July 27th, 2006

Rob Bettmann: Jason Hartley, you attended the North Carolina School for the Arts, and from there went to Ballet Met, then Ballet Austin, then American Repertory Ballet. You have now been a member of the Washington Ballet for seven years, performing lead roles in classical and contemporary works. You were awarded the Princess Grace Award, and have also been the winner of the Kennedy Center Commissioning Project Award. Now at the ripe old age of 29 I was wondering – in all of the experiences, can you tell me what your single individual favorite experience has been?

JH: A number of my favorite experiences in dance have to do with that dance is a live performance. Thing can go wrong. I remember being a rat in this nutcracker. And at the end of one scene, the tree had to grow. Had to go up. But there was a present stuck to the tree. And it was keeping it from going up. And we can’t go on to the next scene until the tree goes up. In that version of the nutcracker the rats had been battling with these gigantic forks and knives. And so I took one of these gigantic forks and just swung at the tree like a giant piñata. (laughs.) I was able to knock the present loose, the tree rose, and we went on to the next scene.

I’ve always enjoyed thinking about ways to get through a problem scenario, or watching others find their way through. I’ve always found that, with live art, when things go wrong people tend to go on with the art. And with those live moments, those emergencies, you can start seeing personality come through in the dance in a way that sometimes it doesn’t when everything goes as planned.

RB – How old were you when you knocked that present off the non-growing tree?

JH- I think eighteen.

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