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Career Q&A: Professional Dancers Hannah Sampson and Calvin Royal III

Professional dancers Hannah Sampson and Calvin Royal III gave us the scoop on what it’s like to train and perform in their art form every day. Let’s learn more about their work!

Dancer Hannah Sampson

An interview with a professional dancer:

Meet Hannah, a professional contemporary dancer. She dances and teaches dancing for a living! Hannah is from the United Kingdom, near London, England. She is a learning disabled dance artist at Stopgap Dance Company. Within the company, she dances, teaches, and performs all around the world! When she’s not dancing, Hannah likes creative writing and watching TV. Here’s what she had to say about her dance career. 

 

What type of dance do you do?

At Stopgap, we are all contemporary dancers. We create characters and stories that are often inspired by real-life experiences and tell those stories through movement. As a company, we are a mixture of disabled and non-disabled dancers who support each other like family. We believe that differences are great, and we work together to perform new pieces for audiences everywhere.


What got you interested in dancing? 

I started dancing when I was five years old. I used to love performing for my parents in a little pop group where we would dance and sing along to 90’s music. From then on, I was

completely hooked and haven’t stopped since. Dancing professionally has always been a big dream of mine from a young age, and now being in a professional company is a real dream come true!


What types of training did you receive to become a dancer?

I studied musical theater at college, which is what initially led me to Stopgap. I participated in different programs at Stopgap to learn how to become a professional dancer. It took a lot of training in dance technique, touring, teaching inclusively, and getting to know the company's way of working.


What does a typical day in the life of a dancer look like?

Every day brings something new and exciting! If we are working towards a performance, we rehearse all day. If we are not rehearsing, our days are full of taking technique classes, traveling to different places to perform, creating new pieces, working on solo projects, or preparing to lead workshops.


What is your favorite thing about dancing?

I really love to dance with other people and perform on stage. I get so much energy from the audience, and it brings out the best in me.


What is something you want kids to know about dancing?

My advice for kids would be that everyone should have a go and see if it’s a passion of yours. If you have a dream like I did, then follow it and see if you can find a way to make it happen. 


What can kids do now if they’re interested in becoming a dancer? 

You can try lots of different workshops to improve your dance skills. Give yourself positive feedback that you can do it. It’s not always an easy job, so it’s really important to believe in yourself!


Who is a dancer you’re inspired by?

I’m inspired by Matthew Bourne, a choreographer based in the United Kingdom. I love the way he focuses on telling the story behind the dance piece as he’s creating it. His process inspires me to use my creative writing hobby to help create my character and discover lots of detail with movement.


What is something brave you’ve done?

Something that I felt brave doing was in the rehearsal process for a piece called The Enormous Room. I had to conquer my fear of heights by climbing the set on a high platform to perform a duet. I was very nervous, but I pushed through to make the performances happen because I knew it would be worth it in the end. The piece was loved by audiences across the world.


What does being brave mean to you?

It’s all about confidence and knowing that you are strong enough to speak up for yourself.

Stopgap Dance Company is a global leader in inclusivity and dance. They are based in the United Kingdom. Learn more about their important work at www.stopgapdance.com and follow along with Hannah on Instagram at @stopgapdance

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Dancer Calvin Royal III

An interview with a professional dancer:

Meet Calvin, a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre (ABT) in New York City. Even though Calvin didn’t start learning ballet until he was 14, he made history when he became the second Black male principal dancer at ABT. Calvin and Misty Copeland have even danced together! They were the first Black dancers to appear as the leads in an ABT dance performance. Calvin is an inspiration through his beautiful dancing and artistry. Here’s what he had to say about his work as a ballet dancer. 

 

Name: Calvin Royal III

Location: New York, United States

Profession: Ballet dancer

 

What type of dance do you do? 

Ballet.

 

What got you interested in dancing? 

When I was 10 years old, I auditioned for The Chocolate Nutcracker and got accepted. That’s where I fell in love with dance for the first time. We performed every Christmas onstage with colorful sets, costumes, and bright lights. My family and friends were always in the audience cheering me on.

 

What types of training did you study to become a dancer? 

Classical ballet, jazz, tap, and modern dance.

 

What does a typical day in the life of a dancer look like?

My day starts with a big bowl of oatmeal topped with fruit, walnuts, a little brown sugar, and cinnamon. After breakfast, I pack my dance bag with ballet clothes and shoes, then take the subway train to work. When I arrive at the ABT studios, I change into my ballet clothes and prepare for ballet class that I take every morning to warm up my muscles. In the afternoon, rehearsals begin! We practice for 7–10 hours each day for upcoming performances. We’re preparing for big classic ballets like Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Apollo, The Nutcracker, and many more.

 

What is your favorite thing about dancing?

I love the stories dancers can tell with only their bodies and movement, all without saying a single word! I also love the feeling of flying and defying gravity.

 

What is something you want kids to know about dancing? 

I want everyone who’s reading this to know that dance is for anyone and everyone. It should not matter what color your skin is or where you come from. Dance is open for anyone who may be interested in trying it out.

 

What can kids do now if they’re interested in becoming a dancer?

If you are interested in becoming a dancer or simply want to try, ask your parent or guardian to take you to a local dance school to sign up for a class. It all starts with that very first step of showing up.

 

What is your favorite type of dance to teach?

I love teaching ballet. It’s challenging, but it’s been fun to teach cool things like turning really fast and jumping really high.

 

Who are the dancers you’re inspired by? 

Misty Copeland, Kimin Kim, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Arthur Mitchell, and so many others.

 

What is something brave you’ve done? 

When I was 17, I moved to New York City, one of the biggest cities in the world, to study ballet. After competing in a ballet competition, I won a scholarship to train at [ABT’s] Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School three years after starting ballet. I am so happy I took the leap and was brave enough to try ballet even through the challenges in the beginning.

 

What does being brave mean to you? 

It means accepting yourself and being who you are, no matter what!


Learn more about Calvin at www.calvinroyaliii.com or follow along on Instagram @calvinroyalliii