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Russell and Stowell to Retire after Next Season


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#1 Helene

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Posted 11 February 2004 - 02:43 PM

After reading this announcement in the Seattle P-I posted in links today, after I recovered from the shock, my first thought was, "Please, Ib Andersen!"

#2 tempusfugit

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Posted 11 February 2004 - 03:19 PM

Very jarring news.
Not only do Stowell and Russell not seem "old" to me, LOL, as he says in the interview (and she looks lovely as ever in the published photograph); not only is she one of the best and most-requested coaches and stagers of Balanchine; this is MOST perturbing because of the EXTREME paucity of refined performances of Balanchine ballets now. PNB has been one of the only consistently excellent companies in this realm for many years. Will we all be forced to go to Miami now to see great Balanchine dancing? It has not been regularly available at NYCB for years...

#3 Helene

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Posted 11 February 2004 - 03:30 PM

I can only hope that Russell will continue to stage Balanchine ballets in Seattle. (Maybe she'll even do stagings at OBT.) If there's one consistent aspect of her professional life, it is as a stager. She'll also stage a triple bill of Four Temperaments, Prodigal Son, and Symphony in C next fall.

Both Russell and Stowell said that Liebeslieder Waltzer is their personal favorite of Balanchine's ballets. I very much hope that they'll end the 2004-05 season with this ballet, and if they have to pay tribute to Stowell as choreographer, that they avoid a full-length Stowell ballet, and start the final program with a shorter Stowell ballet, and end with LW.

PNB sent out their first renewal notices a couple of weeks ago with no fancy brochure or program listing for next season. I thought at first that this was a good Marketing gauge to see what percent of their subscriber base would renew, sight unseen. (I was one of them.) I also thought this might be a good way to save printing costs. Now I wonder whether the brochure has lots of references to their retirement, tributes to them, etc -- Opening Night and special "Farewell" performance = two fundraisers -- and if they stalled with the brochures and official announcement until after the opening of the Balanchine Centenary.

#4 Alexandra

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Posted 11 February 2004 - 03:34 PM

Here's the press release:

PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT OF LONGTIME ARTISTIC
DIRECTORS
>
Kent Stowell and Francia Russell to Retire at Conclusion of 2004-2005
Season
>
SEATTLE - After almost 27 years with Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB),
Artistic Directors Kent Stowell and Francia Russell will retire from PNB
in June of 2005, it was announced today.
>
When we came to Seattle we were young and na´ve and believed nothing was
impossible," said Russell. "Now, more than 26 years later, an institution
has been built, housed in three facilities ideal for dance, thousands of students have been trained and once unimaginably brilliant performances are on the stage." Added Stowell, "There is still much to be accomplished and we feel it is time for new leadership for PNB, perhaps just as na´ve as we were and just as determined to achieve the impossible."
>
Stowell and Russell have planned to retire for nearly two years. A leadership task force has been in place for over a year to prepare for their departure, and to begin the search for a new Artistic Director.
>
>"Though we have always known that Kent and Francia would want to retire
someday, I am suffering a huge twinge of loss as we accept their retirement announcement" said Cathi Hatch, chairman of the PNB Board of Trustees. "For nearly 27 gloriously creative years, through their passion, vision and uncompromising commitment to quality, PNB has grown into a world-class ballet company and school. And although we are sad about their departure, we are excited for them as they embark on the next chapter of their lives, and look forward to building on their inspired artistic legacy the next phase of the Company and PNB School."
>
In 1977, at the beginning of Stowell and Russell's tenure in Seattle,
the company had 1,200 subscribers and an annual operating budget of $800,000.
Today, PNB has nearly 11,000 subscribers and is a $16.3 million operation.
>
David Brown, executive director of PNB said, "Kent and Francia, a truly unique partnership in the performing arts, have together built an organization of the highest standards with attention not only to its performing artists and craft persons, but to several generations of artists to come through the Pacific Northwest Ballet School."
>
Stowell who is also the company's Principal Choreographer has created
new works each year and has created more full-length ballets than any other
American artistic director of a major company. In addition to her role as
Co-Artistic Director, Russell serves as Director of PNB School. She has
developed a curriculum that has made PNB School, with its two facilities -
The Phelps Center in Seattle and Francia Russell Center in Bellevue - one
of the foremost dance training institutions in the country.
>
>Stowell began his notable career with the San Francisco Ballet in 1957
and >later joined New York City Ballet, where he met his wife, Francia Russell.
Stowell also spent time in Germany as a leading dancer and choreographer
at the Munich Opera Ballet and, along with Russell, served as Co-Artistic
Director for the Frankfurt Ballet.
>
Russell's distinguished career began at New York City Ballet in 1956
where she was promoted to soloist in 1959 and appointed Ballet Master in 1964.
One of the first Ballet Masters chosen by George Balanchine to stage his
works for companies around the world, Russell continues to stage Balanchine works internationally. In 1977 Russell and Stowell were invited to join Pacific Northwest Ballet as Co-Artistic Directors.
>
A search committee has been organized to identify and hire a new artistic director and a new director for PNB School. The committee, chaired by longtime trustee Carl Behnke, is comprised of members of the PNB Board of Trustees. Stowell and Russell, along with two Advisory Panels of artistic and administrative staff members and other board leaders, will assist in providing input and advice during the process. It is expected that the PNB Board of Trustees will finalize the selection decision in early 2005.
>
>Founded in 1972 and under the artistic guidance of Kent Stowell and Francia Russell since 1977, PNB is one of the largest and most highly regarded ballet companies in the United States. The Company of forty six dancers presents over ninety performances each year of full-length and mixed repertory ballets. Pacific Northwest Ballet School, under the direction of Ms. Russell, is nationally recognized as setting the standard for ballet training offering a complete professional curriculum to over 850 students. The School also provides comprehensive dance education to the greater Seattle area reaching more than 2,000 elementary school students each year through its DanceChance, Discover Dance, and Bravo!Ballet programs.

#5 Helene

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Posted 11 February 2004 - 08:24 PM

From the Seattle Times, second-to-last paragraph:

After 27 years with PNB, Stowell and Russell look forward to some time away. Russell plans to continue her work staging Balanchine ballets; Stowell is contemplating "a few projects."


Whew!

#6 Nyala

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Posted 12 February 2004 - 11:58 AM

Search committee or not. I wouldn't be surprised if it was Barker along with someone who was more experienced in management.

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 12 February 2004 - 12:04 PM

Hard to tell -- each company is different. Some look within, and some want somebody completely fresh, to come in and change things. I think, as with any company or job, management will want to see who's out there, who might be interested.

#8 sandik

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Posted 12 February 2004 - 12:44 PM

Search committee or not.  I wouldn't be surprised if it was Barker along with someone who was more experienced in management.

I would be surprised -- during his tenure here, Kent Stowell has been as much a resident choreographer as a curator of other works, and I don't think Barker is interested or experienced enough in choreography to manage that part of the job.

Although Russell wasn't officially an artistic director when the couple arrived here in the 70's, she's certainly always functioned as one, and I think it will be difficult for one person to fill the role that two have done up to now -- the board might find it needs to think carefully about its expectations as it goes through the search process.

#9 Helene

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Posted 16 February 2004 - 12:46 AM

In several of the Q&A's, Stowell and Russell mentioned several things about their retirement and the search for a new Artistic Director. First, they said that after the announcement, they expected someone in the audience to ask about it on Thursday, but no one did. Friday was the first time anyone brought it up.

They both said, and Russell, who did the Q&A this afternoon alone, reiterated that when they first came to PNB, they believed anything was possible and that there were no limits*. They said that they came to realize over time that there were limits, and twice said that they hadn't felt like they'd done enough. (Money is a big issue they cited repeatedly, but they also thanked the Board for its support over the years.) They said that the next AD should come in believing anything was possible. Today Russell said it should be a young person, although I don't know what age they'd consider "young." On Friday, one of them said that they believed that the person must be verbal, and must be able to articulate his/her vision.

*In discussing McCaw Hall Russell told a pertinent story: while Stowell had seen the old Opera House before they moved to Seattle, Russell hadn't. Glyn Ross, the former GM of the Seattle Opera, invited them to see a performance of Madama Butterfly. During the first act Russell started to weep and when Stowell asked her what was wrong, she said "we can't build a ballet company in this house. We have to leave!" (As it turned out, it was possible to get a "new" house; it just took 25 years.)

They did say that they were thinking of leaving earlier, but they didn't want to leave until the Company was in the new building.

They are both part of the search committee, but didn't want to hand pick their predecessor. They tried to give the Board suggestions and guidelines in the search, but they want the Board to be bought into the choice. They really managed to keep a good secret, and from some of their comments, it sounded like the Board, at least the inner circle, knew for a while. They said they'd be available to consult, but they don't want to "hover" over the new administration.

As far as what they'll be doing next, Russell said that she would continue to stage, but would "pick and choose" where she would travel to. (She mentioned St. Petersburg and Paris as places she'd be happy to go, and a couple of cities that she would prefer not to.) Russell said that at one time she spoke both German and French, and doesn't anymore, and she'd like to regain these languages. (When an audience member asked her if she used Labanotation or any other formal notation system, she said she never had the year to learn a system.) She also said that she and Stowell have friends across the world, but that the only time they saw them while they were working was when their friends travelled here.

Russell said that they wanted time to reflect. Stowell said, and Russell quoted him again today as saying, that they could not have done the job had they not been raising three sons, who would bring them back to reality with their everyday needs and non-ballet interests.

Russell and Stowell had a philosophy about staging Balanchine. They wanted to stage ballets in the version that was danced when they danced, or in Russell's case, also when she was Ballet Mistress for NYCB, because they heard what Balanchine wanted directly from Balanchine. They noted that this gave their dancers consistency, unlike "that other West Coast ballet company" that Stowell mentioned, where five different stagers would stage versions from different time periods. (Chaconne and Mozartiana are the only two Balanchine ballets I can think of in PNB's repertoire that were choreographed after they left NYCB.)

Stowell said that one of the reasons he wanted to retire is that when he gave advice to his son, Christopher, about dancing and staging Balanchine, his son told him, oh that was then. So it's time for the next generation to take over.

I think there's a very good book in their story, not to mention a documentary or two.

#10 Helene

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Posted 12 May 2004 - 11:58 AM

Hmmm, interesting bit from the article about Steven Libman's resignation from Pittsburgh Ballet Theater on post-gazette.com in today's links section:

Since taking that sabbatical, Libman has visited several ballet companies in the United States, including the San Francisco Ballet, the Houston Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, Wash., and the Boston Ballet. He plans to visit the Paris Opera Ballet, too.


I wonder if the PNB Board is wooing him for Russell's/Stowell's position. He's got a great deal of fundraising experience, eliminated the PBT's deficit, and worked to create an endowment for the company, as well as getting a grant to produce modern works (according to the other link from Pittsburg live.com.) Although his track record with labor negotiations sounds mixed, it sounds like the kind of credentials they'd be looking for. Hopefully, he came to visit during the spate of beautiful spring weather we recently had...

#11 sandik

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Posted 12 May 2004 - 02:55 PM

I wonder if the PNB Board is wooing him for Russell's/Stowell's position.  He's got a great deal of fundraising experience, eliminated the PBT's deficit, and worked to create an endowment for the company, as well as getting a grant to produce modern works (according to the other link from Pittsburg live.com.) Although his track record with labor negotiations sounds mixed, it sounds like the kind of credentials they'd be looking for.  Hopefully, he came to visit during the spate of beautiful spring weather we recently had...

Since he was the Pittsburgh managing director, I doubt that he would be hired for an artistic director position. For awhile people seemed to be cycling in and out of PNB's executive director position, but D. David Brown has been settled in for several years now.

Of course, he may chose to leave when Stowell and Russell do, or the incoming AD may have a choice about the position -- it's all in the air as far as I know.

#12 Helene

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Posted 20 May 2004 - 08:00 AM

According to and article in today's Links section, Patricia Barker is applying for the AD position. Wow. That surprises me because she seems to be rather shy in public, with rather flat expressions, and the AD position is a very public role. There's a big difference between receiving praise and/or criticism -- especially when any remark could be considered a criticism of the boss(es) -- and asking for money, articulating a vision and rallying people behind it. (Russell may be intellectual and logical, but there's visible passion and drive in her single-minded committment to her standards.) But maybe Barker's had more direct contact with Board Members and major donors, and that still waters run deep.

After listening to Russell at the second Balanchine on Film Q&A, one thing struck me: even though she seemed exhausted, she never once stammered, lost her train of thought, or said "um," "er," or any of the filler syllables that nearly every one puts in, when not entirely on script. Russell has such verbal discipline, and her answers have substance and weight. So maybe I'm comparing Barker to Russell unfairly.

#13 Helene

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Posted 10 June 2004 - 10:21 PM

I saw a very different side of Barker in tonight's post-performance Q&A: she was sharp, funny, irreverent, and much more live than I had seen her before. She was also a bit maternal and very supportive of Brittany Reid, who made her debut as Hippolyta tonight. Those still waters run deep.


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