Ballet Virginia was established as a collaborative effort of dedicated, passionate and talented artists led by Janina Michalski Bove and Suzanne Lownsbury. Our faculty brings professional experience, proven training techniques and deep understanding of how to pass the gift of dance on the next generation.
Originally from Southern California, Ms. Janina began her early training in the Los Angeles area. She trained with Joffrey Ballet under the instruction of Meredith Bayliss, Dorothy Lister, Cho-San Goh, Basil Thompson and Glenn White on scholarship. At 16 years, Ms. Bove apprenticed with Los Angeles Ballet under the direction of John Clifford, where she studied extensively with Irena Kosmovska. As a member of the Pacific Association for Regional Ballet, Ms. Bove was awarded scholarships to the Craft of Choreography Conferences sponsored Regional Dance America. Ms. Bove danced professionally with Atlantic City Ballet, Colorado Ballet and the Cleveland Ballet, where she performed as Soloist and Principal dancer. During her professional career, Janina traveled the country as a guest dance and teacher. Following her move back to California in 1985, Ms. Bove was Co-Director of her own company and academy where she was choreographer-in-residence for six years. Upon an offer from Glenn White, Ms. Bove moved to Hampton Roads where she served as Academy Director and rehearsal assistant for VBT’s professional company for 17 years. During this time, she was a faculty member of the Virginia Governor’s School for the Arts for 13 years. In recognition of her talents, Ms. Bove was awarded a Presidential Citation from the Governor’s School for Visual and Performing Arts at the University of Richmond. In the Spring of 2008, Janina set out on a journey with Suzanne Lownsbury Long to create Ballet Virginia International with the support of many dedicated and talented community leaders. Janina is now Co Director of BVI where she continues to train dancers, choreograph classical and neo classical works, coach dancers for the Youth American Grand Prix and has co choreographed Alice in Wonderland, The Nutcracker, Twelve Dancing Princesses, Peter and the Wolf and Sleeping Beauty.
Ms. Lownsbury began her training with the Toledo Ballet and Charlotte Regional Ballet, continuing her studies in Tidewater Ballet Association’s residency program under the direction of Gene Hammett. During her residency, she earned a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City. Suzanne embarked on her professional dance career with Cleveland Ballet as a trainee, progressing to soloist and principal roles within a year. For the next 11 years, she dance professionally for the Cleveland/San Jose Ballet. Her many featured roles included Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Maria and Tzarina in Dennis Nahat’s renowned Nutcracker, Swanilda in Coppelia, the title role in Giselle and many neo-classical roles. She has toured throughout the United States and Europe including a tour to the Edinburgh Festival. Suzanne moved back to Hampton Roads in 1994 and joined Virginia Ballet Theatre, dancing such roles as the Greedy One in Three Virgins and a Devil, as well as Lucy in the world premiere of Dracula. She also joined the VBT Academy faculty, becoming Assistant Director in 2000. Her teaching credits include School of Cleveland Ballet, Cleveland City Dance, Evelyn Ott School of Dance, and Virginia Governor’s School for the Arts. Suzanne has also taught and judged dance competitions throughout the United States. She has set many ballets and her choreography includes: , Cinderella, Coppelia, Danse de la Sprit, In the Light of the Sun, Spring Symphony, Summer Symphony several Classical and neo classical works. Suzanne co-choreographed Alice in Wonderland, The Nutcracker, Twelve Dancing Princesses, Peter and the Wolf, Sleeping Beauty. In the spring of 2008, Suzanne set out on a journey with Janina Michalski Bove to create Ballet Virginia International with the support of many devoted and dedicated parents. She is proud to be the director of BVI along with Janina, and is looking forward to many successful years with the academy and company seasons. She is thrilled to have the company joining SERBA, (South Eastern Regional Ballet Association) and is excited about the opportunity SERBA will bring to Ballet Virginia International. Suzanne is also extremely proud of her daughter, Jacquelyn Long, who is an alumni of BVI and is a member of Houston Ballet Company. Jacquelyn is also featured in the 2013 October/November issue of Pointe Magazine’s, “Dancer Spotlight.”
Ms. Lisa began her dance training at age four. In her local dance school, she was exposed to ballet, jazz and tap. At age twelve she began her professional training at the Washington School of Ballet. Summer intensives at Richmond Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet and Joffrey Ballet rounded out training. After high school, Ms. McCarty attended Point Park College for freshman year. She then went on to dance with Richmond Ballet and Nevada Dance Theatre. Ms. McCarty danced in classics such as Giselle, Swan Lake. Les Sylphides and The Nutcracker as well as many contemporary works. When Ms. Lisa moved to Las Vegas, she found a real love for commercial jazz. For ten years she performed in various Las Vegas casino shows including The Aladdin and Flamingo Hilton as well as tours to Italy, Japan, Mexico and Korea. Travelling the world became a high priority so she became a dancer with the Cunard Cruise Lines and did a 7 month world cruise. While performing in Las Vegas shows at night, Ms. Lisa attended classes and University of Nevada, Las Vegas and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration. Throughout her professional dance career, Ms. Lisa found time to share her love of dance with the next generation through teaching. She has taught in Richmond, Las Vegas, Northern Virginia and many studios in Hampton Roads. Ms. Lisa moved back to Virginia in 1998. She taught jazz and ballet at Virginia Ballet Theatre among other local studios. In 2008 she became BVI’s Children’s Program Director and Marketing Director. She lives in the Larchmont area of Norfolk with her husband and two boys. She continues to teach ballet, jazz and tap to the newest generation of dancers while also overseeing the Children’s Program and marketing/public relations efforts of Ballet Virginia International.
Ms. Lydia began her training under the direction of Thaddeus Hayes in Norfolk, Virginia. She briefly trained with ODU Ballet and Tidewater Ballet. She began her professional training with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center with a full scholarship. Ms. Lydia was invited to become a member of the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble; Ailey’s junior company where she danced for three years. She then went on to perform with the Jamison Project under the direction of Judith Jamison for one year. Ms. Lydia was also invited by Judith Jamison to dance with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She toured internationally as a principal dancer with the AAADT for seven years. Her credits include leading roles in Pas De Duke, Night Creature, Fix Me Jesus from Alvin Ailey’s signature piece Revelations, Suite Otis and many others. With her partner Desmond Richardson, Lydia traveled abroad to perform Pas De Duke (a ballet created for Mikhail Baryshnikov and Judith Jamison choreographed by Alvin Ailey) for various guest performances. After retiring from AAADT, Ms. Lydia taught ballet, modern and jazz at the Russell School of Ballet (home of the Fairfax Ballet in Fairfax, Virginia). She was on faculty with Virginia Ballet Theatre for three years where the enrollment in Modern classes tripled under her direction. She also choreographed pieces for VBT II and Virginia Ballet Theatre. Ms. Roberts Coco toured with Athletes for Kids as a faculty member reaching out to inner city youth through dance. Currently, Ms. Lydia teaches modern and ballet at BVI. She also directs community outreach programs such as Nut-to-Go which visits Norfolk Public Schools to introduce classical ballet. She resides in Chesapeake with her husband and three girls.
Ms. Pat grew up in Southern California and graduated from Hollywood Professional School. She studied dance with Theodore Kosloff and Madame Baldina who was the original Waltz Girl in Fokine’s Les Sylphides. As a young adult, Ms. Pat danced with the Gollner-Petroff Ballet under Nana Gollner and Paul Petroff. She has also appeared in movies, television, and toured in musical theatre productions such as Annie Get YourGun and in Olsen and Johnson’s Oh What a Night. Ms. Pat moved to the East Coast and danced with the Washington and National Ballet. In 1974 she joined the faculty of Tidewater Ballet, which became the Virginia Ballet Theatre. Ms. Pat has also been the Assistant to the Director of the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet summer program since its inception in 1975. Her teaching credits include Allegheny Ballet, Arlington Dance Workshop, Parou Ballet, Tidewater Ballet and others. Ms. Sorrell has staged many classics such as Giselle and Swan Lake. Her original works have been performed at the Northeast Regional’s. Ms. Sorrell directed Ballet Tidewater, a performing company with Young Audiences of Virginia for several years. She directs First Pointe Players; a junior training company for Ballet Virginia International and is a sought after guest teacher nationwide.
Mr. Cornelius began his dance training in his hometown of Williamsburg with Chamber Ballet. His professional credits include Virginia Ballet Theatre, Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Tampa, The American Music Theatre in Lancaster. Currently he performs with Elbert Watson Dance Company and Ballet Virginia International. He has performed many roles including the Cobbler in Twelve Dancing Princesses the Prince and Cavalier and Russian in The Nutcracker. He has performed various soloists roles with BVI. Currently, Mr. Cornelius teaches ballet, partnering, jazz, tumbling for dancers and men’s class at BVI.
Mr. Potter began his classical ballet training at Tidewater Ballet School under the direction of Glenn White. After attending the Governor’s School for the Arts, he went on to study as a scholarship student at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. Upon graduation, Shomaree was accepted as a scholarship student at the School of American Ballet. Since then he has danced professionally with several ballet companies and is pleased to be on faculty at BVI.
Originally from Williamsburg, Ms. Helen began her training at age three with the Chamber Ballet. She later trained at the Eastern Virginia School for the Performing Arts. She spent several summers studying at the Joffrey Ballet in New York City and was chosen to participate in programs at the Virginia School of the Arts, North Carolina Dance Theatre and The Dance Theatre of Williamsburg which was her first professional appearance. In 2003, Ms. Helen joined the Virginia Ballet Theatre Company where she danced in roles such as Waltz Girl in Balanchine’s Serenade, Dream Clara in The Nutcracker and both the Firebird and the Princess of Immortal Beauty in Firebird. Further pieces in her repertoire include Rachmaninoff Divertissements, Lew Christensen’s Con Amore, Coppelia, Cinderella, and The Twelve Dancing Princesses. For many years Ms. Helen graced the stage as BVI’s resident ballerina, performing roles such as Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Alice in Wonderland and Dream Clara in The Nutcracker.
Miss Kim started her dance training at the age of three. She continued to train in local dance studios and at The Canton Ballet in Ohio. Miss Kim went on to receive her Bachelor of Arts in Dance and Masters in Arts Administration from the University of Akron and was an adjunct faculty member teaching tap and jazz classes there since 2001. Collectively, Miss Kim has been teaching for 30 years to students ages 3 to adult. She has taught classes in jazz, tap, ballet, pointe, lyrical, musical theatre, stretch and flexibility and tumbling.
Ms. Kim was also an instructor at the Dance Institute, a pre-professional dance program at the University of Akron. She was the Artistic Director and manager of a dance studio and a non-profit children’s community theatre for five years, where she directed her own shows. Many of her former students have gone on to become professional dancers.
She has been the assistant coach and choreographer for the University of Akron Dance Team and the assistant director/choreographer for the University of Akron’s musical, Dames at Sea. Miss Kim also choreographed for the University of Akron Dance Company and was on the faculty for the American College Dance Festival Association.
Ms. Allie graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in Nutritional Sciences. While at Penn State, she was a member of the Penn State Lionettes Dance Team and performed at home football and basketball games as well as competing in the National Dance Association Collegiate Dance Team finals each year. She started her dance training at a young age in Stafford, Virginia and also at the Royal Academy of Dance while her family was stationed in Germany. Upon graduating from Penn State, Ms. Allie taught in Pensacola, FL at LaBelle Performing Arts Academy and when she moved to Norfolk in 2008 began teaching dance part-time while also working as an elementary school teacher. She enjoys sharing her passion for dance with the youngest generation of dancers. She currently lives in Norfolk with her two young daughters and Navy husband.
Ms. Lorraine comes to BVI via a long and impressive dance career both as a performer and teacher. She was a Principal Dancer with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Prior to that, she graduated from Indiana University in three years. Ms. Lorraine is on permanent guest faculty with the Dance Theatre of Harlem, The Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre and the Virginia School of the Arts.
Elbert Watson is a former principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. He also danced as a principal dancer with The State Opera Ballet Company of Kassel, Germany, the Pearl Primus Earth Theater and the Joan Miller Dance Players. He was the former artistic director of the Nanette Bearden Chamber Ballet Company in Manhattan. He has also taught and choreographed in schools and universities throughout the United States, Europe and the Caribbean. He is the former Ballet master for the Virginia Ballet theater. He has done collaborative projects with the Chrysler Museum (Rodin exhibit, the Murano glass exhibit and the Barbara Morgan photo exhibit about Martha Graham). He has done collaborative work with the Virginia Symphony as choreographer for the “Heroes and Human Rights Series”. He is currently the Dance master at the Norfolk Academy where he teaches grades 2-12 ballet, jazz, creative class projects, musical theater, pointe, and stretch and strengthen classes for the faculty. His latest collaboration will take him to Seattle Washington to work with international sculptor, Tim Mark, “Movement as response to Marble.” He will be traveling to Christchurch, New Zealand and to Melbourne ,Australia to perform, choreograph and teach, expanding the fusion of this theme. He was named teacher of the year in 1997 by the upper school student council. He was named teacher of the year in 2007 by the lower school and in 2011 he received the teacher of the year prize in the middle school. In the spring of this year the Chrysler museum asked Mr. Watson to choreograph a dance response for the Daniel Rozin interactive exhibit. He is currently a member of The Commission of Arts and Humanities for the city of Norfolk and he also serves as a master teacher for the Ballet Virginia International and for the city of Norfolk Dance Program. He is the founder of the Tidewater Dance Collective and The Elbert Watson Dance Company.
Mr. Munoz is in his 10th season as principal teacher of Orlando Ballet School; he began his studies at the National conservatory of dance of Lyon France , then went to the international ballet School of Rosella Hightower in Cannes, a laureate of Prix de Lausanne , he has performed internationally all the leading roles of the classical repertoire, a former Principal of The English National Ballet, Cleveland Ballet, Northern ballet theater, principal guest artist with Teatro Alla Scala, Tokyo ballet , The Bolshoi, Ballet Philippines, Ballet Nuevo Mundo . He is a certified professor of dance from the French ministry of culture in France, and also has received an ABT affiliate teacher award certified in all levels of the ABT Curriculum. He has served and still does on occasions on the panel on the National Foundation for the Advancements in the arts, selection committee for grants for the dance Department. Mr. Munoz was also involved with several movies, Blue Suede Shoes for PBS 1998, Drew Carey Show in 1997, Love in 4 act for PBS in 1995. He has choreographed for Cleveland Ballet, Orlando Ballet School, And Geoffrey Been fashion shows. Mr Munoz has been coaching for YAGP since 2016, He has been awarded Best teacher several times, he is a renowned International Guest Master Teacher. Many of his students are performing in professional companies all over the world.
Grace Atkinson has been directing, teaching and writing for children’s theater for over 30 years. Ms. Grace majored in Theater Arts at Stephens College and became a professional actress on stage and in television. After marrying, she began to work in children’s theater. She has taught and directed in Toledo, Charlotte and Rochester. When she returned to her hometown of Virginia Beach, she founded the first children’s theater group, “Theater for Kids and Teens” which she ran for many years. Currently, Ms. Grace works with BVI during our summer workshops and intensive along with guest teaching and advising throughout the year. She also an active member of BVI’s Board of Directors.
Roni Mahler is a former ballerina, trained by the renowned Madame Maria Yurieva Swoboda in her native New York City. She performed principal roles with American Ballet Theatre and the National Ballet of Washington (D.C.), after beginning her career as a teenager with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Ms. Mahler served as the Artistic Associate of Dennis Nahat’s Ballet San Jose in California, where she also performed caractère roles. Her New York City teaching credits include The Alvin Ailey School, Ballet Academy East, Ballet Tech,The Joffrey School and Juilliard.
Ms. Mahler’s extensive repertoire has included Myrta, Queen of the Wilis, in Giselle; Swanilda in Coppelia, Odette/Odile in the full-length Swan Lake, the Flower Girl in Gaite Parisienne, the Female Matchmaker in Les Noces, the Elder Sister in Pillar of Fire, Emilia in The Moor’s Pavane and, more recently, The Countess in District Storyville. Juliet’s Nurse and Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet and Her Stepmother in Fall River Legend. She has also danced leads in Les Sylphides,Raymonda, The Four Temperaments and Serenade.
Following appearances as a guest artist with Australia’s Sydney Festival Ballet and at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Roni Mahler spent six years as director of Dance at Kansas State University (1974-1980.) She initiated their Dance degree program, co-founded and co-directed the KSU Dance Workshop, received an Outstanding Teaching Award in 1975 and was selected as an Outstanding Young Woman of America for the year 1978. She is the creator of a series of educational recordings and manuals devoted to ballet technique, as well as a program entitled “Ballet Movement For the Athlete” which she eventually customized for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League.
In 1988, Ms. Mahler choreographed for Cynthia Gregory and Fernando Bujones at New York’s City Center. She subsequently served as Artistic Advisor for Ms. Gregory and Company during their 1992 Taiwan tour.
Roni Mahler is the recipient of the 2003 President’s Award from the Dance Masters of America, the 1992 the Dance Educators of America Award and the 1994 Artistic Achievement Award from the Chicago National Association of Dance Masters.
Ms. Mahler is the creator of three ballet instruction videos: “How To Improve Your Ballet Technique,” “How To Improve Your Pirouettes” and “How To Improve Your Pointe Technique.” Her fitness video entitled “Stretch It!” improves flexibility and range of motion.
Since 1993, Roni Mahler has been an annual instructor at the acclaimed Rancho La Puerta Spa in Tecate, Mexico, where she is the guest presenter each year for its Ballet Weeks. She also taught ballet for Syracuse University’s Tepper Semester in New York City and continues to offer master classes and seminars in this country and abroad.
BVI is honored to have Ms. Mahler as a guest teacher since 2008.