Dancer Calvin Royal III returns to St. Pete for his hometown's highest honor

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Calvin Royal III between performances last summer at Jacob's Pillow in the Berkshires. - David Warner
David Warner
Calvin Royal III between performances last summer at Jacob's Pillow in the Berkshires.

CL’s been following the career of dancer Calvin Royal III since we were Weekly Planet. Trained at Gibbs H.S./Pinellas Center for the Arts, Royal has leapt higher and higher since we first profiled him, moving from prestigious dance academies to the American Ballet Theatre, winning a $50,000 Annenberg fellowship and getting recognized by New York Magazine as one of its annual “Reasons to Love New York.”

And this Saturday night, his hometown is going to give him some love: He’ll be awarded the highest honor given to individuals by the City of St. Petersburg. During the performance at the Mahaffey Theatre of A Family Blessing — successor to The Chocolate Nutcracker, in which Calvin starred during high school — the city’s urban affairs director, Dr. Nikki Gaskin-Capehart, will present Royal with The Keys to the City.

“He’s accomplished so much,” said Kevin King, Mayor Rick Kriseman’s chief of staff. “This is something the mayor really wanted to do to show his appreciation for a native son.”

Royal is currently in Costa Mesa, California, on tour with ABT's production of The Nutcracker, but he'll be taking the first flight out on Saturday morning for the event at the Mahaffey.

“I'll be missing the last four performances here, but my directors knew that this was a moment that I definitely shouldn't miss out on,” he said in an email. “Jai Hinson [director/creator of The Family Blessing] who I worked with when I was in The Chocolate Nutcracker, has been working alongside the Mayor's office and my scheduling at ABT for the last year or so to coordinate this homecoming celebration.”

Royal’s honored to be recognized by the city that gave him his first chance to dance. Looking back on his journey from FL to NYC, where he moved 10 years ago, he says it's been “a wild and exciting ride. I had no clue that stepping foot in that dance audition at PCCA would land me where I am today, but there’s not one day that I take that for granted.”

He's been very busy of late, dancing featured roles during ABT's fall season at Lincoln Center in works by Alexei Ratmansky, Frederick Ashton, and Jessica Lang. He also appeared in Damian Woetzel's Vail Dance Festival at New York's City Center, and danced with Misty Copeland as her Prince in a full-length production of Cinderella in Houston.

Look for him next year dancing new roles at ABT in Swan Lake and Don Quixote. Meanwhile, if you see him around town this weekend, congratulate him, welcome him back, but don't ask him to open any doors with his new set of Keys.

As Kevin King points out, “I have to remind people that it doesn’t open many doors.” The awarding of the Keys is purely “a symbolic gesture.”

Told that news by CL, Royal said, "Ha! I've been trying to figure out what doors those keys will unlock, but now I guess I've got the answer!”

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