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We Can Stop Worrying?


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I've been around the block too many times to become overly confident about press interviews revealing the truth, but the following remarks from Christopher Stowell regarding his possible replacement of his parents at PNB are what I needed to hear. Any OBT fan who has been watching his remarkable beginning as an AD here has got to be a little nervous about PNB cherry-picking him from us.

Sounds like he's not for the picking. Phew! (For now...)

Christopher danced with San Francisco Ballet and was recently named artistic director of OBT. Would he want to succeed his parents, if chosen? Anything is possible, but it doesn't sound likely.

"I don't envy the person to follow them," he says.

"I now understand how difficult their work has been and how many pitfalls there are. Whoever comes next will have to have perseverance and insistence on the highest quality. My parents' ability to build incredible loyalty in their company has meant that they get lifetime commitment from people, many of them working for them for 27 years.

"Right now, I feel a tremendous commitment to OBT. I have a much better situation than my parents initially faced in Seattle, but I have the chance to do much the same thing in building a company. Portland is ripe for cultural growth, and it's exciting to be a part of it.

"It'd be dangerous to consider a ballet company as a family business. This would be a great opportunity for anyone, but the expectations are going to be very high."

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Surely Christopher Stowell would have known about his parents' intention to retire years ago -- they said their intention was to retire after 25 seasons, but they postponed to do a few seasons in McCaw Hall. If he wanted to be in the running for PNB, he would have had to have started managing companies a few years before he did or have had a more longstanding relationship with PNB as choreogrpher. (Only his Zais, which will be revived next year, is in the active repertoire.) As impressive as his OBT season has been, he hasn't had a track record for which I would expect the PNB Board of Directors to be looking.

Whether he'd want to run the Company five or ten years from now is another story. I think OBT is a more fun challenge, certainly at this point in Stowell's career: there he gets to reshape the repertoire and to build a company. Plus with his connections to the Balanchine world -- OBT is the only West Coast company that has permission to perform Balanchine's Nutcracker, which they did quite wonderfully -- he has a marked advantage to other non-former-NYCB Artistic Directors running smaller companies in the building phase.

(I'm still crossing my fingers for Ib Andersen for PNB...)

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