Megan Lowe has been spending a lot of time creating movement in unexpected places lately, such as stairwells, alleys, ladders and doorways, to name just a few. The TDPS alumnus and staff member (Office Manager) is dancing in two new works that open soon, one in a warehouse and one suspended in the air in an alley, and also recently completed a dance film in which she explores the architecture of an empty auditorium.
Beginning this week, Lowe will perform in Lizz Roman & Dancers’ This Beautiful Space “DANCING@CIVICORPS,” a site-specific dance project that journeys through the multileveled expanse of the CIVICCORPS Center, located opposite the West Oakland BART station. As live music performed by the band Watersaw creates a sonic playground, dancers explore the unique site and its topography– stairs, railings, ladders, hallways, alcoves and rooftops. Lowe, who has been dancing with Lizz Roman & Dancers since 2012 and working on this particular project since May, describes the piece as “a multi-level experience where the audience moves through the building with the dancers in a sort of immersive dance rock concert.”
To construct the piece, the nine dancers first explored the space and discovered if they had an affinity for any locations. “I resonated most with the stairwell and the ladder,” Lowe says, “I enjoy the thrill of being up high and I like interacting with things that I can touch with my hands and my body; I find it more inspiring than dancing in a traditional empty space.” She elaborates, “I am a functional movement generator, so there isn’t much gesture or affect. ‘Hey, there’s a railing–what happens if I put my hand on it? What happens if I push up on it? What happens if I try to invert myself without diving to the floor and hitting my head? Can I support all of my weight on the ladder with one hand? Well, maybe I can’t, so how can I readjust my body to support that inspiration? And from this moment, what naturally comes next?”
Choreographer Lizz Roman allowed each dancer to explore in their location and generate movement organically, then applied her eye for directing, shaping and editing. The resulting piece, which opens September 11 and continues through September 26, weaves the dancers through a series of solos, duos and ensemble dances inspired by each site.
While preparing to open This Beautiful Space, Lowe is also in rehearsal for another piece, Needles to Thread: Dancing Along These Lines in Continuum Alley, choreographed by Jo Kreiter and presented by Flyaway Productions and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. This free dance show is the third in a trilogy of site-specific aerial dances about urban poverty and shines a light on San Francisco’s garment industry and the women who make our clothes. In Continuum Alley in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, Lowe dances dozens of feet in the air, suspended by a rope and harness. “There’s dancers on both sides of the alley and since it’s narrow, you can actually jump across to connect with your partner and suspend midair, which allows for many possibilities,” she describes, “though gravity and the harnesses come with constraints so you constantly have to adapt.” This piece, too, was largely dancer-created, with the choreographer on the ground offering suggestions and critiques. With the alley as performance site, the dancers activate the roofs, walls and fire escapes.
If you still can’t get enough of Lowe dancing in unusual and interesting spaces, check out her dance film Never Finished: Explorations at the Finnish, which features Lowe dancing in a stairwell, balancing in a door frame, climbing walls, spinning off a bench and exploring the architecture of an empty room. An abridged version of the film, which was created, composed and performed during a recent residency at The Finnish Brotherhood Hall and also features original music by Lowe, was just accepted into the Twelfth Annual Sans Souci Festival of Dance Cinema and will be screened in Colorado in October. “I didn’t plan to enter it into a film festival, but I got a lot of encouragement to do so,” Lowe says of her film’s unexpected journey. “They had hundreds and hundreds of submissions, so I feel very proud of the fact that my film was one of the ones chosen. My film will open the evening and it’s the only representation of USA on that night, as the other films are European.”
Lowe also makes sure to give a shout-out to fellow UC Berkeley alumnus Danny Nguyen, who filmed Never Finished, and emphasize the importance of keeping in touch with alumni contacts. “I built a lot of awesome relationships while at UC Berkeley, and had many incredible experiences,” she says. “I built valuable skills that prepared me for the real world, and also gained a network that I continue to reach out to today.” For example, while still a TDPS student, Lowe regularly took Lizz Roman’s Saturday classes at ODC in San Francisco for a year before expressing an interest to work more closely with Roman’s company. After graduating from TDPS in 2012, Lowe began dancing with Lizz Roman & Dancers, and later became the Company Manager for the group as well. Additionally, Lowe says, “I studied under Joe Goode, both at UC Berkeley and outside the university, which was a valuable connection. When I graduated in 2012, I became a teaching artist for his company and have been teaching, specifically youth education, with Joe Goode Performance Group ever since.” She also notes that she usually teaches a master class for contact improvisation and partnering every semester for TDPS, a tradition she began while still a student, and has since expanded to teach contact improv at the Shawl-Anderson Dance Center and KULARTS–opportunities that she would not have been able to have without her experiences at TDPS.
These days, Lowe balances her dancing and teaching with part-time work as TDPS’ Office Manager. “One of the great things about working at TDPS (aside from getting to work for a department I love) is that it is flexible,” she says. “I can hold a steady job but also dance, perform, and attend rehearsals and classes.” She has also gained many skills from her TDPS position that she applies to other dance-related pursuits, including being the Company Manager for Lizz Roman & Dancers, a House Manager for Joe Goode Performance Group and Z Space, and in the past, a Production Manager for Fog Beast and a Company Administrator for RAWdance. “Since my day job is still in the arts, it allows for a lot of overlapping interest and skill building, which is really valuable. Some of my peers struggle to perform and find other jobs that relate this well to their interests. I am lucky to have a job in an educational institution that is focused on theater and dance and performance studies–my passion.” Lowe plans to continue wearing many hats and dancing around the Bay Area, so keep up with her via her website Megan Lowe Dances and look for her performing in unique and unconventional places near you.