UW Today

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May 14, 2010

Francia Russell, Kent Stowell to receive honorary UW doctorates

News and Information

The University of Washington Board of Regents approved May 13 the granting of honorary doctor of arts degrees to the founding creative directors of Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB).

Francia Russell and Kent Stowell will be awarded their degrees in Commencement exercises in Seattle June 12.

In 1977, Russell and Stowell were appointed co-artistic directors of PNB, which they developed from a small regional ballet organization into one of the most celebrated ballet companies and schools in the world.

Russell 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 in 1962 and 1963 taught on the faculty of the School of American Ballet. In 1964 George Balanchine, founder of New York City Ballet and generally regarded as the greatest choreographer of the 20th century, appointed her ballet master of the company and sent her around the world to stage his ballets. Russell has staged over 125 of his works throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. From 1975 to 1977 Russell and Stowell served as artistic directors of the Frankfurt Ballet when they then moved to Seattle to launch the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

As artistic director of PNB, Russell’s contributions include bringing the masterpieces of George Balanchine to the repertory. In her capacity as director of the ballet school, she instituted a broad curriculum, producing many of the dancers for PNB and for other major companies in North America and Europe. She was also responsible for creating PNB’s extensive educational outreach programs in partnership with community organizations and Seattle area public schools.

Stowell became a member of the New York City Ballet in 1962 and was promoted to soloist in 1963. He was associate professor of dance for one year at Indiana University and returned to performing in 1970, dancing and choreographing for the Bayerische Staatsoper Ballett in Munich. As a leading dancer with San Francisco Ballet, New York City Ballet and the Bayerische Staatsoper Ballett, he performed in major cities in North America, Europe, South America and the Middle East.

In 1973 Stowell was appointed ballet master of the Frankfurt Ballet and in 1975 was named its co-artistic director with Russell.

Stowell’s many contributions to the repertory of PNB include Swan Lake, Cinderella, Nutcracker, Carmina Burana, Firebird, the Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, Hail to the Conquering Hero, Quaternary, Carmen and Silver Lining — a total of approximately 30 works.