L’Effleuré is the most overtly balletic of the roles Andrew Bartee has danced for Whim W’Him. Annabelle Lopez Ochoa created this solo for the Dutch dancer Rubinald Pronk.

Rubinald Pronk in L’Effleuré

About this piece, Annabelle has written, “The title means softly touched. Rubinald is an artist known for his strength and forceful dancing. I’ve known Rubi since he was 14 years old and I have watched him develop into this forceful artist. We have worked together once before and this time I wanted to make a piece that would show his softer, tender side. Like the king of roses.

The title is a play on the French words for flower and for one who has been gently caressed. Like Louis XIV, the sun king—in whose court ballet flourished—the flower king exists in solitary splendor, imperious, vincible, alone. L’Effleuré “has a sad feeling to it,” Andrew says. A melancholy aspect is certainly added by the fact that Rubi Pronk has been sidelined since last fall by a foot injury and cannot dance in the foreseeable future, having had to cancel engagements with the Bolshoi and elsewhere in Europe and Asia.

Andrew Bartee rehearsing L’Effleuré

Created as it originally was for a dancer known for his extreme flexibility, physical prowess and dramatic dance style, L’Effleuré is challenging. Andrew worked with Annabelle a bit last winter and when she was in Seattle for a couple of days earlier in the month, and since then with Olivier. During one rehearsal while Annabelle was still here, Andrew was nervous about the steps. He kept glancing at the mirror to see if he was doing them correctly.

Toward the end of rehearsal his two mentors crossed the rehearsal studio to the side away from the mirror. A very astute move. Since then it has been exciting to watch Andrew grow into the role, both technically and artistically.

Now, each time he does it, his assurance grows and he adds something new—a more regal bearing, higher jumps, greater contrast between command and vulnerability— developing a savoir faire that is all his own.