The Movement Maestro Is Making His Next Big Move

This story appears in V135: now available for purchase!

The creative movement director to the stars and Boston Ballet choreographer in conversation with Principal Dancer of American Ballet Theatre, Calvin Royal III, detailing his latest artistic endeavor.

Calvin Royal III: I don’t know if you remember this, but I actually met you on the set of a L’Oréal campaign with Inez and Vinoodh.
Stephen Galloway: Of course! What do you mean? How would I not remember that?
CR: It was just so epic for me, because it was the first time that I actually worked with a creative movement director on any set. I remember feeling like you helped me to feel so disarmed in the midst of the chaos happening on set. And then also working with these iconic photographers, it was really just such a special moment.
SG: It’s a full-circle moment. I’ve been, of course, following your rise as well, and I am so proud! I’m happy it all worked out and you are doing the interview.
CR: Definitely a full circle moment and it’s an honor to be interviewing you. You’ve done so much, how does all of the success feel at this point in your life? You moved to L.A., you’ve worked with so many companies, brands, and models. How does that feel now, looking back?
SG: Well, to be perfectly honest, it feels like it did when I first started. I often think about that, but it’s all still new to me. I’m often asked, what is the formula? And I can honestly say that there is no formula. Each time I walk onto the set, whether it be into the studio, or into the costume department or onto a film set—I really do approach it as if it’s my first and possibly my last time doing what I love. That being said, there is a certain inner quiet of all of the information that I’ve been lucky enough to have acquired from so many of the incredible people that I’ve been fortunate to work with over the years.
CR: And more recently you’ve been doing amazing work at the prestigious Boston Ballet. How did that come about? I hear you have a ballet in the works!

Stephen Galloway | Photography by Inez and Vinoodh

SG: Oddly enough, I’ve had a relationship with Boston for quite a while, because when I was the creative movement director of The Rolling Stones, the tours would always open in Boston for some reason. So, we would always utilize the studios for rehearsals. And I love the company so much, every time I was there, it was always in the back of my [mind] that we should do something. The opportunity to work on the project came around in 2017, that’s when it started to come to fruition. But there were all kinds of setbacks. There were challenges with obtaining musical rights because no one’s ever really choreographed to the music of The Rolling Stones on the planet. There’s one song, I think it’s “Little Red Rooster,” which it has been done for, but they have never given the rights to anyone. So, I’m grateful that they allowed me to choose these six songs. This project came about very organically. It’s been a joy and a pleasure to work on it and it’s called DEVIL’S/eye. But DREAMstate is what the entire program is called.
CR: What was your inspiration for the piece DEVIL’S/eye?
SG: It’s definitely its own voice, because in a weird way, this is the first ballet I’ve ever done. For this piece, there are those six great songs that I’ve always loved. But it’s been a challenge because these songs mean so much to so many different people. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Wild Horses,” and a few other of The Rolling Stones’ hits. And that was the challenge we faced. But from the beginning, I said, “I’m not going to try and interpret these songs.” This is not an interpretation of the lyrics, I’m using the songs as the music, and everyone will connect with what they want to. It’s not a message ballet. It’s just great music, great dancers, interesting choreographic steps, great lighting, and great costumes!
CR: Are you designing the costumes?
SG: Yeah!  I would do lighting too if I could, but I can’t do lighting yet. (Laughs)
CR: (Laughs) Not yet, not yet.
SG: I’m a Pisces, so we like to do it all when we can, that’s what gets us really excited.
CR: I feel like as a Capricorn, I can relate to that.
SG: Yeah, Pisces and Capricorns are very similar. Bill is a Capricorn as well, and I have lots of Capricorns in my life. It’s just a lot of fun, you know what I mean? That was something in my head that I was very cognizant of, because I was like, “Oh, people are gonna come and say, okay, I wanna see ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ interpreted.” And I was like, “no, I don’t want to do that.” Everyone’s interpretation is different, and so I just wanted to make interesting choreography. Also what was cool for me was to use the classical ballet vocabulary mixed in with my own rendition of it. There’s a lot of different movement techniques involved in the ballet, but it’s strongly based in a classical ballet vocabulary, which looks really weird when you put it next to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” I think it’s kind of fun at one point to do 22 a la seconde turns, and have people say “really?” But somehow it all works.
CR: That’s super inspiring to know that you’re working with one of the top companies, with some of the greatest dancers, and of course iconic soundtracks.
SG: As if there wasn’t enough pressure! (laughs)
CR: (Laughs) What are you excited about in the present and what are you excited about to come in the next few years? What are you looking forward to?
SG: Right now, everything has been slowly coming together, which I really prefer. There’s been a huge interest in feature films and small films, which is incredible because it seems to be the next step for me. It’s been the next step for a couple of years now, and things are really starting to kind of come together. I have a couple of things that we’re working on for a few brands, and it’s really challenging for me to basically incorporate all those things we were speaking about before. I love the sensitivity of film, but I have so much respect for it, so I’m not going to let [anyone] jump in there and say, “Okay, go and do this.” I have way too much respect for it.
CR: It truly does seem like the next step for you, I think that’s amazing.
SG: When I was in Paris, I was working with a major A-list actress, who unfortunately has to remain nameless until the project comes out. And it just privately rekindled my whole view. We shot for four days, and she was like, “Stephen, I know you’re a dancer and a movement director, but you should really think of going into directing.” I was secretly smiling on the inside, because I love storytelling. I think there’s still so many incredible stories to be told, but at the same time, I love abstract beauty and I think there are ways of doing both, you know?
CR: Yes, totally. And with your recent move to LA, I think more experiences like that will definitely happen for you.
SG: Exactly! That’s why being here in California has been perfect, and the city has been incredibly kind to me in terms of people that I have been able to meet, who are also very encouraging about this, because you need that support. In an industry where there’s so much money involved it’s a very tricky thing. So you need to know who you’re dealing with. So that’s what I’m inspired by. As for the upcoming projects in the future, I’m excited to figure out a new way of telling stories not only through the physical way that I have been working in for many yearsbut also from my actual point of view, as a director in film and small projects.
CR: I think we are all excited to see where this journey in film takes you, and even more excited to see what stories you bring to life through this Journey.
SG: Thank you so much! I’m not necessarily interested in doing the next Star Trek yet, but I am interested in trying to tell short stories that involve film, fashion and dance and all of the things which I love so much. I mean, I unfortunately hate it sometimes. Hate is such a strong word, but I can’t turn it off, you know what I mean? I see everything now cinematically, but in a weird way, I always saw my work as a movement director in three dimensions. It was never the still photograph for me. It was always about the in-between emotion. And it’s been great that fashion has a need to provide that type of content now. That’s been wonderful for me. A lot of good stuff is coming. Like I said, we take it a day at time, a step at a time, but we’re grinding out here and God is good. He’s really quite good right now. And I look forward to creating that fantastic solo for you, at American Ballet Theatre, when I come there.
CR: I look forward to that as well. We planted that seed today.
SG: Oh yeah. I’ve got a short list, so I gotta work with you, and maybe I’ll have learned how to do lighting by then so I can do all that too. (Laughs)

DEVIL’S/eye premieres March 17, 2022

This story appears in V135: now available for purchase!

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