The List with Evergreen City Ballet Artistic Director Bennyroyce Royon

Bennyroyce Royon is a Filipino-American director, choreographer, and dancer based in Brooklyn and Seattle. He currently serves as the artistic director for the Evergreen City Ballet in Renton.

Royon grew up learning Filipino folk dances in the Philippines in grade school. When he moved to the U.S., he said he had no interest in playing sports. He joined the Evergreen City Ballet when he was around 15. “Evergreen City Ballet opened the door for me to experience and fall in love with ballet and other forms of dance, like modern and jazz. Dance revealed to me my artistic and creative potential, and it took me to places in the world where I would have never imagined,” he said.

He later received a BFA in Dance from The Juilliard School in New York City in 2006. As a performer and collaborator, he has worked on Broadway (The King and I), Off-Broadway (Artist of Light), at The Metropolitan Opera (Madama Butterfly, Turandot, The First Emperor), and with dance companies including Armitage Gone! Dance, Sidra Bell Dance New York, Carolyn Dorfman Dance, Alaska Dance Theatre, and more. Here are some of his favorite things.

Favorite Places

TO RELAX The floor or the couch

TO GRAB A COFFEE Coffeeholic House in Columbia City, Seattle

FOR DINNER Royal Orchid in Renton and Ba Bar in Seattle

TO BE INSPIRED I’m currently bi-coastal, so I’m going to say wandering through Brooklyn Museum in New York and Pike Place Market in Seattle.

Inspiration Board

CURRENTLY READING I just bought my friend’s book, called Final Bow for Yellowface by Phil Chan, and two other books, The Profitable Artist by New York Foundation for The Arts and Geisha of a Different Kind by C. Winter Han.

CURRENTLY LISTENING TO Lately, I’ve been listening to bossa nova music on Spotify.

MANTRA YOU LIVE BY Do your best, and never give up.

HOBBIES Whenever I can, I like to play video games with my nephews.

Q&A

WHAT DOES YOUR POSITION AS ARTISTIC DIRECTOR ENTAIL? The role of artistic director in a pre-professional ballet school like Evergreen City Ballet is almost the same as an artistic director in a professional ballet company. I say “almost the same” because there’s a distinct difference in scale and scope of work. In a professional ballet company, the artistic director works with professional dancers, a bigger budget, and several senior staff members in different departments. Evergreen City Ballet is a small ballet school with a mission to provide high-quality dance education to dance students of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. We also provide performance opportunities to our students, including our performance division dancers. As ECB’s artistic director, I oversee all aspects of the artistic productions, educational programming, and development of the organization.

HOW HAVE YOU (ALONG WITH THE EVERGREEN CITY BALLET) PIVOTED DURING COVID-19? We closed temporarily back in March, and we went virtual with all of our classes. Once we were able to resume classes in person, we followed the guidance of our local and state public health agencies. We also adhered to the restrictions of our governor. Along with wearing a face mask, we have daily symptom prescreening checks at the front door, enforce physical distancing, encourage frequent hand washing, and have also heightened our cleaning and disinfecting procedures. We’ve only allowed five dancers per group during in-person classes.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN THE WORK YOU HAVE DONE THROUGH EVERGREEN CITY BALLET SO FAR? Somehow during this pandemic, we were able to create a docu-dance film called Nutcracker Suites as a unique alternative to our usual Nutcracker performances in theaters. It gave us new opportunities for artistic collaboration with the Bellevue Youth Symphony Orchestra, Seattle and New York-based filmmakers, and two professional dancers from New York City Ballet. It took a huge effort and a lot of people to make the docu-dance film a success. It has been one of the silver linings of this entire experience and one that I’m most proud of.

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