Andrew Bartee made a bold choice last year when he decided to leave Pacific Northwest Ballet to join Ballet BC, the dynamic Vancouver-based troupe. Now, he's preparing for their upcoming performances at Jacob's Pillow, June 24-28. Pointe spoke with Bartee about his new company life for our bi-weekly newsletter.
How was your first season with Ballet BC?
Incredible. I was looking for a huge push--physically, mentally, collaboratively--and I've found that here. Obviously, it's a much smaller group than at PNB, but we all push each other. And I adore artistic director Emily Molnar. She's a wonderful coach and is in the studio all the time with us.
Coming from PNB, how has your experience with classical ballet informed your approach at Ballet BC?
It's been a great thing to have, but also a challenge. A lot of what we do is more grounded, so I'm learning a new way to work in the studio. My body feels different now: I take much wider second positions, I try to really feel the floor and I always take class in socks!
What will you be dancing at Jacob's Pillow?
Workwithinwork by William Forsythe is very balletic, but also incorporates all the new things I'm learning. Then we're doing Gustavo Ramírez Sansano's Consagración, his Rite of Spring that deals with the idea of coming into yourself. The third piece is Cayetano Soto's Twenty Eight Thousand Waves. It has a very quiet, spiritual beginning, but later I get to break free, be myself and use everything I have.
What advice would you offer dancers seeking a similar transition to more contemporary ballet work?
When I was still at PNB, I found some drop-in classes. I took a lot of Gaga and extra modern classes. It helped me in my work at PNB but was also a window to experiment. At drop-in classes, there's really no pressure. I was going there to learn, and it helped initiate my move.
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Photo by Michael Slobodian, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow