legs underneath you or a teensy bit in front, with your chest also forward."
New York City Ballet's Tiler Peck makes her curatorial debut this evening at the The Music Center's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, and she's brought an all-star dance cast with her to the West Coast. The BalletNow program will run through July 30, and features a mix of classical and contemporary works danced by 24 international stars.
But if you can't make it to LA this weekend for a performance, we've got the next best thing—courtesy of the BalletNow dancers themselves. We've been spotting rehearsal clips on Instagram all week, and we've gathered them right here. From Romeo and Juliet to Justin Peck's Chutes and Ladders, the dancers (which include Lauren Cuthbertson of The Royal Ballet and Jeanette Delgado who is currently on a leave of absence from Miami City Ballet) are as diverse as the program lineup. Just do yourself a favor, and watch with the sound on.
Five years after joining American Ballet Theatre, corps member Zhong-Jing Fang sustained a serious ankle injury. Not one to let a setback take her off course, Fang wondered: What other things can I do as an artist? She loved imitating movie actresses as a child, so she decided to try acting while she recovered. For two years, she went every Wednesday evening to a four-hour group class with acting coach Diaan Ainslee. There she learned to dissect a monologue, develop a character, listen and feel emotionally exposed. The experience thrust Fang out of her comfort zone and transformed her as an artist. “It's a different layer of becoming a person," Fang says, “and becoming much more real."
Acting classes, which often incorporate exercises aimed at self-exploration, can offer dancers tools to deepen their artistry. Even simple things, Fang notes, like working without mirrors, can inspire you to go beyond image and find a deeper sense of self. “There is a lot more to say, beyond just being able to dance," she says. Here, Fang and three other dancers explain how acting skills have made them better performers.
Do you have any tips for dealing with a stubborn partner? We both want to succeed, but we can't seem to communicate. —Jesse
We've all dreamt of it: dancing a romantic pas de deux with your real-life love interest. Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg have done it countless times as one of ballet's most beloved on- and offstage couples. In this immaculate 2003 performance with The Royal Ballet, where they were then principals, their chemistry brings magic to their roles in Sir Frederick Ashton's Cinderella.
Each year, the Princess Grace Foundation honors an extraordinary group of artists. This year, ballet got a major nod. Six of the eight winners in the dance performance and choreography category are ballet-related. (The other two are Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Jacquelin Harris and downtown dance-theater choreographer Raja Feather Kelly.) While you already know some of these names, we're excited to follow the careers of newcomers, like current Juilliard dance major Mikaela Kelly. Past Princess Grace Award winners include the likes of Carlos Acosta, Gillian Murphy and Tiler Peck, so they're in exceptional company.
What do you enjoy more: performing or being in the studio?
Performing, of course. It's like waiting and getting ready for your birthday party. The rehearsals are a hard process: It's a long wait for enjoyment.
What qualities do you admire most in other dancers?
A brain. Some say that a ballerina only needs good footwork, physical abilities, but I realized gradually that it's very important to have a good head on your shoulders. You go further if you think deeply about your roles.
What do you do to remain injury-free?
I always warm up properly, and I also have massages and water treatments to relax and soothe my body. Sometimes I go to the banya, a typical Russian sauna.
You created the lead role in Jean-Christophe Maillot's The Taming of the Shrew. What place does it have in your repertoire?
A very significant one. It's so precious when a ballet is made on you. So many dancers wait for that, try to find choreographers. If you are the very first person to do a role, it stays with you—and you stay in it, in a way.