Health & Body
Emma Love Suddarth and Dylan Wald in Price Suddarth's Signature. Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Monday morning class after a three-day weekend? Stiff. After eight weeks off? Agonizing.

For most professional dancers on their summer layoff, a break from the daily grind is simultaneously exciting and unnerving. These months are often reserved for recovery and rest—a necessary opportunity to let the body repair and recharge. How dancers spend their summer break is mixed: some teach at summer intensives; some take the extended time to travel, visiting family or exploring internationally; some choose not to pause, performing at galas or festivals; and some just want to stay home, feet up, movies on. Depending on where you dance, the break might span a couple weeks or a couple months. Regardless of length, it involves a physical wind down, as well as a build back up. While it's never going to feel entirely easy, here are a few pro tips to help smooth the transition between 1 and 100 percent.

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This morning, it was 23 degrees on Hurricane Ridge in Washington's Olympic National Park. Down on Rialto Beach, the waves poured around huge rock formations and signs warned tourists they must use bear-proof canisters for storing all food. On the Marymere Falls Trail, a mist hung in the old growth forest that shelters a 90-foot waterfall.

 

It’s hard to imagine a troupe of ballet dancers performing in any of these locations, but Pacific Northwest Ballet is taking the plunge into site-specific work. This Wednesday, Thursday and Friday—weather permitting—company members will take to the hills, beach and mountains to perform a new work by corps member and rising choreographer Andrew Bartee. The dancer’s choreographic career has ramped up lately. The Olympic Park work, which will be shot by Blue Land Media, will become part of a piece that integrates dance, film and music by the Chromatics and premieres at Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts on August 27. Bartee, who also dances and choreographs for Seattle’s Whim W’Him and other local companies, has been experimenting with various formats. So far, none include bears.

Andrew Bartee, a former Pacific Northwest Ballet company member and current dancer with Ballet BC, will premiere his latest work—Dirty Goods—as part of the Wolf Trap Foundation's "Face of America" series on August 27. The piece was commissioned for Wolf Trap Foundation, and utilizes filmed site specific performance in Olympic National Park, music by the Portland-based band The Chromatics and dancers from Pacific Northwest Ballet. Dirty Goods will share the program with Oregon Ballet Theater dancing Trey McIntyre's Robust American Love, along with the Seattle-based indie group Band of Horses. Previous "Face of America" performances have celebrated other national parks through equally outstanding dance. It's great to see something that Bartee has been working on for months come to such beautiful fruition.

 

 

Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers Elle Macy and Chelsea Adomaitis (photo by Lindsay Thomas; Courtesy PNB)


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 24-28Pointe 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.
For even more interviews, tips, audition info and giveaways, sign up for our FREE e-newsletter.
Photo by Michael Slobodian, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow

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