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.