Spotlight on ABT’s Cassandra Trenary

Cassandra Trenary as Aurora in 'The Sleeping Beauty'. Photo by Gillian Murphy

This year has been a momentous one for Cassandra Trenary of American Ballet Theatre (ABT). In August 2015, she was promoted to soloist. This past April, she debuted her role as Aurora in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Sleeping Beauty during the company’s tour to Detroit, Michigan. And now, the eager, on-the-rise dancer is preparing for other major roles with ABT this spring and summer in Firebird and The Golden Cockerel, among others. And when she’s not dancing with ABT, she’s still dancing. She has been invited to guest perform in Daniil Simkin’s INTENSIO and in Joshua Beamish’s MOVE: the company.

Dance Informa recently caught up with Trenary, as she recapped her Aurora dream role and dished all about dance.

Cassandra Trenary and James B Whiteside taking a bow after the third act Sleeping Beauty pas at the Virginia Arts Festival. Photo by Heiko DeWees

Cassandra Trenary and James B. Whiteside taking a bow after the third act Sleeping Beauty pas at the Virginia Arts Festival. Photo by Heiko DeWees.

When and why did you first start dancing?

“I started dancing when I was three. My parents put me into a lot of activities throughout my youth to see what stuck, and dance just did.”

When and why did you know you wanted to be a part of ABT?

“When I turned 12, the director of my studio recommended that I attend a summer intensive. She said I should audition for two – ABT or NYCB. For me, I was just happy to go wherever I got in. I was only accepted to ABT’s Summer Intensive, and that is what started the ABT dream. From that first summer intensive, I was invited to the New York location on scholarship, later invited to join the school, and the rest is history. I guess ABT was just always it.”

Throughout your training, and even now, who have been your dance idols?

“When I was training, I didn’t know who the ballet stars were growing up, so I was always very inspired by my classmates or the older dancers in my pre-pro company in Georgia. To me, they were stars. I guess I’m still the same. Now my co-workers and peers are these ballet stars! I love so many dancers, and they each have different qualities that make them so special. I cannot name them all, but a few would be Polina Semionova, Isabella Boylston and Céline Cassone.”

You debuted your Aurora recently; how exciting! How did it go?

“My debut was so, so, so rewarding. I had one goal in mind, and that was to get through it and enjoy it. I’m happy to say I actually achieved that goal. I got off stage after Act III and just started crying and laughing. I still cannot believe that I did it! It was not perfect, but I’m so excited for the next one. Aurora taught me a lot.”

Cassandra Trenary in rehearsal with Irina Kolpakova. Photo by James Whiteside

Cassandra Trenary in rehearsal with Irina Kolpakova. Photo by James Whiteside.

What was your favorite part about that rehearsal and performance process?

“I worked with Irina Kolpakova and Alexei Ratmansky every step of the way leading up to the performance. It was amazing. It was the most challenging process of my life, but I feel as though I grew so much as a dancer and artist. Working in that kind of environment brought out all of my weak points, and I was forced to come face to face with them. It is easy to hide when you are in an ensemble, but the pressure of carrying a ballet really pushes you to be the best you can be. I’d have to say that the love and support I received from my fellow dancers was my absolute favorite part. I have never experienced so much encouragement in my life. Everyone was just so excited for me, and with them up on stage surrounding me, I really felt like I couldn’t fail.

And one of my favorite parts about the rehearsal process was having James [Whiteside] as a partner. He kept me laughing the whole way through and is such an amazing partner and person.”

What have been some of your favorite roles to perform, and do you have any dream roles?

“That is a tough one. So far, of course, Aurora has been my favorite role to perform. It was the most incredible experience of my life. I love dancing anything where I have a little freedom to make choices acting-wise and really be the one to tell a story. Other roles I have enjoyed have been The Younger Sister in Antony Tudor’s Pillar of Fire. I loved performing ‘Blue Bird Pas de Deux’ in Sleeping Beauty. Le Spectre de la Rose was another great experience for me. I love any contemporary or neo-classical piece as well. I recently performed works by Annabelle Lopez-Ochoa, Gregory Dolbashian and Gemma Bond and had a blast on stage exploring some new ways of moving. I hope to be a part of more creations in the future. One of my dream roles would include Juliet (I know, typical). ABT does MacMillan’s version, and the choreography is an absolute dream. I hope one day I get the chance to portray that character. Manon is another favorite I’d like to tackle one day. Anything with a lot of drama, I guess.”

Cassandra Trenary in the The Golden Cockerel costume. Photo by Tomoko Dunbar.

Cassandra Trenary in the The Golden Cockerel costume. Photo by Tomoko Dunbar.

For you, what are your favorite dance steps or ways of moving?

“I really just love to throw myself around. Any time I can waltz around or do a grand allegro, I’m happy. I love neo-classical and contemporary movement, too.”

Do any steps come a bit less naturally to you?

“Turning has never been my strong suit.”

What’s your favorite part about being a dancing artist?

“My favorite part is everything about it really. We get to dress up, live in a fantasy, tell stories and be creative. This career has taken me places I never thought I would go in the world. We get to bring inspiration and beauty to a world that desperately needs it.”

And what’s the hardest part?

“It is physically and mentally challenging. I find that being discouraged goes with the territory sometimes. We have to work so incredibly hard to keep ourselves in good working order all the time, but what we do ends up injuring us more often than not. It is all worth it, though.”

How do you like to spend your day off, or a break from dancing?

“I love to work on other projects during my breaks. Lately, I guess I have not had a break. I just always want to be creating or working on something outside of ABT. To me, that is good ‘time off’. When we go on break, we – my hubby and I – usually visit our families, too. We are planning a trip to Denmark this year, which I’m super excited about. My husband has a lot of family there, and I have always wanted to experience it.”

Cassandra Trenary ready to take the stage as Aurora. Photo by Tomoko Dunbar.

Cassandra Trenary ready to take the stage as Aurora. Photo by Tomoko Dunbar.

Do you have any close friends in the company?

“I have so many good friends in the company. I love so many people. It is honestly like family. I have two people who are like siblings to me, though: Gabe Stone Shayer and Lily Wisdom. We live so close together in the city, so we are always included in each other’s plans. We meet at the same bar, have our restaurants… Love them!”

What’s one thing a lot of people may not know about you?

“I love to make stuff. I have lots of random apartment creations, and I like to make jewelry, too.”

What else should we know about you?

“We just started our Met Season, and I have other amazing roles in addition to Aurora! In Firebird, I’m dancing The Green Maiden, and I’m also a principal in Alexei Ratmansky’s Trilogy evening in Chamber Symphony. I’m dancing as the Golden Cockerel in The Golden Cockerel. So it is a huge year for me, and I’m so excited to attack these roles.”

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.

Photo (top): Cassandra Trenary as Aurora in ‘The Sleeping Beauty’. Photo by Gillian Murphy.

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