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Ballet Virginia was established as a collaborative effort of dedicated, passionate, and talented artists led by Janina Michalski 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. 

Janina Michalski – Director/Resident Choreographer 

Instructor:  Ballet, Pointe, Variations, Partnering, Jazz, Acting 

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. Janina 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. Janina was awarded scholarships to the Craft of Choreography Conferences sponsored Regional Dance America.

Ms. Janina 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 dancer and teacher. Following her move back to California in 1985, she was Co-Director of her own company and academy where she was choreographer-in-residence for six years. Upon an offer from Glenn White, she 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. Janina 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 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, Sleeping Beauty, and Coppelia. Janina is actively involved in RDA/SERBA, giving back to the organization that assisted with her dance and choreographic training.

Suzanne Lownsbury – Director/Resident Choreographer 

Instructor:  Ballet, Pointe, Variations 

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 danced 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: Coppelia, Danse de la Sprit, In the Light of the Sun, Spring Symphony, Summer Symphony, an- several Classical and neo-Classical works. Suzanne co- choreographed Alice in Wonderland, The Nutcracker, Twelve Dancing Princesses, Peter and the Wolf, and Sleeping Beauty.

In the spring of 2008, Suzanne set out on a journey with Janina Michalski to create Ballet Virginia  with the support of many devoted and dedicated parents. She is proud to be the director of BV along with Janina, and is looking forward to many successful years with the academy and company seasons. She is thrilled the Company has joined SERBA and is excited about the opportunity SERBA will bring to BV. Suzanne is also extremely proud of her daughter, Jacquelyn Long, who is an alumna of BV and a soloist with Houston Ballet.

Lisa McCarty – Children’s Program Director/Marketing Director 

Instructor: Ballet, Pointe, Repertoire, Jazz, Tap

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 her 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 seven-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 BV’s Children’s Program Director and Marketing Director. She lives in the Riverview area of Norfolk with her husband and two sons. She continues to teach dance to the newest generation of dancers while also overseeing the Children’s Program and marketing/public relations efforts of Ballet Virginia.

Lydia Roberts-Coco – Resident Choreographer 

Instructor:  Modern, Ballet, Pointe 

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 BV as well as choreographing for the professional company and academy dancers. 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 three girls.

Patricia Sorrell – First Point Players Director/BV Artistic Advisor 

Instructor:  Ballet, Pointe, Character 

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 Your Gun and in Olsen and Johnson’s Oh What a Night. Ms. Pat moved to the East Coast and danced with the National Ballet and Washington.

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 BV, and is a sought after guest teacher nationwide.

See our Faculty web page for the most current information. 

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