What Cassandra Trenary Plans to do with Her $50,000 Annenberg Fellowship
When the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Fund for the Performing and Visual Arts announced their tenth and final round of $50,000 fellowships for performing and visual artists last week, it wasn't exactly a surprise to see Cassandra Trenary's name on the list. The American Ballet Theatre soloist sparkles onstage in classical rep (particularly in works by Alexei Ratmansky), but hasn't been content with a typical company career. She's constantly working on outside projects; in fact, when we caught up with her she was in between a rehearsal with Gemma Bond and a preview showing of an Alejandro Cerrudo–choreographed project she'll perform with Daniil Simkin this fall.
How did you react when you got the news that you were receiving the fellowship?
I was so overjoyed of course, but also kind of felt this pressure all of a sudden. There were so many things I had set out to do if I received it, and now that I have I've got a lot of work to do! I'm looking forward to challenging myself in ways I've never had a chance to before.
Past ABT recipients include Misty Copeland and Isabella Boylston—does that add to the pressure?
Oh, absolutely! I'm very humbled and honored to look at the dancers in the past who have received this and be included in that special group, and I'm thinking of all the dancers I would have chosen for it over myself. I'm so grateful, and I don't take it for granted.
Cassandra Trenary in rehearsal with Alexei Ratmansky. Photo by Susie Morgan Taylor, Courtesy ABT.
You're planning to use the fellowship to study with outside companies, correct?
I'm looking to travel to Amsterdam, England and St. Petersburg. What I really want to do is stretch myself, technically speaking. I want to see what these places offer to the dance world and see how I can infuse my own dancing and artistry with it.
You're looking at working with the Mariinsky Ballet, The Royal Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater. What influenced you to go for three such different groups?
I love exploring different types of movement. I love how refined and pure the dancers at The Royal are, but they also have this edge that they bring to their contemporary work. And you go to Russia and those dancers are, for lack of a better term, whacked out! But they also have that perfect Russian technique that I've never had the opportunity to work in. And I'm obsessed with NDT! I love the way they move, they're another breed. I've always really enjoyed and identified with contemporary work. A friend of mine just joined the company, and I want to work with him and get some inspiration that way, and work on contemporary partnering. Also, I really want to do some more acting, so I'm also looking into acting courses and the more theatrical side of things.
I just want to explore more, and be pushed in ways I've never been pushed. It's easy to get comfortable in your company and surroundings. But these other coaches will look at me with a blank slate and not know when to give me the benefit of the doubt, and they're going to push me.
Cassandra Trenary in rehearsal with Daniil Simkin. Photo by Jim Lafferty.
Michele Byrd-McPhee's uncle was a DJ for the local black radio station in Philadelphia, where she was born. As a kid she was always dancing to the latest music, including a new form of powerful poetry laid over pulsing beats that was the beginning of what we now call hip hop.
Byrd-McPhee became enamored of the form and went on to a career as a hip-hop dancer and choreographer, eventually founding the Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival and directing the New York City chapter of Everybody Dance Now!. Over the decades, she has experienced hip hop's growth from its roots in the black community into a global phenomenon—a trajectory she views with both pride and caution.
On one hand, the popularity of hip hop has "made a global impact," says Byrd-McPhee. "It's provided a voice for so many people around the world." The downside is "it's used globally in ways that the people who made the culture don't benefit from it."
Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.
Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:
Every dancer knows there's as much magic taking place backstage as there is in what the audience sees onstage. Behind the scenes, it takes a village, says American Ballet Theatre's wig and makeup supervisor, Rena Most. With wig and makeup preparations happening in a studio of their own as the dancers rehearse, Most and her team work to make sure not a single detail is lost.
Dance Magazine recently spoke to Most to find out what actually goes into the hair and makeup looks audiences see on the ABT stage.