Jason Hartley is making headlines both as a dancer and as a choreographer.  I had a chance to sit and talk with Jason recently at the Washington Ballet rehearsal studios.  He is a delightful, friendly person, self-assured with a great sense of humor, and a surprisingly lovely voice.  There is no arrogance as he discusses his career, he is straightforward and refreshingly open.  Jason grew up in the Midwest.  He started in gymnastics, but then attended a small ballet studio after his gymnastic school closed down.  He went on the Ballet Iowa and completed his formal education at the North Carolina School of the Arts.

A star of the Washington Ballet, Jason has become known for his athletic performances  “Where the Wild Things Are…is an acrobatic tour de force for Jason Hartley.  Hartley dances -- or rather cyclones through -- the central role of Max…Hartley is phenomenal in the role -- launching into back flips, one-handed back handsprings and all manner of other gymnastic feats that simply burst out of his body with seemingly no preparation.  He is onstage nearly all the time and never stops moving”  (Washington Post)  “Choreographer Val Caniparoli…played to the dancers’ strengths...  Repeatedly, one of the men, Jason Hartley -- the most physical dancer you could ever hope to see -- breaks away from his partner to bolt into the air.”  (Washington Post)

But Jason is not just a gymnast to music, he is a marvelous dancer with excellent acting abilities in both dramatic and comic roles.  Whether dancing in the classic Midsummer Night’s Dream  “As for Puck…Jason Hartley was splendidly witty” (Washington Times).  Or in Balanchine’s black and white Four Temperaments  “Hartley gave the Melancholic variation a dangerous edge”  (Washington Post).  Or in his own choreography Nocturne Monologue  “Hartley emerges as some kind of creeping, hyper-alert feral creature, and at a later point we see him snap into human form”  (Washington Post)

“For me it’s always the music”  Jason states when asked what starts the choreographic process.  And that is obvious when you see his work. When I saw Jason dance Nocturne Monologue I was surprised and enchanted by his athleticism and his choreography.  But what truly amazed me was how lyrical the dance was.  Although the opportunities to show his choreography have just begun, Jason already has had the backing of the Washington Ballet’s Artist Director Septime Webre.  Last summer Jason got his first commission to choreograph an evening of dance for the Kennedy Center as part of the Center’s 3rd annual Local Dance Commissioning Project.

Jason Hartley is a star on the rise, whose dancing is gorgeous and whose choreography promises to be exciting and original.

  March 2004
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