Founding Artistic Directors

Kent Stowell

Founding Artistic Director, Pacific Northwest Ballet

Kent Stowell was Artistic Director and principal choreographer of Pacific Northwest Ballet from 1977 until his retirement in June 2005.

Mr. Stowell began his dance training with Willem Christensen at the University of Utah, later joining San Francisco Ballet. He joined New York City Ballet in 1962 and was promoted to soloist in 1963. In 1970, he joined the Munich Opera Ballet as a leading dancer and choreographer. In 1973, Mr. Stowell was appointed ballet master and choreographer of Frankfurt Ballet, and he was named, with Francia Russell, Co-Artistic Director of the company in 1975. In 1977, Mr. Stowell and Ms. Russell were appointed Artistic Directors of Pacific Northwest Ballet. His many contributions to the repertory include Swan Lake, Cinderella, Nutcracker, Carmina Burana, Firebird, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, Hail to the Conquering Hero, Carmen, and Silver Lining.

In 2001, the University of Utah honored Mr. Stowell with its Lifetime Achievement Award. Mr. Stowell’s other awards and honors include the Washington State Governor’s Arts Award, the Dance Magazine Award and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Seattle University. In 2004, Stowell received the ArtsFund Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award, the Seattle Mayor's Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and was recognized by the King County Council for his achievements in the arts.

Francia Russell

Founding Artistic Director, Pacific Northwest Ballet

Francia Russell was Artistic Director of Pacific Northwest Ballet and Director of Pacific Northwest Ballet School from 1977 until her retirement in June 2005. She is responsible for the addition to the Company’s repertory of many works of George Balanchine.

Ms. Russell’s most influential teachers were Felia Doubrovska, Antonina Tumkovsky, Vera Volkova, Robert Joffrey, and George Balanchine. She joined New York City Ballet in 1956 and was promoted to soloist in 1959. She retired from the company in 1961, danced for a year with Jerome Robbins’ Ballets USA, and taught on the faculty of the School of American Ballet in 1962-1963. In 1964, Balanchine appointed her ballet mistress of New York City Ballet. Ms. Russell was one of the first ballet masters chosen by Balanchine to stage his works. She has staged more than one hundred productions of Balanchine ballets throughout North America and Europe. In 1987, she staged the first Balanchine ballet in the People’s Republic of China for the Shanghai Ballet, and in 1988-1989, she staged the historic first authorized performance of Balanchine’s work in his homeland for the Kirov Ballet in St. Petersburg. From 1975 to 1977, Ms. Russell and Kent Stowell were Co-Artistic Directors of Frankfurt Ballet.

Ms. Russell’s numerous awards include the Washington State Governor’s Arts Award, the Dance Magazine Award, an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Seattle University, and the Brava Award from Women’s University Club of Seattle. In 2004, Ms. Russell received the Arts Fund Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award, the Seattle Mayor’s Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and was recognized by the King County Council for her achievements in the arts.

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