This is the first in a series of missives from the Ballet BC blog, written by performers Christoph von Riedemann and Andrew Bartee (otherwise known as C+A Consulting Artists) when they find time outside the studio.
This week's installment is a question-and-answer Dancer Profile on Andrew Bartee himself.
CVR: Okay, let’s do this. So I am going to start with a big question that you can answer in a big way or a small way. Why dance?
AB: Well, I tried a lot of things growing up. My dad coached baseball and basketball when I was little and all of my brothers played so I did too. I remember during one t-ball game I went up to bat and just stood there. I knew everyone was watching me, and I liked that. I remember thinking it would be so funny if I waited a long time and then just barely knocked the ball on the ground. So that’s what I did. I wasn’t very competitive. Later on I tried soccer, then played violin, but I didn’t love either of those things. I also didn’t understand what it meant to really work at something. I think because I didn’t really care about it. So I didn’t care if I was good or knew the rules or knew where to stand on the field (laughs). I was like, “maybe I’ll catch the ball, maybe I won’t. It doesn’t really matter.” Then when I started dancing my body just… I finally felt in myself.
CVR: Mmm. How old were you when you started to dance?
AB: Ten? Yeah. It’s not like I suddenly became super self aware. I just liked moving at that point. Now dance is really the only way I feel that I can speak.
CVR: And speak you do! I remember being really blown away when I realized that you could improvise ballet. I couldn’t believe how well versed you were in in it. You have an immense vocabulary and are extremely articulate with what you know. It also comes across in more contemporary work as well. I couldn’t, off the cuff, make up ballet combinations like you can. Inevitably I will turn in a leg and end up on the floor! What makes ballet the thing for you?
AB: Ballet is my first language. That’s not something I can change, though I used to wish I could. I used to harbour this kind of resentment towards ballet because I thought it was limiting me expressively. It seems to me the tradition of ballet sets up a system for how a male dancer should think, act, and move. I wasn’t interested in playing that character. If I were to stay in a more classical company I would actually rather dance the female roles. Especially in Balanchine work. They get all the great dance moves!
I realize now that I don’t have to act anyway other way than like myself. Ballet was how I discovered movement and the first time I truly felt intensely about something. I’m very grateful for my training, and for the many opportunities I have had to perform demanding classical work. But what excites me most is movement, no matter what the context. I am someone who needs movement in my life.
CVR: What did you do to find what you needed from dance? Then in the end what made you decide to come to Vancouver and work for Ballet BC?
AB: I knew what the “expected” trajectory of my career would be were I to stay in a more classically structured company, and that did not appeal to me. The notion of fitting someone else’s idea of who I should be really rubs me the wrong way. When I started to really question what I wanted to do, who I want to be, and what I want to say I knew that I needed another kind of “food.” I knew that contemporary movement was something I was interested in exploring, so I looked for the information I wanted to know. I was delighted to have the opportunity to dance with some project companies in Seattle (Whim W’Him, Kate Wallich + The YC) in addition to performing both classical and contemporary ballet work with PNB.
Ballet BC satisfies many of the desires I have as an artist. It’s a small group where each member is essential in every moment. The work is physically and mentally very intense, and there is also the challenge of holding many different choreographic voices in my body simultaneously. We are constantly creating. The most exciting thing about Ballet BC for me is that we are a group of artists who question everything. I’m thankful to be in a place where bringing and questioning everything that I am to the studio is encouraged.
CVR: What are you obsessed with right now?
AB: I get obsessed with things in phases and I get obsessed with people. Most recently I was obsessed with soda water and buying glitter glue. Right now I am obsessed with Grimes and her new album. I’ve been listening to it for two months and I’m still not tired of it. And my plants. I got a fig tree for Christmas. You can see it on my instagram: @andrewbartee
CVR: Do you have something you’re always obsessed with?
AB: One of my favorite personalities of all time is Amy Sedaris. I always go back to YouTube videos of her on David Letterman. I watch them when I am feeling sad, or bored, or looking for inspiration. So I have memorized all of them. She is kooky, confident and hilarious.
CVR: What are you reading right now?
AB: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, by Jon Ronson. Thank you Jacob Rosen!
CVR: You did something very bold recently dying your hair orange. Before I stop recording can you talk a bit about that?
AB: I have always enjoyed changing my hair. I like that a hair change is impermanent, but highly effective. You know what I really love? When women are so emotionally attached to their hair. Like if they have been growing it for like 13 years and just cannot part with even a centimeter of it. I find that fascinating. I don’t feel any attachment to mine. I have had a lot of weird haircuts. I had one where it was like a mohawk but with no bangs. It looked awful.
CVR: Why colour?
AB: Maybe it’s the attention.
~C+A Consulting Artists