Born in Oakland and raised in Alameda, Michael Lowe was encouraged at an early age to explore the joy and discipline of classical ballet to augment his coordination and strength in athletics. With the first lesson, his love for music found a counterpart with his natural agility, leading to a new career. Michael joined Oakland Ballet in 1974 and was promoted to principal dancer in 1976 with his debut as Alias in Billy the Kid. A scholarship student at Alvin Ailey American Dance Center in New York City, Lowe also performed with Pacific Ballet Company, Gilbert Reed Ballet Company, Los Angeles Chamber Ballet, Sacramento Ballet, North Dakota Ballet and the Old Souls New Shoes Dance Company with Mark Morris. Michael worked with such legendary choreographers as Agnes de Mille, John Butler, Leonide Massine, Frederic Franklin, Anna Sokolow, Betsy Erickson, Willem Christensen and Ronn Guidi. In 1989, he recreated the role of Beau Gosse for Oakland Ballet’s historical reconstruction of Bronislava Nijinska’s Le Train Bleu.
After his performing career, Lowe revealed himself as a gifted choreographer. He has created a number of striking ballets, six of which have been presented by Oakland Ballet: Table for Two, Witness, The Emperor and the Nightingale, Dim Sum, Double Happiness, and Bamboo (for which he received an Isadora Duncan Award for Best Choreography 2001-2002). With Menlowe Ballet Lowe has brought the following works to the stage: Plague, Chuntian, Cirque, Serei, Surfside, and Tribute.
In 2011, Lowe founded Menlowe Ballet, and serves as Artistic Director. His previous company leadership roles include: Assistant Artistic Director at OBC from 1997-2000, Artistic Director of Peninsula Ballet from 2004-2008 and Resident Choreographer for Moving Arts Dance (where his works were showcased in Belarus, Poland, Paris and Hawai’i). During his tenure as Artistic Director of the Black Diamond Ballet Theatre in East Contra Costa County he choreographed his first full length Nutcracker. Michael is thrilled to be at the helm of Menlowe Ballet and looks forward to creating new works, and bringing noted choreographers to work with his dancers for years to come.
Sarah-Jane was born in England and realized her love for dance at an early age. She was trained in the Royal Academy of Dance & Imperial Society (ISTD) ballet techniques. In addition to ballet, her wide knowledge of dance also encompasses tap, jazz and European folk dance. Sarah-Jane taught and performed professionally in Hong Kong before she came to the United States and joined the faculty of Menlo Park Academy of Dance. For the past seven years, she has been the co-owner and director of the school. Sarah-Jane holds the Royal Academy of Dance Teaching Certificate with distinction, always nurturing her students to achieve their very best. Many of Sarah-Jane’s students have gone on to enjoy professional dance careers, including former ballet student, who is now on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars”, Cheryl Burke.
As Executive Director of Menlowe Ballet, Lisa helped conceive and launch the community-focused dance company in 2011. This represents a successful culmination of her lifelong collaboration with ballet and the management expertise she gained throughout her professional business and nonprofit career.
A dancer in her own right, Lisa received her classical ballet training with Grace Doty at Berkeley Conservatory Ballet, with training from Howard Sayette, Larry Grenier, Kenneth Melville and Leslie Crockett. During her time with BCB, she performed in many classical ballets, including: Les Sylphides, Paquita, Raymonda, Pas de Dix, Nutcracker, and Graduation Ball. She also enjoyed dancing contemporary works choreographed by Richard Cook and John Loschmann, among others.
As a young student, Lisa also spent a summer at the Milwaukee Ballet before heading to Mount Holyoke College. After receiving a BA in Political Science, she enjoyed a decade-long career at Oracle Corporation holding various in Finance & Administration management positions. Lisa’s innate sense of community awareness and activism inspired her to initiate Oracle’s volunteer matching program, an innovative idea that led her to assume leadership roles on a number of non-profit boards, most notably Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco and the YMCA of the Mid-Peninsula.
Most recently, Lisa completed her Life Coach Certification at the Coaches Training Institute, and continues to work closely with her Silicon Valley clients to help define – and achieve – their own personal and career goals.
Julie Lowe has danced and taught professionally for over 30 years. As a Principal Ballerina with the Oakland Ballet Company, she toured extensively throughout the United States and Europe performing leading roles and receiving coaching, training and guidance from many of the dance world’s greatest legends and luminaries including Frederic Franklin, Anna Sokolow, Leonide Massine, Eugene Loring, Irina Nijinska, Ruthanna Boris, and John Butler. Notable roles include her portrayal of Giselle, Swanhilda in Coppélia, the Sugarplum Fairy, Snow Queen, Rose Queen and Marie in Ronn Guidi’s Nutcracker, Gretel in Hansel and Gretel, Beth in Eugene Loring’s The Tenderland, and signature roles in ballet’s by John McFall, Betsy Erickson, Marc Wilde, John Pasqualetti, Ronn Guidi and in Oakland’s renowned Diaghilev era and Americana revivals. In 1991-1992 she appeared as guest artist with San Francisco’s ODC performing the title role in The Velveteen Rabbit.
As Ballet Mistress and Artistic Advisor for Menlowe Ballet since its inception in 2011, Ms. Lowe’s responsibilities include teaching, coaching and rehearsing the dancers and the ballets to prepare them for the stage.
Concurrently, as a master teacher for the Ballroom Dance Teachers College, the nation’s premier vocational training program for ballroom dance instructors, Ms. Lowe guides those preparing for careers as dance teachers. Additionally, she teaches public social and ballroom dance classes at Oakland’s Just Dance Ballroom, and adult ballet classes at Alameda Ballet Academy.
From 2001-2007 she served as Artistic Director for the Metronome Ballroom’s lauded summer showcase which featured accomplished students sharing the stage with world-class, professional ballroom dance stars. Under Ms. Lowe’s direction the production moved to San Francisco’s Cowell Theater at Fort Mason, where it played to sold out audiences.
Julie enjoys teaching, coaching and choreographing for ballet and ballroom students of all levels, from beginners to professionals. With her nurturing, supportive and exacting approach, she provides students the opportunity to enhance their technical and artistic skills in both dance forms.