Megan Lowe Dances
An evening of dynamic partnering featuring Megan Lowe and Brenton Cheng that uses physical puzzles to explore relationship, geometry, and their shared Chinese heritage.
December 9th-12th, 2021
Thursday/Sunday at 7pm,
Friday/Saturday at 8pm,
+ Saturday matinee at 5pm
The Joe Goode Annex
401 Alabama Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Photo by: RJ Muna
Megan Lowe Dances presents Tangram, an evening of dynamic partnering featuring Megan Lowe and Brenton Cheng that uses physical puzzles to explore relationship, geometry, and their shared Chinese heritage. Propelled by momentum, Brenton and Megan lift and are lifted by each other in ever-changing roles of mover and moved, pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Tangram performances have grown from the seeds of Finger Trap and Maw Jaw and continue the mission of deepening roots to heritage, deconstructing familiar tropes, and offering the fruits of those efforts back as thought-provoking dance performance.
To start off the evening, MLD will be sharing our film Maw Jaw created in partnership with Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center, which was presented as part of the 24th annual United States of Asian America Festival in free outdoor events at Portsmouth Square and Kapwa Gardens, May/June, 2021. Maw Jaw rehearsals occurred outside in public spaces—activating benches, railings, poles, stairs, and play structures around San Francisco Chinatown—inviting passersby to witness and be a part of the creative process, enhancing cross-generational community engagement, and inspiring interest in dance as a tool to engage with the environment/people around us.
In a time with particularly strong anti-Asian sentiment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making work that contributes to the visibility of Asian American artists feels especially urgent.
Artistic Direction by:
Choreography & Performance by:
Megan Lowe & Brenton Cheng
Megan Lowe, Brenton Cheng, Andrea Wang, Zachary Abelson (recorded/produced by: Joshua Abelson & featuring Austin Chiang on bass), & The Shanghai Restoration Project
Lighting Design & Sound Tech by:
Lighting Tech by:
Videos for Projection by:
Pre-show Slideshow: featuring Megan's Grandmother Mildred (Mee Heung Fong) Lowe, and Brenton's Grandmothers Mary Ng and Patricia Cheng
Mid-show Video: "Polygon shapes abstract background” by Vecteezy
End-show Video: "Finger Trap" filmed by Chani Bockwinkel
Megan Lowe is a fierce female dancer, choreographer, performer, singer-songwriter, dance filmmaker, teacher, and administrator, with Chinese and Irish ancestry woven into the fabric of her being. She has an affinity for dynamic/kinetic movement, site-specificity/space-interaction, and contact improvisation/partnering—always searching for something or someone to interact with. Megan has performed with many esteemed SF Bay Area dance companies such as Flyaway Productions, Dance Brigade, Lenora Lee Dance, Scott Wells & Dancers, Lizz Roman & Dancers, and Epiphany Productions, and has been honored to be included in numerous Izzie Award nominations over the years. She teaches for Joe Goode Performance Group, Bandaloop, and Flyaway, as well as for schools and youth programs, contact improvisation gatherings, and her alma mater Theater, Dance, & Performance Studies at UC Berkeley, where she currently works as the Office Manager. Art is her heart!
Photo by: RJ Muna
Brenton Cheng is a movement explorer who has performed with many internationally-acclaimed and local heroes such as Contraband, Zaccho Dance Theater, Angus Balbernie, Epiphany Productions, Flyaway Productions, and many others, at such places as Jacob's Pillow, Bates Dance Festival, and the Avignon Festival in France. He teaches Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analysis, contact improvisation, and somatically-based performance skills to professional and non-professional movers in classes and workshops around the world. Brenton is a core faculty of Integrated Movement Studies and an adjunct professor at University of San Francisco. When not focused on movement, he supports efforts at the Internet Archive to provide universal access to the world’s knowledge.
Photo by: RJ Muna
Andrea Wang is a Chinese American musician, songwriter, and nonprofit brand strategist—a storyteller by trade. She currently works as a marketer for the de Young and Legion of Honor museums. A vocalist and pianist, Andrea has been a multi-genre performer for most of her life. She plays with the band Girl Swallows Nightingale and can be heard on their debut album, Shapeshifter.
Photo by: Jennifer Siu
Zachary Abelson is a half Chinese, half white musician originally from Cerritos, an asian immigrant town on the outskirts of LA county. He grew up playing jazz saxophone and enjoys jamming with other artists from all types of backgrounds. He spends his time with his loved ones and pondering life—always grateful for the opportunity to create and share.
Photo by: Lana Vasiljevic
Megan Lowe Dances (MLD) creates stimulating perspective shifting performances that give viewers alternative ways of experiencing dance and the environment around them—opening up the imagination to what is possible. With an affinity for dynamic places and partners, MLD demonstrates the "intensely-physical, curiously-playful, delightfully-weighty rigor of physicality” (Molly Rose-Williams for Life as a Modern Dancer). The dancers climb, fall, and fold into and out of floors, walls, windows, stairs, ledges, and bodies, testing the laws of physics. The resulting work features proficient movement generation, risk-taking, tackling unusual physical situations and coming up with compelling solutions.
Founded under the Artistic Direction of Megan Lowe in 2013, MLD creates works presented both live and on film, and their dances have been seen at Dance Mission Theater, Athletic Playground, Grace Cathedral, Finnish Hall, Animate Dance Festival, Red Poppy Art House, California Memorial Stadium Club, Community Music Center, Subterranean Arthouse, and SAFEhouse Arts, as well as in Upswell: For Changemakers Who Demand More, RAWdance's CONCEPT Series, Rouge Dancer's FilmFest, Detour Dance's Tiny Dance Film Festival, San Souci Festival of Dance Cinema, and more. MLD's 2019 production of Action Potential—a site-specific dance and live music adventure, where performers climbed, lifted, assisted, jumped, and flew in celebration of movement, trust, strength, resilience, and the ability to take action—was nominated for an Isadora Duncan Dance Award. MLD was selected for co-production by Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center to create Maw Jaw—a free outdoor site-specific dance journey for the San Francisco Chinatown community—that was presented in the 24th annual United States of Asian America Festival, May/June 2021.
As a fierce female choreographer of Chinese descent, Megan creates dances that display the strength and versatility of female physicality and artistry, while contributing to the visibility of organizations led by artists of color. Her process thrives off of collaboration, prioritizing creating relationships of respect, generosity, and gratitude—facilitating a tightly-knit group to insure a flourishing process that is palpable for the viewer in the product of performance. The world is a cascading puzzle, and the movers of Megan Lowe Dances are pieces that are constantly seeking new ways to fit with the elements around them.
“Expedition Voronya” by Shanghai Restoration Project
“Remembering Things” by Megan Lowe
Notes from Megan: "After my grandmother Mildred (Mee Heung Fong) Lowe’s passing, I visited her home, and my attention was pulled towards her bookshelf. I selected Amy Tan's The Hundred Secret Senses, and found a bookmark inside; it was one I had made for her when I was a child. While reading the book, I noticed that my grandmother underlined three sentences. I feel like she left a message for me, and that message became the lyrics of this song."
“Breath (Intro)” by Brenton Cheng
"Long Day" by Andrea Wang & Megan Lowe
Notes from Andrea: "Long Day” is a song with four distinct sections that blossomed from a precious seed of music Megan sent to me. The piece starts with a conversation between left and right hand on piano. These characters probably aren't getting through to each other, but they're trying. Next, a house-inspired section with crunchy background vocals to support Megan's melody. Then comes a part in 7/4 (playing off of a tangram puzzle's seven pieces) that evokes a moving train, inspired by the stories of Chinese immigrants who worked on the Transcontinental Railroad. Finally, we return to solo piano. Often in my writing process I end up composing a handful of vignettes that feel quite divergent. Yet later it always becomes clear how they should get stitched together."
“Breath” by Brenton Cheng
"Library Breakin'" by The Shanghai Restoration Project
"May You" by Zachary Abelson (pianist), Joshua Abeslon (productionist), Austin Chiang (bassist), & Megan Lowe (vocals)
Notes from Zach: "For a while, this piece didn’t really have a title. This wasn’t done on purpose, just kind of ended up that way. Over time, it has naturally taken the name of the greater collaboration. As a mixed person, I relate to that in a way that both startles and humors me. The piece was created by three mixed Asian kids—not kids in age, but more in the spirit of—a bassist, pianist, and productionist exploring our identities and reflecting on our strangely similar memories (some of us had never met before). This was the soundscape to our conversation. The piece values gentle acceptance in the journey of introspection."
"Things Remembering" by Megan Lowe
“Liebestraum mit Züge” by Brenton Cheng
Notes from Brenton: "The piano music, Liszt’s Liebestraum No. 3, is played by my grandmother Patricia Cheng, secretly recorded as she whiled away the time, waiting for my uncle, an architect, to finish his meeting with a homeowner. She was born in 1915 in Beijing, China, a member of royalty, and passed away in 2015, just after her 100th birthday. New sounds were generated from this recording and from Megan’s song using a "granular synthesizer."
“Tropical Spice Garden” by Shanghai Restoration Project
After the show, if you are curious to see transcripts of the lyrics sung and text spoken during Tangram, click the button below. We would recommend doing this post show, vs. before/during the show.
Harry Rubeck, Saoirse-Naomie Weaver, and Dance Mission Theater: for immense support in bringing all of our lighting dreams to life, and providing the equipment, time, energy, and genius to do so. This was a huge undertaking, and there is so much gratitude for all of you!
Joe Goode Annex: for providing us with a space for this dance to live, and for navigating this challenging time of producing live performance with us.
Scott Wells & Dancers: for commissioning Finger Trap, the original seed of Tangram.
Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center: for co-presenting Maw Jaw, the second stage of the Tangram project.
Berkeley Finnish Hall: for the space, equipment, and generosity to experiment with some movement and lighting ideas.
Tangram Supporters (for generous assistance in various meaningful ways): Peter Agbo, Jessie Barber, Marit Brook-Kothlow, Laurie Brooks, John Carnahan, Elaine Dailo, Kelly Del Rosario, Mike & Susan Dier, Paul Dier, Christine Germain, Bruce Ghent, Sonsherée Giles & Mark Guthre, Philip Gotanda, James Graham, Rosemary Hannon, Keith Hennessy, Jo Kreiter, Johnny Huy Nguyen, Lenora Lee, Wanda Lee, Wayne Tai Lee, Melissa Lewis, Catherine Liu, Doug Lowe, Del Medoff, RJ Muna, Sarah Noddings, Zachary Pine, Molly Rose-Williams, Charles Slender, Lisa Wymore, Miriam & Andy Wolodarski-Lundberg, Shira Yaziv, Mindy Zarem, as well as Athletic Playground, AXIS Dance Company, Dance Mission Theater, Gregangelo Museum, Kristin Damrow Company, KULARTS, Lenora Lee Dance, and Theater, Dance, & Performance Studies at UC Berkeley.
Megan Lowe Dances is fiscally sponsored by Dancers’ Group, and the Tangram project is honored to be supported by Kenneth Rainin Foundation NEW Program, Dancers' Group's CA$H Dance, FACT/SF Production Support Grant, and generous individual donors.