Of the roughly 100 students who are accepted into The School at Jacob's Pillow each summer, just one is chosen annually to receive the prestigious Lorna Strassler Award for Student Excellence. Strassler Award-Winners receive a full-scholarship to attend The School and a cash prize. The Award has made a significant difference in the lives and careers of the six individuals who have received the honor in past years. This year's Strassler Award-Winner, Calvin Royal III, recently completed the Ballet Program at The School at Jacob's Pillow. Here Calvin speaks with PillowPages about the experiences that brought him to the Pillow and fills us in on what's next for him in his new position at American Ballet Theatre.

PillowPages: Congratulations on winning the Strassler Award. How do you anticipate the Award helping your dance career progress?

Calvin Royal III: Thank you! It feels incredible to have been granted the Lorna Strassler Award. When I found out that I was the recipient, I was excited and honored to have been so fortunate to receive such a prestigious award. I haven't made a final decision about how to use the prize, but there's no doubt that the funds will be of great assistance to my career. I'm considering taking extra dance or acting classes, or investing in private coaching sessions to improve my dancing.

PP: Clearly you put a lot of stock into skilled teaching. Do you have a teacher who really pushed you to become the dancer you are?

CR: That's a hard one! It is very hard to leave any of my teachers out of this list, but I am happy to credit the four teachers I feel have had the most impact on me, both in the studio and in life. Those four include, Ms. Suzanne Pomerantzeff, Mrs. Patricia Paige, Mr. Franco De Vita, and Mr. Raymond Lukens. There are many others, but those four were the ones who really gave me the tools I needed to achieve my goals, and helped me turn the dreams I had into my reality today. I can't thank them enough for believing in me, and staying true to me along the way. I'll forever be grateful to them.

PP: You just were accepted to American Ballet Theatre. What are you looking forward to working on there?

CR: I'll be joining ABT this fall, and the closer I get to my start date, the more anxious and excited I am to begin my career as a professional dancer. I think what I'm looking forward to the most in my first year, is learning the ropes of being in a big company. I've been told that when you first get into a company--unless you're a soloist or a principal dancer--you dance less than you might expect, and that you have to be diligent in your time off to stay physically strong and ready for more demanding parts. You never know when you might be asked to do more and you want to be ready. If it means staying a couple extra hours alone in the studio running variations, or practicing difficult steps, I'm ready to do whatever it takes. I'll be that tiny fish in the huge pond, but I can't wait to start this incredible journey.

PP: There are many great places to dance, what draws you to American Ballet Theatre?

CR: I've been drawn to this company for a variety of reasons. One thing I love is that ABT performs a wide repertoire of the big ballets like Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet, but it also stages contemporary works both by well-known and up-and-coming choreographers. I also like that the company is filled with extremely diverse and talented artists from all over the world. And how could I not like the fact that the company travels and performs in major opera houses nationally and internationally? What an opportunity!

PP: What did you take away from your experience at Jacob's Pillow, and when can we expect to see you back in the Berkshires?

CR: I had heard so many great things about Jacob's Pillow. And before I arrived, I tried to put everything I'd heard aside so I could form my own feelings based on my experiences there. Escaping reality and the hustle and bustle of New York City for two weeks was truly a blessing! It was nice to be in an environment where I could really focus on learning more about myself as a performer and an artist. I got the chance to work alongside new people that were just as driven about a career in dance as I am, and getting to be in the presence of world-renowned teachers and choreographers and a staff that truly has a passion for the arts was also great. A lot of the things I learned at Jacob's Pillow this summer will stay with me throughout my career and beyond. Jacob's Pillow was truly a special place, and I'm looking forward to coming back in August to receive the Lorna Strassler Award!

The School at Jacob's Pillow seeks more people to sponsor students like Calvin. For more information about providing a scholarship to a deserving young artist, please contact Director of Development Dave Barrett at 413.243.9919 x120.

Next PillowPages article: Pilates at the Pillow

photos above, from left: Calvin Royal III in class, with Nina Ananiashvili; photos Kristi Pitsch.
Sarah Beery and Calvin Royal III in Karole Armitage's Red; photo Christopher Duggan

PillowPages August 2010:
Calvin Royal III receives the 2010 Lorna Strassler Award for Student Excellence

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