The Jeanie Thomas Library
The Jeanie Thomas Collection falls into three major areas: books, periodicals, and videos/DVDs. All materials are cataloged according to Library of Congress call numbers.
- Books, published late 1800s to present, most in English, some in foreign languages
- Special collection of first editions of out-of-print books
- Periodicals, published 1924 through present, most in English, some in foreign languages
- Souvenir programs, cast lists, pamphlets, flyers, early 1900s through present, many languages
- Videos and DVDs of most PNB performances and performances of PNB School; filmed performances from companies around the world; commercially available videos and DVDs
- Children's books, reference books, atlases, dictionaries
Founding Artistic Director Francia Russell's desk and chair found a new home in PNB's library beneath the plaque and portrait of Jeanie Thomas, who started the library collection. Pacific Northwest Ballet Library is a research library for the study of dance, covering a wide range of dance forms from renaissance dance to modern dance and classical ballet. The collection includes literature related to music, scenic and costume design, and nutrition and health, as well as choreography and dance history. Outside of New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum, Pacific Northwest Ballet Library likely has the most extensive collection of dance-related literature in the nation.
The library also serves as a meeting facility for PNB staff and a quiet place for students to do home work. To serve this purpose, the library has a collection of reference books, dictionaries, and study aids. A large collection of children's books related to dance and music is popular among young dancers and their waiting siblings. See a more detailed library collection description.
Access and Hours
The library primarily serves Pacific Northwest Ballet School, dancers, and staff. The library is not open to the general public, but individuals with special interest in dance are always welcome to contact the librarian and make arrangements to use the library.
The library is open when PNB School has classes, generally:
Monday-Friday, 3:00-8:00 pm
Saturday, 9:00 am-3:00 pm
The Jeanie Thomas Collection has a non-loan policy. The library has comfortable furniture and viewing stations for watching dance videos and DVDs.
Contact Our Librarian
When Pacific Northwest Ballet moved into the Phelps Center in January 1993, a library was part of the vision for building a state-of-the-art training facility for students of Pacific Northwest Ballet School. In the spring of 1994, the library opened and its outstanding collection of books, periodicals, and videos became available to students and their families, as well as staff and dancers of PNB. The library has always welcomed students and scholars from other research institutions, such as the University of Washington, and individuals with an interest in dance.
Starting long before the library was begun, the collection of dance literature was started, and it has grown steadily due to donations from estates, individual gifts, and purchases. In 2000, the library was named the Jeanie Thomas Collection in honor of PNB's late Director of Education, who was instrumental in establishing the library. Jeanie Thomas was a scholar and dance historian who authored countless program articles for PNB audiences and whose personal collections are now part of the library that carries her name.
In November 2003, a smaller branch library was opened at the Francia Russell Center in Bellevue, which serves the Eastside. This library is named The Patricia Barker Library in honor of one of PNB's ballerinas. Inquiries about the library at the Francia Russell Center can be addressed to the Eastside Librarian, Birgit Hansen, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425.451.1241.
Donation of Library Materials Welcomed
Please contact the library or Pacific Northwest Ballet School to donate any kind of dance related materials you think might be of historical value. You may also donate funds to the library to purchase new reading materials. All books received as donations, or books and videos purchased with donated funds, will be acknowledged with a plaque inside the book or video cover with the donor's name. Some of the most valuable items in the library have reached PNB as donations; PNB is grateful to add your donation and make it available to PNB students, staff, and the greater dance community of Seattle.
Volunteering in the Library
Pacific Northwest Ballet Library is always in need of dedicated volunteers. If you are a parent who has time to spend while waiting for your child to take dance class, please contact the librarian. Students and interested individuals who want to spend time working with interesting dance books and videos are also a much appreciated help. No prior library experience is necessary.
- Programs from the earliest performances to the most recent
- Newsletters published by the Ballet
- Posters from 1975 to the present
- Season brochures and promotional flyers advertising performances
- Press releases; press cuttings/newspaper clippings (including reviews of performances, articles about individual dancers and artistic directors)
- Materials related to education and outreach programs and to DanceChance
- Administrative materials (e.g., contracts, board of trustees' papers, financial statements, fundraising records, budgets)
- Materials relating to artistic direction and production (e.g., rehearsal schedules, casting lists, repertory planning, choreographic notes, production budgets)
- Touring records
- Special events files
- Slides and photos (of individual dancers, company rehearsal and performance photos, social events, administrators and artistic directors)
- Selected costume and set design drawings
- PNB School documentation (primarily located at the Francia Russell Center, Eastside)
Donations of Materials Welcomed
PNB is particularly interested in items that may fill gaps in the current collection. Please contact Archives for information.
Pacific Northwest Ballet Archives are not open to the general public, but individuals with special research interests are welcome to contact the Archives regarding the availability of materials and possible access to them. Some documents are restricted to internal Company use.
Contact Our Archivist
Sheila C. Dietrich
Phone: 206 441-9411, ext 4147
The process of archiving Pacific Northwest Ballet's historical materials began in the early 1990s and gained impetus in 1996, several years following the Company's move from the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford to the Phelps Center. Currently located on the second floor of the Phelps Center, PNB Archives represent an ongoing effort to record and preserve the Company's history.
The collection documents early attempts to bring ballet to Seattle in the 1960s (by sponsoring the Joffrey Ballet and by building local support for creating a resident company) and the development of Pacific Northwest Ballet from its incorporation as Pacific Northwest Dance in November 1972. Although primarily a company-based archive, the collection does include some material related to performances by touring companies in Seattle in the 1930s-1970s, and by local dance schools in the 1930s-1980s.
PNB's Scene Shop
PNB's Production Shop has been in existence since 1975. Their first home was in the boiler room of Home of the Good Shepherd in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood. There they stored Nutcracker sets and other minimal scenery and lighting equipment. Most construction work at this time was done in personal garages or company studios. The production staff also relied heavily on friends in other theater companies around the city. In 1980, they moved to their first warehouse, one half of the old Ballard Ice Arena. It was primitive, but provided them with seven thousand square feet in which to work.
In 1986, during the filming of Nutcracker, the shop moved to a new warehouse in Fremont, which was formerly home to a moving and storage company. Initially, they occupied the ground floor, an improvement of three thousand square feet over their previous location. In 1987, they built the set for Romeo and Juliet with the help of Pierre Cayard of the San Francisco Opera Shop. That production was such a huge undertaking that it necessitated the acquisition of the upper floor of the warehouse. This added space has made construction of such works as Firebird, Cinderella, Carmina Burana, and A Midsummer Night's Dream possible.
Creating Sets and Props
The creation of a set is a highly collaborative process involving the artistic staff, choreographer, designers, and technicians. The most useful tool in this endeavor is a model or models constructed to facilitate discussion. Props and scenery are difficult to create because they must not hinder the choreography in any way. Lighting, set, and costume designers must work together to achieve a unified whole. The best set is one born of such a collaborative effort.
What Goes into Building a Set?
Materials are determined by the nature of the design. Wood, metal, and plastic all have their advantages and use of each is determined by structural demands. PNB is fortunate in that the same people that build the scenery in the shop operate and install it in the theater. This can make scheduling tricky. The shop has to work to budget their building around the home season and the touring schedule of the Company. They do most building in the summer if they are able to get the designs. However, because of this intermittent process, some shows, like A Midsummer Night's Dream, can take a year to build. The only thing that separates the amount of technical creativity the shop has with each set is the amount of money allocated for each work, which does vary.
Facts About PNB Productions
- The two most difficult projects undertaken by the shop were the Nutcracker Toy Theatre and the giant wheel in Carmina Burana.
- The Nutcracker Christmas tree was made in a Boeing flight hanger of materials used in airplane construction and weighs 950 pounds.
- Over 115 props are used in Nutcracker.
- The shop produces 200 pounds of snow created from fireproof paper for the winter scene of Nutcracker.
- 37 stage hands work backstage during each Nutcracker performance.
- The crew installs over 1,000 miniature light bulbs on the Nutcracker Christmas tree.
- The giant golden wheel in Carmina Burana that pivots over the stage is twenty-six feet tall and weighs 2,450 pounds.
- Cinderella's filigreed 23-foot carriage took two carpenters six months to build.
- One of the twelve scenic drops in Cinderella was painted by a computer.
- The chandeliers, pewter and china in Cinderella were found in antique stores.
PNB's Costume Shop
PNB's Costume Shop has been in operation since 1975, but it wasn't until the 1980s that it began to function as more than a wardrobe department. While previously having produced costumes for smaller works, in 1989, the Costume Shop created the costumes for its first big production, Firebird. By that time the shop's abilities had grown to the point where the staff had the capability of producing all the costumes needed for a major work. Since 1987, nearly every costume that PNB's dancers worn has been built in PNB's Costume Shop. Located on the second floor of the Phelps Center, overlooking the Gallery Studio where the Company rehearses, this 2,500 square foot space is the focus of the intense activity of Costume Shop Manager Larae Hascall and her staff.
How Costumes are Made
Costumes begin with a design, or a sketch, which is called a rendering. This is either sent to the shop via a designer or made in-house. Next, the draper, through discussion with the designer, develops a pattern for the costume. After that comes the muslin stage during which dancers try on the costumes and the Costume Shop staff make design changes. The process continues with a series of fittings until the staff has fully developed the costume the designer intended. Decisions regarding fabric, color, and dyeing are all made within this process.
While the process itself is straightforward, during every stage the Costume Shop staff must keep in mind that ballet costumes must be able to stand up to the stress of extraordinary movement and countless launderings, while often being built to appear light and airy. It is also imperative that the costumes not restrict the dancers' movement in any way. Along with this, the costumes must also be rigged, often ingeniously, to allow for easy alterations and for the dancer's quick entry and exit from them.
The length of time needed to make the costumes for a show varies widely, depending on the number of costumes, and the degree of intricacy of each piece. If the Costume Shop has a short period of time in which to produce a large work, they will bring in extra help. If a production is small, they are able to produce everything they need on their own.