From Stage to Screen
Connecting Others through Art
by Delia Brengel
When ABT Soloist Cassandra (Cassie) Trenary received the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship for the Performing Arts in 2017, she felt pressure to deliver something beyond the world of ballet.
For 10 years, the Annenberg Foundation awarded scholarships to up-and-coming talents in various disciplines, allowing artists to focus on furthering their craft without worrying about funding. With this in mind, Cassie dreamed of creating something that would honor the fellowship’s purpose and give back to the community. Her dream came to fruition as a short dance film entitled At the Time.
While Cassie used some of the Annenberg grant to study at different ballet companies around the world, it may seem unusual that she also chose to dive into the totally new discipline of filmmaking. However, Cassie is known for her “exceptionally vivid acting” in lead ballet roles (Dance Tabs) and is often caught backstage capturing quiet moments of her colleagues with her Nikon. It seems a foray into film was the logical next step.
“Film is something that has always piqued my interest,” says Cassie. “So I thought that I could create one to expand my artistry and learn new skills, then use what was created as a fundraising tool for causes that I cared about.”
The resulting nine-minute film, starring Cassie and fellow ABT Soloist Calvin Royal III, follows an individual’s relationship with addiction and the fraught internal struggle it triggers. The story is inspired by someone close to Cassie at the time when they were deepest in their struggle. Through evocative movement and a haunting score (there is no dialogue), each frame of the film conveys meaning.
Creative storytelling and character development were familiar to Cassie as a ballet dancer, but spearheading a project was uncharted territory – “a new and exciting endeavor,” she says. With her new roles as executive producer, choreographer, and featured dancer in the film, Cassie’s next step was to enlist the help of professionals to help bring her dream to life: “What I enjoyed about producing was putting my dream team together and overseeing every detail, all the way to the final product. I wasn’t bringing someone else’s vision to life, but my own, and that was a rewarding experience.”
Since the film’s release last year, it has garnered international film festival praise from Manhattan to Moscow to Madrid, underscoring the unique power of dance – no matter onstage or on screen – to connect others.
Hoping to help people “feel moved, inspired and maybe a little less alone” during this time of social distancing, Cassie held a special virtual screening of the film on Saturday, April 4. The screening also made good on her promise to give back through her art: donations collected during the event benefited the ABT Crisis Relief Fund, which helps to sustain ABT artists during this challenging time resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, Cassie reveals, “I loved this process so much, even with the stress and grit it required. If I could have a hand in creating more films, whether it be in direction, production, acting, or choreographing, I would jump on the opportunity in a heartbeat.”