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Founded in 1972 and under the artistic guidance of Kent Stowell and Francia Russell since 1977, PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET has become one of the five largest and most highly regarded ballet companies in the United States. The Company of 48 dancers presents 90 performances each year of full-length and mixed repertory ballets from September through June at the Seattle Center Opera House (currently being renovated to become Marion Oliver McCaw Hall) as well as on tour. Pacific Northwest Ballet School, under the direction of Russell, is acclaimed as one of the top three ballet training institutions in the country.
PNB's active repertory includes 82 works based on four choreographic pillars: original Stowell compositions, George Balanchine masterpieces staged by Russell, contemporary works commissioned for the Company, and classics from the ballet and modern dance repertory. A sampling of the choreographers represented in the Company's repertory are August Bournonville, Marius Petipa, Antony Tudor, Glen Tetley, Paul Taylor, Jerome Robbins, Val Caniparoli, Nacho Duato, Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Mark Dendy, Kevin O 'Day and William Forsythe.
Kent Stowell's full-length ballets include Silver Lining, with sets by Ming Cho Lee and costumes by David Murin; Swan Lake, with sets by Filippo Sanjust and costumes by Sandra Woodall; The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, with sets by Ming Cho Lee and costumes by Theoni V. Aldredge; Cinderella, with sets by Tony Straiges and costumes by Martin Pakledinaz; and Carmen, with sets by Randall Chiarelli and costumes by Larae Hascall. In 1983, Pacific Northwest Ballet presented a new production of Nutcracker with choreography by Stowell and set and costume designs by noted illustrator Maurice Sendak. The production has since become a holiday tradition in the Northwest and has gained national critical praise.
As one of the first ballet masters chosen by Balanchine to stage his works, Francia Russell has supervised over 100 productions in the United States and Europe. With the Shanghai Ballet, she staged the first Balanchine work in China. In 1988, she staged Theme and Variations for the Kirov Ballet of St. Petersburg, which marked the first time a Balanchine ballet had been staged in the country of his birth. In 1998, Russell returned to St. Petersburg for six weeks to stage three ballets for the Kirov's first All-Balanchine Program.
Pacific Northwest Ballet has toured throughout the United States as well as to Canada, Australia, Europe and Asia. The Company made its debut at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in 1987 and has since returned three times. In October 1995, Pacific Northwest Ballet opened the Melbourne International Festival of the Arts to great acclaim. The Company made its Manhattan debut in October 1996 at City Center and was celebrated by both audiences and press. PNB made its European debut and critically acclaimed appearance in August 1998 at the Edinburgh Festival. PNB was also the first American company to perform at the renovated Sadler's Wells Theatre in London in February 1999.
Pacific Northwest Ballet resides in The Phelps Center, one of North America's most successful dance facilities. During the 1997-98 season, the Company celebrated its 25th anniversary, as well as the 20th anniversary of the directorship of Kent Stowell and Francia Russell, with an unprecedented season of Company premieres and ten world premieres. In 2003 PNB will move into its magnificent new performing home, Marion Oliver McCaw Hall.