The fabulous Bartley boys
Charles Bartley is no stranger to the national dancing stage but now younger brother Anthony is following in his footsteps and together they’re a formidable pair. The boys have had a stellar run in a notoriously cutthroat industry, but even when they’re leaping in the air, the talented Dubbo duo has both feet firmly planted on the ground.
IT’S been a busy couple of years since I finished the gig with King Kong (the stage production). I did some teaching and a few other gigs, then auditioned for Dirty Dancing and was given the part of Swing – that show toured the whole country for 12 months.
Halfway through the contract, I injured my shoulder and had to have a reconstruction. I’d done Sydney and Melbourne, which were the longest stints and it happened right at the end of the Melbourne run – so I missed Perth and Brisbane. I made it back for the Adelaide season but was on modified duties, which meant I couldn’t do certain lifts.
For a dancer, a shoulder injury is pretty scary – it’s a mind game as much as anything. You have no idea how your re-hab will go so you can work yourself into an emotional lather, but in a way I’m glad that I had the injury because it made me appreciate what I have and what I can do – all I wanted to was to get back to dancing.
Anthony actually took my room in Sydney when I left on the Dirty Dancing tour, assuming I’d be gone for a long time. Then I landed back because of the injury, and ended up bunking on the floor! So he helped me out, and viceversa because then I was around while he was doing quite an intense year at Brent Street (dance academy).
For us to end up dancing on (television program) X-factor together was a really cool experience. To get to do such a great job together – for which we were actually paid! – was very cool.
I’ve been able to impart some of my knowledge to Anthony – some of the technical stuff but also about the emotion that goes with this career – being frustrated with yourself if you don’t do well in an audition; dealing with the rejection that happens all the time. He’d come home and be a bit bummed out – and you’re allowed to be.
You give yourself 24 hours to nurse the disappointment and then you let it go and move on. But you should let yourself feel it. There are many ups and downs and weird moments that go with this industry – because it’s a pretty weird career in many ways.
He’s also taught me things – like to remember my passion. After being in the industry for a few years now and having done so many things, it’s easy to get a little relaxed. But to watch him come through with such a drive to learn has been reinvigorating for me – really inspiring. There’s a fire in his eyes.
He’s a really good dancer – he’s not dancing in anyone’s shadow. At first, people would say, “Hey, you’re Charlie’s brother”, but he’s made his own name. And although we’re brothers and therefore we’re going to move in a similar way, he’s really developing his own style. That’s important, because people are looking for that uniqueness.
I’ve always believed in Anthony, but sometimes the hardest thing has been to get him to believe in himself. For him to have done all he’s done in such a short time is very cool and I’m so proud of him. He’s not just a good dancer, he’s funny and he’s super intelligent. He’s great to be around and he’s really grounded. He’s not just my brother, he’s a really good friend. We can hang out together all day every day and not get sick of each other.
It’s cool to be able to come back to Dubbo Ballet Studio. It’s my favourite thing – to help inspire kids; they’re thirsty for knowledge and I have it, so to be able to pass it on is a privilege.
Success as a dancer relies on sheer hard work and dedication as much as on talent. As a teacher, you can always spot the kids who are prepared to put in that hard work. In Sydney, you might find a really talented kid, but they’ve had all the opportunities in front of them their entire lives, so their drive isn’t as tenacious. You’ll find that a lot of working dancers in Sydney aren’t originally from there. Country kids tend to fight much harder for that dream and you can spot that in the classrooms – the kids who will fight to really perfect a step or get their leg just that bit higher. They’re the ones you keep an eye on because, with support, they’re the ones who’ll try hardest to pursue dancing as a career.
Dubbo’s been fertile ground for dancers and talent in the arts. Why is that? Good question. Part of it is that we have access to the city and all the experience it has to offer. There’s a constant back and forth of people within the arts community. I think the new regional theatre (DRTCC) has been a huge part of that, but I also think Dubbo people are brave. They have the courage to chase their dreams – even if it means going beyond their home town or their country.
Including my little brother.
IT’S a little surreal to come back to Dubbo as a dance teacher – to Dubbo Ballet Studio where I’m teaching kids was dancing and learning with only 18 months ago. It’s doubly cool to be able to do it with my brother.
Last year was massive – kicking off with a move to Sydney in January to start a Certificate IV in Dance at Brent Street. Then I went to the US in the middle of the year – going to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York. At the beginning of August, I had a call completely out of the blue by Grayboy – an agency – which had somehow heard of me and I was absolutely dumbfounded when they signed me and started sending me for auditions.
My second audition ever was for Xfactor, which led to three months’ work dancing with the contestants every week and with Charles. That culminated in dancing with Kylie and Danni Minogue. This was all unheard of for someone so new to the industry. To find myself standing next to Kylie Minogue and helping her down 15 flights of stairs was pretty incredible. We had lots of rehearsal time and by showtime we were good to go, but I have to admit it was nerve wracking – the butterflies were flying around in the stomach!
Being able to dance with Charles is a buzz. I grew up being inspired by him – he’s the reason I started dancing when I was seven years old. Thirteen years later, there we are dancing together on national television with an audience of a million people.
I remember watching Charles dance at the (Dubbo) Civic Centre when I was seven – he’s five years older than me – and I leaned over to Mum and said, “I want to do that too”. I’ve been dancing ever since. He’s been a mentor, a teacher to me all the way through – especially over the past 12 months.
He’s not just been a brother, he’s been the inspiration for my career and my best friend too. He’s been fantastic over the past year – I’m not sure how I would have managed without the benefit of his experience and guidance. He was able to share his experience in the industry, but also give me little tips and tricks that have been so helpful.
The funny thing is I don’t feel like I’ve ever been in Charles’ shadow. I never felt pressured to live up to what he’d done. People knew what he was capable of and they just waited to see what kind of dancer I’d be and what I was capable of. I did feel for a few years like I was Charlie Bartley’s brother but the more experience I get, the more I’m coming into my own style – and I think Charles is now occasionally getting “Oh, you’re Anthony Bartley’s brother!”
He’s one of the most grounded, downto-earth people I know. He’s completely non-judgemental, which is something I aspire to be. He never passes judgement and he’s there in the blink of an eye, no matter what, if you need him. And he’s one of the funniest people I know – we have lots of laughs and he’s a blast to be around. It’s not just as a dancer that I look up to him – he’s an all-round role model.
Our older brother James is another of my role models. He took the road that I consider much harder than Charles’ and mine – he’s a lawyer. He studied and worked hard and created a future for himself that he’s very happy with. He’s a bloke that’s just constantly happy – he does what he loves and he loves what he does.
Same as Charles and me – and how lucky are we?