Category Archives: Pacific Northwest Ballet

Honoring D. David Brown, Executive Director Extraordinaire!

D. David Brown
D. David Brown

Friday evening was the opening night of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Giselle with many opportunities to celebrate.  PNB Principal Dancer, Kaori Nakamura was dancing her last opening night and D. David Brown, was attending his last opening night as PNB Executive Director, prior to retirement.  The pre-performance dinner was at the Ruin’s and as everyone arrived they were each given a necklace on a pale pink ribbon with a photo of D. David Brown which had been photo-shopped to include a tutu, wings, a magic wand, glitter, jewels and a tiara.  Let me explain why later in this blog posting.

The dinner was a sell-out.  Ken and I especially enjoyed sitting with Peggy & Peter Horvitz, Patti Payne, Barbara Morgan and Carole McDowell.  We talked about Wicked Strong, the Horvitz’ racehorse that will be running in the Belmont Stakes next weekend.  We also enjoyed listening to details of Giselle  and recognition of the attending artists plus the toasts to David from PNB Board Chair, Aya Hamilton and Artistic Director, Peter Boal.  See Aya’s incredible list of David’s statistics below at the end of this posting.

And now about David . . . Fourteen years ago, I was incoming Chairman of the PNB Board slated to take the place of current PNB Chairman of the Board, Dan Heidt, and we were thrilled to hire D. David Brown as our new Executive Director.  We had been limping along for the last few years with revolving-door Executive Directors, each of whom that didn’t work out for various reasons.  David had led the Boston Ballet as Executive for several years following his own dance career as a principal dancer at Boston Ballet.  He was known in the ballet world as being the best administrator.  So Dan and I along with other members of the Search Committee including Susan Brotman and Bob Braun were positively giddy when we were successful in hiring David for PNB.

Barbara Morgan, Patti Payne, Peter Horvitz
Barbara Morgan, Patti Payne, Peter Horvitz

At our request, as soon as humanly possible, David moved to Seattle, leaving behind his wife, Elaine Bauer Brown, and their two dachshunds to pack up their home and follow.  David arrived in Seattle with no household goods or an automobile since everything was still in Boston.  We had a very small budget for the transition, so I loaned David bedding, a quilt and my bright orange-red Maserati Biturbo convertible for him to use in the interim.  It has always been a good story to re-tell that his “company car” at PNB was a Maserati convertible!

But more seriously, what a great pleasure it has been for me to have had the opportunity to work with a staff leader of David’s expertise, patience and finesse.  Once David arrived at PNB, it quickly became apparent to me that in my past Board experience, we had never had an Executive Director in his league.  Because of David’s background as a dancer himself, he understood the challenges and tensions that accompany the conflicting goals of desire for artistic innovation and excellence and achieving a balanced budget; conflicting goals which have never been an easy task for Artistic and Executive Directors to navigate.

PNB Principal Dancer, Carrie Imler with Ken Hatch during the Backstage toasts.
PNB Principal Dancer, Carrie Imler with Ken Hatch during the Backstage toasts.

With his dual background, he was always willing to look for new ways to make things work.  During the five years while I was board chair, David and I went through some very difficult and financially challenging times together as we were simultaneously fundraising to build McCaw Hall and the new PNB Eastside School, The Francia Russell Center.  At the same time we lost one-third of our subscribers during the 18 months when we had to perform in the Seattle Center Arena, (best known as a  hockey rink) during the interim between the closing of the old Opera House and the opening of McCaw Hall.  But with David’s calm, problem-solving management style, we managed to come through the eye of the hurricane successfully.

And David could not have been more supportive and helpful as we transitioned through the retirement of our revered, long-time Artistic Directors Kent Stowell and Francia Russell, and the all-encompassing, time-consuming and complex selection process that we designed to choose new Artistic Director, Peter Boal.

D.David Brown aka The Powerpoint Fairy
D.David Brown aka The Powerpoint Fairy

Now back to the story about the necklace from earlier in this post. David is a true master of Powerpoint, Through PowerpointDavid was able to transform the PNB Strategic Plan into something that could be visually measured and understood quickly by the Board and Staff in a way that I have not seen done better in any other of the many boards on which I have served over the years.  It was all about measuring our performance with understandable red, yellow and green stoplight icons and simple bar and line graphs. David often referred to himself as the Powerpoint Fairy, so the necklaces were in honor of David’s Powerpoint prowess.

I was so pleased that I was invited to toast David backstage after the performance along with Kelly Tweeddale of Seattle Opera and other past board chairs, Peter Horvitz and Carl Behnke. I personally consider David a lifetime friend and look forward to playing a few more rounds of golf than we have managed to fit in the past 14 years.   It has been an honor to work with David!  I send him big congratulations and wish him Godspeed!

David’s Career Stats:

  • –         Two Co-Artistic Directors at the end of their directing careers
  • –          One Artistic Director at the beginning of his
  • –          4 Board Chairs and 4  Board Presidents
  • –          139 Finance Committee Meetings
  • –          126 budget drafts
  • –          84 opening nights
  • –          18 tours
  • –          2 Capital Campaigns in two years:  One for McCaw Hall and one for the Francia Russell Center
  • –          1 Endowment Campaign
  • –          The building of 4 full length ballets
  • –           And 504 Nutcracker performances

Pacific Northwest Ballet First Look Evolution

PNB Principal Dancer Carrie Imler with Ken

Last evening, Ken and I attended the black-tie opening night celebration of Pacific Northwest Ballet; First Look Evolution 2011 at McCaw Hall.  The evening began with a cocktail reception and dinner backstage prior to the ballet performance.  The menu was great and in addtion to the entree of beef tenderloin with roasted potatos and summer squash corn ratatouille included my favorite which was a delicious peach and endive salad with Serrano Ham, arugula and Banyuls vinaigrette.  

Sarah & John Rindlaub with Carrie Imler

We were seated with PNB Principal Ballet Dancer, Carrie Imler, who was not dancing until the next evening.  Also seated at our table were Sarah & John Rindlaub and Gaylee & Jim Duncan.  The event was filled with friends and other PNB ballet aficianados including Dan & Michele Heidt, Peter Horvitz, Aya Hamilton, Lynn & Frank Lindsay, Leena & Mel Sturman, Norma Cugini, Gail James, Rian & Peter McLeod, Caroline Goedhart, Betty Tong, Margaret Dell’Osso, Jane & David Davis, Sandra Dunn, Sharon Richardson, Bob Cremin, Carole Ellison, Jeanne Tweten & Jim Leslie and dozens of others.  (Ken doesn’t actually admit to being a ballet aficianado, but I am still working on him!)

Following dinner, PNB Artistic Director, Peter Boal, announced and introduced several dancers new to PNB this season and on stage announced the promotions of both Lesley Rausch and Rachel Foster as Principal Dancers  Each was presented with a big bouquet of flowers onstage to thunderous applause. 

Carrie Imler

The performance was incredible.  It was ALL WHEELDON, a program with all works choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon and included Carousel (A Dance), Polyphonia, Variations Serieuses and After the Rain pas de deux.  My personal favorites were Carousel and the After the Rain pas de deux.  Carousel was exquiste with Principal Dancers, Carla Körbes and Seth Orza dancing the lead roles and After the Rain was breathtakingly beautiful danced by Principal Dancers, Maria Chapman and Karel Cruz.  At the performance I sat next to PNB Soloist Dancer, James Moore, who was cast to dance the After the Rain pas de deux on the next night with newly announced PNB Principal Dancer, Rachel Foster.  I didn’t hear him even breathe during the entire performance by Maria and Karel.

After the performance, the evening ended with an onstage dance party, where the party patrons and professional ballet dancers had a wonderful time dancing together into the wee hours. 

Magical PNB Season Encore Performance

Ariana Lallone in Lambarena

Tonight Kleenex was a must as I attended the Pacific Northwest Ballet Season Encore Performance honoring the PNB careers of Ariana Lallone, Jeffrey Stanton, Stanko Milov, Olivier Wevers, Chalnessa Eames, Stacy Lowenberg, Josh Spell and Barry Kerolis.

It was a spectacular evening of dance showcasing the multi-faceted talents of these dancers.  Stacy Lowenberg danced in Agon and her own choreographic piece, Rushed Goodbye. She and the stage were showered with flowers and after numerous curtain calls, the show had to be delayed while all the flowers were swept up.

Jeffrey Stanton danced in Petite Mort, Agon, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, Who Cares and brought down the house in his Fred Astaire-like dancing in Silver Lining.  His dance partners past and present brought flowers for him and joined him during the thunderous applause onstage including gorgeous Patricia Barker in a bright red cocktail dress, whom I still miss seeing onstage now several years after her retirement.  He was also honored onstage by PNB Artistic Director, Peter Boal, and PNB Founding Artistic Directors, Kent Stowell and Francia Russell.

Neither Stanko Milov or Olivier Wevers danced.  Stanko has been recovering from an injury for almost the past two years so we had to make do with our memories of him along with a few photos and snippets of video featuring Stanko dancing with Ariana.  Olivier presented Monster, his choreographic piece which premiered in his new dance company, Whim W’Him earlier this year and the audience responded enthusiastically.  He was joined on stage and presented with massive bouquets of flowers by Peter Boal, Francia Russell, Kent Stowell, Kaori Nakamura and Lucien Postlewaite.

Biggest focus of the evening was for Ariana Lallone, who danced in Petite Mort, Rubies, Carmen, and Lambarena.  A film showed snippets of her dancing in dozens of ballets during her PNB career with Stanko Milov, Olivier Wevers, Jeffrey Stanton, Karel Cruz, Bathurel Bold, Christophe Maraval, among many others.  Before she took the stage for the final time to dance Lambarena, choreographer Val Caniparoli, talked about how much Ariana has meant to him as she has danced the roles he has created, with some created especially for her. She danced joyfully and brilliantly and at the conclusion of Lambarena, was rewarded with tumultuous applause and a standing ovation.  It took two strong men to bring a giant basket of flowers to center stage for her and then artistic directors, dancers, past dance partners, staff members, and friends joined her onstage each bringing massive floral bouquets in recognition of her amazing career.

As Founding Co-Artistic Director, Francia Russell, said it so well in the beautiful keepsake program, “It is both wonderful and painful to be celebrating the eight dancers who end their careers with PNB tonight.  The evolution of an arts institution inevitably  includes saying goodbye to people who have been important parts of its very fabric-in some cases, builders of the Company.”

Having served on the PNB Board for 17 years and as Chairman of the Board for five years, I am invested in the careers of each of the dancers retiring and in my mind, they are all “my” dancers.  You have brought magic to all who have seen you perform!  Brava!  Bravo!

A Toast to Olivier Wevers!

Cathi Hatch & Olivier Wevers

Tonight, I went to a surprise party at Jolene & Bruce McCaw’s beautiful Hunts Point home to share in the tribute and celebration of Olivier Wevers Pacific Northwest Ballet dance career.  It was a beautiful evening to tour Jolene & Bruce’s impeccable gardens and I was certain that fellow guest, Steve Poole, brought the beautiful weather for the party with him.

Olivier, who has recently retired from PNB, was totally surprised when he arrived at the party and realized it was about him.  There were wonderful full life-size cut-outs of Olivier in costumes from various ballet roles strategically placed through the McCaw home along with dozens of photos of Olivier with friends nestled on tables.

Carrie Imler & Jonathan Porretta

In addition to Jolene’s spot-on tribute remarks, Olivier was toasted by a number of PNB Board members, dance partners and supporters including Sherry Raisbeck, Deborah Cobain, Charles Newton, and PNB Principal Dancer Carrie Imler.  PNB Principal dancer, Lucien Postlewaite, talked about when he joined PNB, his role model was Olivier and that he learned so much about partnering just by watching how Olivier worked to make his partners feel respected and secure.  It was very special to be part of the celebration of Olivier’s magical PNB career and also to be one of the well-wishers as he launches his new career as choregrapher and Artistic Director of Whim W’Him.  There was just the right balance of bittersweet nostalgia and anticipation of the future.

Lucien Postlewaite before his toast.

Other celebrants and friends that I talked with included Alexis & Stewart Phelps, Madeleine and Bert Valdman, Susan Brotman, Peter Horvitz, Betty Tong & Joe Miner, Kim Richter, Peter Boal, Linda & Toby Warson, James Raisbeck, Steve Jensen & Vincent Lipe, Margaret dell Osso, Glenn Kawasaki, and current and past PNB dancers Louise Nadeau, Ariana Lallone, Kaori Nakamura, Maria Chapman, and Jonathan Porretta to name just a few.

Cheers, Olivier!

Mesmerized once again by “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Francia Russell & Kent Stowell
PNB Founding Artistic Directors

Friday evening, Ken and I attended the pre-performance dinner at McCaw Hall for Pacific Northwest Ballet’s opening night of George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  We were delighted to be seated with PNB Founding Artistic Directors and friends, Francia Russell and Kent StowellPNB’s unique production was staged by Francia and in addition to the beautiful score by Felix Mendelssohn, boasts set and costume designs by Martin Pakledinaz.

PNB Artistic Director, Peter Boal, recounted watching Francia rehearse the dancers sharing hundreds of corrections and comments until on the final night of dress rehearsal she told the dancers to “just go out and dance and forget all about the corrections, because this ballet now belongs to you”.

Once we were ensconced in our seats in the Susan Brotman Auditorium and the lights dimmed, we entered the magical fairly kingdom in a forest with Carrie Imler dancing the role of Titania, Jonathan Porretta the role of Oberon and Josh Spell the role of Puck.  There were 24 children dancing their roles as bugs that added to the magic of the performance with their dancing sophistication.  I love not only the end of the ballet when the bugs wave tiny lights so appear to be fireflies, but also when they artfully collapse on stage in a huddle to sleep.

Since these are five of the eight dancers that will be departing PNB at the end of this season, I especially paid attention to Olivier Wevers dancing the role of Lysander, Chalnessa Eames the role of Hermia, Stacy Lowenberg part of Titania’s Retinue, Ariana Lallone the role of Hippolyta, and Jeffrey Stanton dancing the Divertissment pas de deux in Act II.  Each danced beautifully and I will sincerely miss seeing them on stage next year, but will cherish my memories of their performances!

 

Party with a Prince!

Hostess Alexis Phelps & Stanko Milov Earlier this week, I attended a lovely party hosted by Alexis Phelps at her home, to “Party with a Prince”.  In this case, the “Prince” was Stanko Milov, who is a principal male dancer for Pacific Northwest Ballet and has multiple talents as a music composer, a concert pianist,… Continue Reading

Stewart Kershaw and PNB – The End of an Era

Last weekend I attended the final PNB performance of the season featuring Stewart Kershaw conducting the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra for the last time.  Stewart was the visionary that 25 years ago built the PNB Orchestra, that has recently been referred to in the New York Times as “possibly the best ballet orchestra in the… Continue Reading

Wine, wine everywhere!

I was so impressed with the Seattle Wine Awards which occurred last Sunday at the Rainier Club!  Rainier Club Director of Wine and Spirits and Executive Director of the Seattle Wine Awards, Christopher Chan, organized another amazing wine event featuring 100 wineries with numerous awards presented.  See photos of Christopher above and a few of… Continue Reading