Zohar Performance Series: 5

Boundless: Fearless and Uninhibited Dance

An up close and intimate evening featuring the dynamic choreography of Menlowe Ballet, Savage Jazz Dance Company, Alyssa Mitchel, The New Ballet, ArtistEDGE, San Jose Dance Theatre, Los Gatos Ballet, Marika Brussel, Zann Aeck, Mariana Sobral and Rena Robinson performed by fearless dancers!  You will have an opportunity to meet the choreographers and dancers and learn more about their work and what inspires them. Tickets available on Eventbrite.

Photo Credit: Menlowe Ballet, Michael Lowe, Artistic Director Photographer: Eric Raeber

ZPS:5 Artists

Menlowe Ballet


Launched in early 2011, Menlowe Ballet has performed fourteen successful seasons achieving critical acclaim and ardent audience response. The founders collectively recognized an opportunity to bring a new choreographic voice to the dance canvas on the Peninsula, as well as address an underserved local community in professional performing arts offerings. Artistic Director, Michael Lowe, has long been a fixture in the ballet world, most notably for his work with Oakland Ballet. Michael brings a rich history and perspective to his work - a principal dancer with Oakland Ballet for three decades, a choreographer for the company in his retirement, culminating in the Isadora Duncan Award for Outstanding Choreography for his ballet Bamboo. His unique choreographic strengths are evident in his contemporary and cultural ballets, featured in each Menlowe Ballet season.

“Menlowe Ballet is a professional ballet company performing work that impacts Bay Area audiences through exceptional dance and stirring, innovative choreography. The company’s repertoire encompasses cultural, classical, and contemporary styles.”

Menlowe Ballet is a professional ballet company performing work that impacts Bay Area audiences through exceptional dance and stirring, innovative choreography. The company’s repertoire encompasses cultural, classical, and contemporary styles. One of Menlowe Ballet’s core values is to continue the tradition of passing dance on from one generation to the next – artist to artist. To that end, aspiring students from Menlowe Ballet’s official school, the Menlo Park Academy of Dance, regularly perform in company productions.  

Since our debut in November 2011, Menlowe Ballet has dazzled local audiences with the following: eleven world premieres by Michael Lowe as well as four reprisals of his most beloved works; world premieres by renowned guest choreographers Betsy Erickson of San Francisco Ballet, Viktor Kabaniaev, and Reginald Ray-Savage of Savage Jazz Dance, Val Caniparoli of San Francisco Ballet, Gregory Dawson of dawsondancesf. 

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 his first dance lesson, his love for music found a counterpart with his natural agility, leading to a career path. Michael joined the 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 under 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.

During and after his performing career, Lowe revealed himself to be a gifted choreographer. He created a number of striking ballets for Oakland Ballet including 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. Most recently, Mr. Lowe was invited to choreograph a world premiere for Oakland Ballet’s 50th Anniversary celebration. In addition to his choreographic accomplishments, Michael has assumed artistic leadership positions with ballet companies including Oakland Ballet, Peninsula Ballet, Black Diamond Ballet, and he served as Resident Choreographer for Moving Arts Dance.

As Founding Artistic Director of Menlowe Ballet, Mr. Lowe has given his own company a number of beautiful works to perform including Plague, Chuntian, Cirque, Serei, Surfside, Tribute, Transcendence, Legend of the Seven Suns, Playing Love, After HoursFacetsThe Lady with the Lamp and Kimono Wednesdays, as well as the company’s first full length ballet, It’s a Wonderful Nutcracker. Photo: Eric Raeber

Zann Aeck


Zann Aeck, a native Houstonian began her formal dance training with Patsy Swayze but after a few years, narrowed her focus to train professionally as an apprentice for the Greater Houston Civic Ballet.  Zann started her Modern dance training as a student at the High School for the Performing Arts and continued her studies first at the University of Houston and then Southern Methodist University where she received her BA.  During this time she was performing with Texas-based companies such as Joan Karff’s New Dance Group.  Zann now lives in the Bay Area and has danced or studied with Jeannine Charles, Gary Masters, Maria Basile, Bih-Tau Sung, Natasha Carlitz, and Cheryl Chaddick.  Zann currently teaches modern dance at DanceVisions in Palo Alto and has choreographed select pieces over the years for both DanceVisions as well as Jeannine Charles.

Los Gatos Ballet


Los Gatos Ballet is dedicated to the art of self-mastery.  Through our dedicated programs, we travel the inward journey to discover our truth, train with intention in the pursuit of excellence, and align with our purpose. We are committed to sculpting the best version of ourselves through the process. Los Gatos Ballet’s curriculum is unique in its progressive approach. Our syllabus selects the best principals of dance training by incorporating Vaganova, French and American School methods. Through our program, dancers build a strong foundation of anatomy, musicality, technique and artistry. This healthy progression allows our students to develop an advanced level of control and mastery as they are challenged in their physical, mental, and emotional development. Our staff continues to refine and advance our program to provide quality training at every level.  We are committed to providing a nurturing environment and we pattern excellence.  We are excited to bring our Nutcracker to the McAfee Center for Performing Arts in Saratoga.  Join Clara on her adventures with the Nutcracker as she travels to magical realms with suspenseful battles, beautiful palaces and delightful sweets. Let the superb dancing and Tchaikovsky’s iconic score captivate you and your family this Holiday season.

Savage Jazz Dance Company


Reginald Ray-Savage began dancing at Katherine Dunham's Performing Arts Training Center in East St. Louis, IL, where he studied ballet, tap, jazz, and Dunham technique, with such outstanding Dunham company alumni as Norman Davis, Lenwood Morris, and his mentor Archie Savage. His training with these legendary dancers has informed his teaching style and choreography. Mr. Savage began his professional dance career with the Katherine Dunham Dance Company. He moved to Chicago where he danced in several companies including Joel Hall Dance Company, Ruth Page Ballet Chicago, and Lyric Opera, as well as touring productions of "Music Man" and "A Chorus Line". 

Mr. Savage came to California in 1989 and founded Savage Jazz Dance Company (SJDC) in 1992. Since then, he has produced a career’s worth of exceptional dances that respond to, spring from, and are inspired by the intentions, energy, and rich cultural heritage of jazz music. The spirit of jazz is the foundation for the company’s existence. Driven by the vision of Mr. Savage, and realized by the commitment of the company’s exceptional dancers, SJDC’s movement is defined by three primary beliefs: the importance of disciplined, technical dance training, rooted in classical ballet and modern techniques; the willingness to give into the rich artistic expression of music, in all forms; and, last but not least, ENERGY. And it is these same beliefs that inform Mr. Savage’s teaching style and daily practice. Since its founding, the company has produced more than 100 new works, choreographed by Mr. Savage, and guest choreographers. In addition to their annual home season, SJDC continues to tour the US, conducting residencies and concert performances. Notable engagements include SJDC’s performance at Casa del Jazz in Rome, Italy in 2006; it was the first dance company to receive such an invitation, performing to a packed house and rave reviews. In 2003, SJDC was invited to perform at the Jazz Dance World Congress at NYU Buffalo. And SJDC was a resident company in the Lincoln Center Institute’s Aesthetic Education Program in Bay Area schools offered through the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts.

Through his work with Savage Jazz Dance Company and his teaching practice, Mr. Savage’s contributions to the arts and dance have been recognized in multiple ways. In 1993, Mr. Savage was awarded the Creative Artists Fellowship in Choreography from the City of Oakland. Mr. Savage was also distinguished with a 2001 GOLDIE Award by the San Francisco Bay Guardian for outstanding contribution to the arts. SJDC has also had the honor of being nominated for several IZZIEs (Isadora Duncan Dance Awards): in 2003 for Company Performance for its entire 2002 season at the Cowell Theater (SF) and in 2007 for Individual Performance by Principle SJDC Dancer, Alison Hurley, in SJDC's 2006 performances at ODC Theater (SF), and, most recently, in 2013 for Outstanding Achievement in Performance for the Company’s work at the Black Choreographers Festival at Laney College (Oakland) in 2012. 

Photo: Tracy Martin, Mark Kitaoka, Tracy Martin

San Jose Dance Theatre


San Jose Dance Theatre Is The Resident Ballet Company of the San Jose Center for Performing Arts and home of the Longest Running Nutcracker in San Jose (54 years). Dec. 6-8 & 13-15, 2019. Artistic Director, Linda Hurkmans, M.A. As a child, Linda Hurkmans was given detailed Vaganova training from Connie Schwarze and performed for San José Dance Theatre. She was then heavily mentored by Larissa Sklyanskaya (Soloist with Bolshoi Ballet), Natasha Papina (Soloist with Kirov Ballet, and the 1st ballet partner of Mikhail Baryshnikov), and Conrad Ludlow (Principal Dancer with New York City Ballet). Hurkmans received full scholarships to Pacific Northwest Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet, and at the age of 16, a full scholarship to the University of Utah Ballet Dept. She danced professionally with The Royal Danish Ballet, the Utah Ballet/Ballet West, The Norwegian Andanse Ballet, Zahkraz Dance, and The Norwegian National Ballet in conjunction with The Year of Dance in Norway and the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. She competed in the 72 country ITI International Ballet Competition in Helsinki, Finland, 1991, and appeared in the CBS Mini-Series “At Mother’s Request” starring Stefanie Powers.  Linda Hurkmans holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts, Cum Laude, in Ballet Performance from Univ. of Utah, a Master’s Degree in Psychology from the Notre Dame de Namur University, and full Certifications in Pilates and Progressing Ballet Technique. She has taught and choreographed for Norwegian State Ballet, Western Ballet, Zohco Dance Co., Santa Clara University, Foothill College, De Anza College, Pasquale Esposito’s Italian Christmas, World Wide Women’s Event, and San Jose Dance Theatre. Named San Jose Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director in 2014, Hurkmans helped re-open the doors to the academy and rebuilt it from 0 students to over 100 today, choreographing a full length version of “The Nutcracker”, 25 original works for the school and company, and staging excerpts from the classical ballet repertoire. Hurkmans’ full length production of “The Firebird” debuted to sold out audiences Spring 2019. San Jose Dance Theatre has Open Enrollment in its academy and welcomes dancers age 3 and up to a robust curriculum of Ballet, Men’s Class, Pas de Deux, Modern, Jazz, Character Class, Pilates, Progressing Ballet Technique, and Chinese Tumbling.  Please visit for more information. Photo: Abhishek Ahluwalia



Jeannine Charles has been dancing, teaching and choreographing professionally for the past 29 years. Early training included years of ballet with Kip Watson (founder of what is now Orlando Ballet) and former New York City ballet dancer and trained in Belgium at Mercador Ballet School affiliated with the London Royal Ballet. She graduated from the University of Washington majoring in Performance/Choreography, receiving Choreography Awards as well as the National Dance Association’s Dance Major of the Year Award.   After U.W., Jeannine relocated to the Bay Area and has had the privilege of performing with sjDanceCo (dancer/choreographer), Company Chaddick/SF, Nina Galin Music & Dance, Margaret Wingrove Dance Company, Bih-Tau Sung’s Dancing Sun,, Lisa Burnett and Ehud Krauss among many others. Ms. Charles has taught at Colleges, Universities, and acclaimed dance studios all over the Bay Area, including Zohar Dance Company and School. 

Jeannine Charles started her first company in 1995 and evolved this into ArtistEDGE Dance Company.  The mission of the company is to find new artistic edges in the creation of dance by collaborating with other artists from other disciplines. These collaborations have included: choreography for Stravinsky’s, ‘A Soldier’s Tale’ with Michel Singher/Espressivo conducting and Daniel Helfgot directing, Paul Davie’s original Opera, ‘Carlota’, Spanish Visual Media Artist, Daniel Canogar in a site specific project at Villa Montalvo, Saratoga, and Stilt Artist and Artisitc Roller Skating Champion, Trey Knight in a project that merged, drama, live music, stilts and dance as well as choreographing the court/assassination scene for Livermore Opera’s Un Ballo en Maschera and collaborating with engineer/inventor Gordon Charles to integrate dance and mobile lighting technology. 


Rena Robinson

Rena Robinson-Steiner, is a professional dancer, teacher and choreographer.  Rena has danced with internationally renowned companies including, Dance Theater of Harlem in New York City, Hamburg Ballet in Germany, and Tumbuka Modern Dance Company in Zimbabwe Africa. Along with Rena's professional dance career, she is also a certified massage therapist and yoga instructor. Rena received her Master's in mental health counseling from Sofia University and currently works as a mental health counselor in a local Bay area high school. Rena keeps connected with her first passion of dance by teaching in various dance schools throughout the Bay.  Rena is dedicated to utilizing both art and psychology as a means to empower, heal, and inspire.


Alyssa Mitchel

Alyssa Mitchel, Choreographer and Artistic Director is a San Francisco based dancer, choreographer and teacher. The recipient of a Trustee Merit Scholarship, she earned a B.A. in Liberal Studies/Teacher Preparation with a minor in mathematics from the Dominican University of California, graduating Summa Cum Laude with Honors. She’s also a graduate of the career- bound program at Marin Dance Theatre. Alyssa has danced with Garrett+Moulton Productions, SpectorDance, Peter & Co., eMotion Arts Dance Company, Labayen Dance and SOULSKIN Dance, among others. Her original and collaborative works have been set on several professional Bay Area dancers and companies and she has shown her work at numerous festivals nationwide. In 2018 she was selected as one of six artists for ODC’s competitive Pilot (70) program, a choreographic and production mentorship program for emerging and mid-career Bay Area dance-makers. She was invited back to be the facilitator for Pilot 71 in 2019. Alyssa is the winner of the 2019 Choreography Competition of the International Dance Festival of Silicon Valley. She and lighting designer, Daniel Weiermann are 2019 awardees of the Lighting Artists in Dance Grant for Mitchel’s full-length production, The Classroom which premiered at ODC Studio B in September. Alyssa is also a recipient of the Classical Girl Giving Grant (Fall Quarter 2019). Additionally, Alyssa has been granted residencies and commissions at Bay Pointe Ballet, Moving Arts, LEVYdance, SAFEhouse Arts, Mark Foehringer Dance Project SF and Marin Dance Theatre. Festivals include the Seattle International Dance Festival, PUSHfest, HH11 Dance Festival, San Francisco Movement Arts Festival at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco International Arts Festival, Dance Makers, Dance Mission Choreographer’s Showcase and the Youth American Grande Prix. Alyssa teaches all levels of contemporary dance, choreography, ballet, and core strength. She’s a devoted math, reading, writing, test prep and study skills tutor for students ranging from elementary school through college.  For more information, visit: 


Marika Brussel & Dancers

Marika Brussel is a contemporary choreographer working in the ballet genre. Informed by her background as a fiction writer, she utilizes storytelling in her dance-making.  She tells contemporary stories through ballet,  showing our inter-connectedness and equity as humans, from country to country, class to class, and generation to generation.  Her work has explored myths, plays, and personal stories such as Unraveling, a ballet about dementia. From Shadows: A ballet about homelessness, premiered in October 2017, to sold out audiences in San Francisco. Her ballet, Still Time For Impossible, looked at the climate crisis.   ​Her ballets have been commissioned by ARC Dance, Columbia Repertory Ballet, Bay Pointe Ballet, Emote Dance Theater, Berkeley Ballet Theater, and Ballet Theater of New Mexico. She has shown work at festivals around the country, including Dancing in the Park, Oakland Dances, West Wave, Brooklyn Ballet’s First Look, PushFest, Spectordance and SJChoreoFest. Marika has held residencies at the Dresher Ensemble Residency, Moving Arts SF and SAFEhouse Arts. She has twice been part of ODC's Pilot Project, and was a choreographer in Doug Varone's Devices 5. Her other awards include two Fleishhacker Opportunity Grants and a grant from The Classical Girl. Marika is a 2019 recipient of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts Fellowship for Contemporary Ballet.  House of Names will premiere in full at ODC Theater in April 2020. Photo: Jared Freeman


Mariana Sobral in collaboration with the dancers of eMotion Arts

Directed by Mariana Sobral, eMotion Arts exists to create and showcase a cohesive body of work that highlights and celebrates Oneness by bringing together dancers and artists. The Company embraces diversity by incorporating different dance styles and artistic visions, and it creates an inclusive space where dancers and choreographers collaborate to bring their artistic visions to life. Our creative process incorporates collaborations with musicians, guest choreographers, and educators. This approach makes the Company a place where its members can further their artistic development and nurture their own Artistic Voice. Photo: Kyle Adler


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Zohar Dance Company

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