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Dancing With Calvin Royal III

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Getting his start at an unlikely age, Calvin Royal III took his first ballet class at fourteen. For such a late bloomer, Calvin went on to achieve astonishing success. With Sand, he talks inspiration, dedication, and slowing down.

Where do you think your love of dance was born?
My love of dance was born when I first auditioned for a local community project called the Chocolate Nutcracker. It was the classical holiday fairytale with a twist. The land of the sweets was replaced by Clara’s dream journey through Jazz Land and the Land of Funk. I was exposed to dances of West African, to hip-hop and jazz, and I loved it.

The world considers you a "late bloomer" when it comes to dance?
Most dancers, specifically in ballet, start ballet as young as four years old. Can you believe it? It’s kind of insane. I took my first ballet class at fourteen. It was the most intense pain I’d ever felt in my life. Muscles I didn’t know existed were cramping and firing, and I realized to be good, I had a lot of catching up to do.

What connects you to dancing?
We strive for perfection, but at the end of the day, when it’s show time, we throw it all to the wind and express a sense of freedom. It’s similar to working hard behind the scenes to make the presentation seamless. It’s a difficult balance, but when the stars align, it’s magic.

What qualities are required to be a dancer?
I’ve heard that to become a master of anything a person has to put in 10,000+ hours. To be a dancer and true artist, it requires that and so much more. We are constantly in front of the mirror day in and day out. Critiquing, shaping, correcting, and creating illusions that make the determination, mental and physical hard work pay off in the end. To me, it's what sets us apart from most athletes.

How are you able to maintain a work-life balance? What practices do you have in place to help you achieve that?
I usually get some time off in the summer, and my partner and I like to travel to places neither of us have been before; usually in nature. Hiking, biking, exploring small towns that are off the grid. It helps me to come back to work refreshed and ready to conquer a new season.

Does slow living have any space in your hectic life?
I live in one of the fastest-paced cities in the world. Slow living doesn’t come natural to me in New York City. It’s definitely something I would love to incorporate in my life.

What's the most challenging aspect of being a professional dancer and how do you rise to the occasion when the going gets tough?
One of the most challenging parts of being a professional dancer is taking something that has been done for hundreds of years and making it relevant by today’s standards. It’s something I like to play with when I’m performing a role from one of the classics like Swan Lake or Romeo and Juliet. I never want to be a carbon copy of someone who did a role before me. I appreciate history and how it’s shaped who we are today, but I like to explore how I can make something authentic to me and leave my mark in some way.

Best advice you've ever been given?
When I was a kid, my grandma used to always say, “we have not, because we ask not”. I’ve never forgotten that!

Images: Darian Volkova, Master of Ballet Photography