Category Archives: PNB

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

PNB MOB Garden Party

Carol Wright, Ken Hatch

Yesterday, Ken and I attended the annual Pacific Northwest Ballet MOB (Members of the Barre) Garden Party at the lovely home of Jim Leslie and Jeannie Tweten.  It was a beautiful partially sunny, partially cloudy afternoon in the garden as Chairman of the Board, Aya Hamilton, and Artistic Director, Peter Boal, shared some of the activities going on in the studios right now as PNB gets ready to kick-off its new 2011-2012 season beginning with an All Wheeldon program featuring the works of choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon.

There was buzz about the dancers coming back from vacation break and being expected to perform 32 consecutive fouettes (an extremely physically challenging move done by ballerinas on one leg) on their first day back in the studio by the stager that was here working on the upcoming repertoire to be performed.  A few were nursing sore muscles as a result of such a fast start.   

Chairman of the Board, Aya Hamilton and Past Chairman
of the Board, Peter Horvitz

The new PNB Orchestra Music Director, Emil de Cou was introduced and we saw lots of friends including Kelly Boal, Gail & Tom James, Carol Wright, Winnie & Richard Baxter, Carole Ellison, Joe Norman, Artistic Director Olivier Wevers of Whim W’Him, and had a chance to reconnect and also see current PNB dancers and meet some of the newest PNB dancers including Carrie Imler, Lucien Postlewaite, Emma Love, Matthew Renko, and Kylee Kitchens.

I am so looking forward to the new PNB season!

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Star Spangled Salute to Ariana Lallone and Jeff Stanton

Ariana & Jeff arrive!

What a beautiful evening on the tip of Yarrow Point to celebrate the dance careers of PNB Principal DancersAriana Lallone and Jeff StantonJeff and Ariana arrived at the party via yacht and were greeted on shore with giant sparklers by around 100 friends, admirers, dancers and dance aficianados.

Event co-chairs, Sharon Richardson and Amy Anderson and the STARS group assisted by Liza Turner and rest of the stalwart PNB staff, produced a magical evening to honor Ariana’s 24 year career with PNB and Jeff’s 23 year dance career, with the last 17 years at PNB.

Cathi & Ariana

Ariana and Jeff have both been such audience favorites over the years and it is hard to imagine the PNB stage without either one of them on it.  I think of Ariana, with her grace and beautiful long arms and legs that extend forever and Jeff, dancing with his classical, clean lines and his perfect sense of theatre and comic timing.  There are dozens of favorite memories in my mind of each of them, but a couple of my personal favorites are remembering Ariana in Lambarena and Jeff tapping dancing in Silver Lining.

PNB Chairman of the Board, Aya Hamilton, shared a tribute to Ariana and I, as a past Chairman of the Board, was asked to give the tribute to Jeff which I was so pleased to do.  Here is my tribute to Jeff:

Cathi & Jeff

Jeff Stanton began his professional dance career in 1988, exactly the same year I began my “dance career” as a PNB Board member. He has been a professional ballet dancer for 23 years now, the last 17 with PNB. Jeff, at 17 years with PNB, is the male dancer who has danced with PNB longer than any other dancer. The runner up is Benjamin Houk who danced for PNB for 13 years. In my mind’s eye, I can see Jeff dancing in so many roles, and usually he is the handsome prince who is dancing with the beautiful princess.

Reitred PNB Dancer, Lisa Apple, honors her former partner

Jeff started dancing when he was only 5 years old and began with tap and jazz. It was amusing to hear that at the ripe age of five, he decided that he didn’t like ballet and thought it was boring. Of course, we are all really glad that he changed his mind since he has made a career out of ballet.

I asked Jeff to share some of the funny memories he has from his dance career. One of stories he shared with me was a time that he and Patricia Barker were dancing the pas de deux in the Snow Scene in The Nutcracker and he had not shaved that day so had a fine stubble on his face. There are many lifts in this particular pas de deux, and Patricia’s beautiful long hair was hanging down her back. Each time Jeff would bring her down from a lift, her hair would catch on his stubble so that for much of the pas de deux, he appeared to have a very long blonde beard.

Ariana at her celebration

When I asked Jeff if there was a role that he didn’t get to dance that he wished he could have, he first answered that he got to dance all of the roles he hoped to dance and more. But when pressed, he said that a role he would have loved to dance, which ABT and San Francisco did regularly, is the Aaron Copland cowboy tap solo in Agnes de Mille’s “Rodeo”.

That reminded me that I have seen Jeff in a secret cowboy role that many of you may not have seen. A few years ago, Jeff and I were at the same Hoe-Down style party where there was a mechanical bull. Though I know dancers are expected not to snow ski and participate in dangerous sports activities to prevent injury, I don’t think anyone had specifically said that mechanical bull riding was off limits. Jeff was one of the most graceful riders that stayed on the bull for one of the longest times of anyone, though he finally fell off too. I decided that I would not share that story with anyone at the ballet just in case he might get in trouble . . . so Jeff~ I have kept your secret for several years now!

Jeff being toasted

As Jeff moves on to new life adventures with his first being a five week opportunity to dance a new work being commissioned from an Italian choreographer from La Scala in the Shanghai Opera House; I know that each of you join with me in wishing Jeff the best that life has to offer while we each hold our happy individual memories of him dancing at PNB. To Jeff! Cheers!”

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