Everett native choreographs film in Olympic National Park

  • Fri Aug 22nd, 2014 2:25pm
  • Life

By Gale Fiege Herald Writer

Ballet BC makes note that its newest company member, dancer Andrew Bartee, is from Everett.

The Vancouver, British Columbia, ballet company may just be promoting its regional draw, but the fact that Bartee grew up in Everett recently has been important to his career.

While he was still at Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, Bartee received a commission from the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts in Virginia.

On Wednesday, Aug. 27, Bartee’s original dances celebrating the Olympic National Park will be performed at Wolf Trap National Park, located near the nation’s capital.

The foundation’s Face of America series assigns performing arts groups to celebrate the diverse landscapes in other national parks across the country.

Bartee was chosen by PNB artistic director Peter Boal to choreograph the work because as a kid Bartee camped and hiked with his family in the Olympic National Park.

Bartee, Boal and four PNB ballerinas ventured out to the park with video company Blue Land Media in late April to film dances in the snow at Hurricane Ridge, in the wind at Rialto Beach and in the rain falling in a lichen-covered woods near Lake Crescent.

The work integrates live dancing and the film as a backdrop, set to music by the Chromatics, a post-punk band from Portland. The project culminates in the live performance at Wolf Trap, the only national park dedicated to presenting the performing arts.

Gary Tucker, who does public relations for Pacific Northwest Ballet, calls Bartee “very talented.”

“He is pulling double duty right now, between Ballet BC and his commitments with PNB,” Tucker said.

Bartee admits he’s been very busy.

“I’ve been working hard, but loving Vancouver and this ballet company,” Bartee said in a recent email to The Herald. “I am getting super excited about the trip to Washington, D.C. I’m in the final editing stages for the film and it’s coming together beautifully.”

In June, Bartee took time to talk about his career.

“I’ve always enjoyed making things up,” he said. “When I was young, I was bossy and I got my brothers to do little performances with me for our parents.”

His folks decided a dance class might be a good outlet for young Andrew.

He was the only boy in his class at Reflections School of Dance in south Everett, so after a couple of years his dance instructor encouraged Bartee’s mother to get him into auditions at the Pacific Northwest Ballet school.

“So there I was at this huge open audition, wearing tights for the first time,” Bartee said. “I hated those tights.”

He entered the PNB school in 2003 at age 12, taking many of his ballet classes on weekday evenings after school.

Bartee did his freshman and sophomore years at Everett High School. He finished online through Sequoia High and graduated in 2009.

“I was spending all day at Pacific Northwest Ballet,” he said. “My senior year of high school was my first year performing as part of the company.”

Dancers are athletes, Bartee said.

“You train long hours,” he said. “You must have great stamina, be at the top of your game, eat and sleep well.”

In his fourth year at PNB, Bartee realized that his boyhood desire to “make up shows” was still alive.

“Inspired by some great choreographers, I knew choreography was my thing,” he said. “And then last year I began to take it seriously. When Peter Boal tapped me to do the Face of America project, I was thrilled. It seemed like such an interesting and unique opportunity.”

Inspired, too, by the beauty of Olympic National Park, Bartee set out to create the dances for the project.

“The whole idea was to make something with a young hipster view, ironic and humorous, with an Instagram filter on it,” Bartee said. “My team are ballet dancers, but there’s no ballet in the work.”

He dressed his dancers in all white. They were cold in the snow, cold at the beach and sometimes wet in the rain forest.

“I felt bad for them, but they were good sports,” Bartee said. “As it turned out, the footage is stunning. It was totally worth it.”

To get professional experience beyond Seattle, Bartee auditioned last year with a number of ballet companies around the country.

“My family was thrilled for me when I was hired at Ballet BC and will stay on the West Coast,” he said. “Doing what I want is such a blessing. I love the thrill of performing. If people could understand that incredible feeling, they would know why I dance.”

And those ballet tights?

“Oh, yeah, I am used to them now,” Bartee said. “They’re just like my skin.”

A Northwest evening

It’s a night of Pacific Northwest ballet and indie rock as the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts hosts performances by Pacific Northwest Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre and Band of Horses, an indie rock band founded in Seattle, on Wednesday, Aug. 27 at Wolf Trap National Park in Virginia. Opening the night, Oregon Ballet Theatre will bring the Fleet Foxes’ music and Trey McIntyre’s dance to life in “Robust American Love.” Following a 45-minute acoustic set by Band of Horses, Pacific Northwest Ballet presents Andrew Bartee’s choreographed live dance and film. For more information, visit www.wolftrap.org.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @galefiege.