December 01, 2016

Hear from Cassie Martin, a graduate of Canada’s National Ballet School (class of 2014) and "gold star" Assemblée Internationale veteran. 

In 2009 I was accepted into NBS's full-time professional ballet program at the ripe little age of 12. I was a young kid from a ballet studio in the middle of Texas –I had no idea what the real ballet world looked like.

AI 09 happened in November of that year and I remember hearing all of my teachers explain it to me and my friends and all I could think was, "holy cow, I didn't even know there were that many ballet schools!" Soon enough though, I found myself surrounded by a crowd of people speaking different languages, but instead of the room being separated by this, it was vibrant and connected in a way I still can't quite describe.

I remember seeing the women from the Paris Opera Ballet School that I had dreamed about first hand in rehearsal and in ballet class. I remember hearing the Cuban teacher babble in Spanish during class and somehow the international students managed to understand her through her language of movement.

I also very vividly remember the virtuous energy, the curiosity, and the willingness to share. I was thrilled to get back into my own ballet class each day after that.

AI13 happened when I was 16 years old and just starting to discover my passion for choreography. This year was particularly exciting for me, as I was getting close to graduation and looking into what my next steps would be. I got as involved with the process as I possibly could, and dreamt about that week in April for a whole year.

Amazingly enough, the piece I had created for the Stephen Godfrey Choreographic Workshop the summer before the festival was chosen to be performed by an international cast at AI13 and I had the opportunity to play “world-renound choreographer” as I performed my piece for 11 different countries in one night.

And I had a chance to meet a real world-renowned artist and my personal idol, Wayne Macgregor; and had him sit down with me and give me advice on creation. I got to meet people from the dance community and choreographers my age who were, just like me, starting to discover where they could take the dance world.

Revolution was what we were aiming for. You could see it in everyone's faces. We weren't just there to do what we were told or become good technicians; this generation was out to do great things.

I built relationships that will continue to serve me. I have friends all over the world that I can go to if I need advice about living in that country, or stay with if I'm in town, or even collaborate with in future projects.

After that I graduated from this wonderful school and went off to dance in New York and San Francisco. And somehow life always happens to put me in just the right places at just the right times.

Now I get to experience my third Assemblée Internationale. I am thrilled to work with the brilliant students here and a blended cast of international dancers to collaborate on my newest work, which I intend to, as always, push my own boundaries and the boundaries of the dance I see around me, the world I experience, and of course, the dancers themselves.

As a student I can tell you about the celebration of international “coming together” or the feeling of mutualism in the air, or maybe even the excitement of being able to learn from other teachers and gather knowledge, training, and ideas from different parts of the world. It’s thrilling to see aspects of dancers from around the world and how their culture and training backgrounds make for a diversified group of young people. But this festival, I believe, is about something much bigger.

It’s about bringing a new generation of artists together to share what they know, what they want to know, and how they plan to get there. It’s about asking these young people to open their eyes to the art world around them and not just the ballet world.

And it’s about the thing I value most: listening. Instead of speaking your very comfortable language that you’ve grown up in, it’s truly up to you to sit back and listen to someone speak to you in a different tongue and not only try to understand, and execute, but take that idea and run with it. Grow from it.