10 Minutes With Andrew Bartee

July 31, 2014

The rising choreographer—and dancer—chats about his first for-camera work.



PNB dancers at Olympic National Park. All photos by Lindsay Thomas, courtesy PNB.


Last April, Andrew Bartee and four Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers took to the beaches, mountains and forests of Washington’s Olympic National Park to shoot footage for his newest ballet. Dirty Goods, set to music by the Portland band Chromatics, will combine film and live performance in a premiere at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Virginia, on August 27. Bartee, a former PNB corps member, recently left the company to perform more contemporary work at Ballet BC.


What guidelines were you given for the creation of
Dirty Goods

All I knew going into it was: We’re making a film and a dance, both will be shown simultaneously and I had a list of local music to choose from. How it came together was up to me. The inspiration for the work is irony—a huge part of hipster culture. Being from Seattle, I wanted to make a piece that was representative of the world I live in. I took into consideration what’s happening in the film and the dance, and how they might play off one another. Neither component will be shown without the other. However, I hope both parts are strong enough to stand alone.

Did the park’s different terrains affect filming?

We went up to Hurricane Ridge at midday, and it was so clear. Then clouds started rolling in. By the end, it was actually snowing. So there’s a lot of variation in the looks we were able to capture on the film. At times, moving the way we wanted to wasn’t possible: A duet that was supposed to take place on the beach couldn’t happen there because it was too rocky. We ended up resetting it in the rainforest at Lake Crescent on firmer, flatter ground.


Above: Bartee watches a scene unfold.

What influenced your decision to join Ballet BC?

When I auditioned, I was invited to spend a day with the company. I took class, observed rehearsals and worked with artistic director Emily Molnar on a little bit of improv. She has created an environment where all of the artists are bringing something valuable to the table. The turnaround between productions at PNB is so quick; it’s always go, go, go. Ballet BC spends more time in the studio with the choreographer, giving the dancers a chance to engage more in the process. The range of choreographers at Ballet BC will better inform the work I’m interested in, the kind of work I want to make.

Will you choreograph on Ballet BC?

I don’t think so, but I’ve been told there are several really great junior companies in town that I could connect with. Choreography is something I’m really serious about and want to make part of my future. It’s my ultimate goal. But right now, I want to keep dancing as long as my body will let me.