Magazine article Pointe

Step in Time: All in the Family

Magazine article Pointe

Step in Time: All in the Family

Article excerpt

One family makes its mark out West.

Over the last 25 years, a dynasty has grown on the West Coast, developing a solid reputation for great ballet. Not since the Christensen brothers (Harold, Lew and Willam) has the West seen a family as influential in ballet as the Stowells: the husband-and-wife team of Kent Stowell and Francia Russell, co-artistic directors of Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, and their son Christopher Stowell, who takes over as artistic director at Portland's Oregon Ballet Theatre in July.

Kent and Francia had distinguished careers as dancers under George Balanchine at New York City Ballet. In the early '70s they moved to Germany, where Kent danced with the Munich Opera Ballet and Frankfurt Ballet. The couple co-directed the Frankfurt Ballet for two years before returning to the U.S. to take the reins at PNB in 1977, when it was just a fledgling company.

Their main goal was to establish a classical ballet company and school of national importance. Balanchine's teachings drove some of their philosophy. "Balanchine was, I would say, the major influence in our lives as dancers," Francia says. But she's quick to point out that, contrary to what many think, "we do not teach Balanchine technique. We teach what we like, and we teach young dancers to be trained for ballet companies as they are now."

Christopher, the eldest of the couple's three sons, trained at the School of PNB and the School of American Ballet before joining San Francisco Ballet in 1985. He became a principal in 1990 and retired in 2001 to concentrate on choreography. …

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