Finding Light Through Fire

October 22, 2014

by Guest Blogger

Flamenco art by Libby Ramage

Flamenco art by Libby Ramage

My fall Anne Reeves Artist-in-Residency at the Arts Council of Princeton was a culmination of many years devoted to dance, music and art. How fitting was it to all come together in a sold-out performance last Saturday! It was pure luxury to spend several months planning and rehearsing both at the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts and the ACP’s Kristina Johnson “Pop Up” Studio at the Princeton Shopping Center in collaboration with a visionary visual artist, Libby Ramage, as well as six wonderful musicians and 25 dancers of all ages and backgrounds. Please click here for a full description of my residency.

Finding Light Through Fire sold out performance on October 18, 2014

Finding Light Through Fire sold out performance on October 18, 2014


My own passion for the art of flamenco guided me on an exploration of the two sides of passion through the metaphor of fire (with the two sides of passion being nurturer and destroyer). In order to choose what to dance, it was important for me to select flamenco and flamenco-inspired music and songs whose poetic lyrics reflected the universal themes of passion, oppression and hope. Flamenco song lyrics are like haikus, filled with wisdom and observations about love, life and death. My desire for the world to find hope and peace through our passions instead of hate and destruction is reflected in the music, songs and dances I chose to include.

ACP Open House performance

ACP Open House performance

The residency also gave me the opportunity to share flamenco with the community through workshops and a forum where dancers of all levels, ages and backgrounds shared why they pursue the art of flamenco in the USA through spoken word and solo dance performances. The packed audience at the Arts Council’s Open House on Saturday, September 14 was fascinated to hear and see why so many people are pursuing flamenco worldwide today.

Thank you ACP, for the Anne Reeves Artists-in-Residence program, and for this incredible experience!

Lisa Botalico

13 Responses to Finding Light Through Fire

  1. Nadia Khan

    Seeing Lisa’s vision for the choreography come to life in this residency was a truly amazing experience. She had a very clear idea of what messages and emotions she wanted to convey and effectively used a wonderful blend of dance, song, visual art, and music to transport the audience into her world.

    The projections of Libby’s artwork plus her incredibly impressive live paintings were remarkable. I found myself mesmerized while watching her paint. She does so with such ease but then within a matter of seconds an awe-inspiring painting begins to emerge before your eyes.

    Being a part of this process was a rewarding and humbling experience and I am grateful for it.

  2. Leanne Alexandrini

    Thank you to Lisa and Libby for merging various forms of art into one creative vision. You invited us in to a story about strength and determination and offered us a unique opportunity to be the moving actors who expressed your message with you.
    Leading up to the performance, we were each learning and growing into the choreography. On stage, we were transformed. No longer could we see the beginning or the end of the seperate messages, we were emersed in the music and surrounding voices and emerging visual art. They melded around us. We became the story.

  3. Janette Bhaskar

    Anyone lucky enough to attend this show witnessed something truly amazing – an inspired artistic vision that blended flamenco, classical music and stunning artworks into a triumphant performing arts experience. The underlying message was one of human creativity and passion directed as a force for unity and peace, and to accomplish this Lisa Bottalico assembled a diverse group of dancers and musicians of all ages and backgrounds. Her sheer skill and artistry, along with Libby Ramage’s luminous, original artworks, combined to create something vibrant and original that left a lasting impression.
    Thanks to ACP for enabling this a to happen, and thanks to Lisa and Libby for sharing their formidable talent with us!

  4. Sharron Bolen

    It was wonderful to be a part of such an extraordinary artistic event. Lisa had such a cohesive and passionate vision for what she wanted to accomplish which she communicated very clearly to all who were lucky enough to participate in her vision. To coordinate so many different aspects – flamenco guitarists and singers, classical musicians – pianist and cello; flamenco and Middle-Eastern dancers not to mention her very young students into such a complete work of art was truly amazing . Added to this was a unifying elements of slide presentation spoken dialogue and of course Libby’s performance painting. Then there is Lisa herself – the beauty and intensity of her dancing. is breathtaking. And as a teacher,she is unsurpassed.
    I feel honored to have been a part of such an original concept and to have danced her beautiful choreography.. Thank you Lisa.!

  5. Alena Docena

    The residency was a true testament to Lisa Botalico’s creative vision pushing the boundaries. In an hour during the final show of her residency “Finding Light Through Fire”, at an unconventional stage yet intimate space of the Solley Theatre, a story of deep sorrow, longing, defiance and hope was unfolding thru poetry, classical Spanish and flamenco music as interpreted by the dancers of all ages and different backgrounds and at the same time a visual art was taking place.

    As I understood the concept of the show, flamenco cante jondo, García Lorca’s words and de Falla’s music reverberated while I was in the stairwell waiting for my turn to be onstage. The lament of the Martinete on Libby’s drawing. The mournful rendition of Asturianas after the defiant sounds of feet and rocks while the pine tree was weeping was haunting. The Anda Jaleo sounded like a revolt about to breakout. Yet, amid the sadness and war, the conclusion of the show with a beautiful message of peace brought by the innocence of a child was profound and heartwarming. What a brilliant way to end a show!

    Lisa, thank you for sharing your vision and for inspiring us. I feel fortunate to be part of this residency. Thank you, ACP for this residency.


    recientemente he participado en un evento de baile flamenco en la escuela de arte, fue una experiencia maravillosa , yo tomo clases por mas de 10 anos con lisa botalico, mis primeras clases fueron en la escuela de arte y estoy muy orgullosa de poder participar nuevamente y ser parte del grupo de baile que dirije lisa.lisa es una maesta extraordinaria dedicada a ensenarnos lo mejor en el arte del baile flamenco, siempre creando nuevas coreografias en este evento lisa convino el arte la musica el canto el baile mezclo lo tradicional con lo moderno fue una obra de arte las creaciones de liby en la pintura ojala se repitiera este y otros eventos mas. gracias a la escuela de arte por darnos esta oportunidad de expresar el arte del baile flamenco…atte…..ana maria

  7. Nancy Hill

    Lisa Botalico is an artist with strength and vision. Flamenco is an art form that is tragic yet defiant. Bring these elements together and you can understand the intensity and breadth of Lisa’s work. She gives all of us an authentic experience with the technique and meaning of flamenco. And she draws to herself and community of people, young and old, who are committed to growing in the light of her creative spirit. Often, it is enough for me to just be in class or rehearsal and observe, because Lisa’s work gives me so much to take in, to think about. Every piece of choreography she makes tells a story. Her singing goes right to my heart. We are so fortunate to have her in our community. She is a treasure to be prized by ACP.

  8. Grace Sunga Asagra Stanley

    This residency is the best experience I’ve ever had studying with Lisa for a little over 10 years now. It was more than flamenco dancing. It was flamenco way of telling a story. It was a flamenco way of saying: We have a voice. We can make a difference. We are making a difference. We co-create the changes we want. Look. Listen. Feel. Imagine. Do something. Do nothing. Paint. Dance. Sing. Play. Be mindful. Have fun. Enjoy. All ages are welcome. Diversity is welcome.

    The interplay of the songs, the dances, the lightings, the live paintings, the video paintings, the piano, the guitar, the rocks, the feet, the hands, the heads and more …for creative expression was profound.

    The experience was tedious that required dedication and trust in the process. The “space” that the leadership and creativity of Lisa and Libby provided unveiled everyone’s potential to be the best that they can be in that moment. I am even inspired to draw (ha-ha-ha) Working with the young ones brought joy and inspiration in my heart. Thanks to pure innocence and energy. To everyone, you were all looking gorgeous. Keep on dancing. You never know whom you inspire.

    It is truly a performance art. It is a show worth performing in other theatres. Thanks again Lisa, Libby, and co-artists. Thanks Arts Council.

    • Tessa Sherman

      The recent Anne Reeves Artist-in-Residency at the Arts Council by Lisa Botalico was a total art experience.

      The final production pushed the creative envelope of traditional Flamenco in many ways. To name a few of the most notable:
      Classical styled musicians were brought together in performance with traditional Flamenco styled singing and guitar; different dance forms were seen in brilliant juxtaposition; the sound of stones instead of castanets was used to make the traditional rhythms of Flamenco heart stopping!; and two dimensional art, which is normally thought to be static, was created then magically faded to punctuate the dancers movements.

      The creation and final production of these ideas was a stunning accomplishment! A true testament to the creative sprit of Lisa Botalico and worthy of larger venues!

      I am so fortunate to have been able to be a part of her journey and process! Thank you to the Arts Council and all involved for making this happen.

  9. David Baum

    This residency was a wonderful gift to the community. The project not only presented flamenco but exemplified its spirit by involving the participants in the artistic creation at all levels–from the choreography planning to the boldly graceful ephemeral drawings created throughout the culminating show. Besides the various dimensions of passion at the thematic center of the Finding Light through Fire performance, the months of activities helped participants also explore the very art of creating art. This process embodied the tradition of cultural fusion that has characterized flamenco as such a vital art form for so long. Thank you, ACP and sponsors and thank you especially Lisa and Libby!

  10. Libby Ramage

    I use the human figure quite often in my art work and the past seven years of flamenco study with Lisa has dramatically altered my sense of movement and design. She ” sculpts” the bodies of the dancers in her teaching and choreography that I believe has created a more sensual and dramatic use of the head and torso in my drawings and collages.
    The culmination of this residency on Saturday night was a powerful explosion of passion, commitment, sound, color, and collaboration. The Arts Council has been my creative home since I moved here over 20 years ago and last Saturday I feel I celebrated that home.

    • Lisa Botalico

      My collaboration with Libby inspired me to further explore the themes I had chosen. To paraphrase the great bard, “suit the word to the gesture and the gesture to the word.” In this case it was important for both of us to find the gesture of each painting that best represented the lyrics and meaning of the choreography.

      Libby’s live paintings proved to be their own choreography, expresing the timing of the music and the meaning of the words. It was also important for both of us to have the dancers express themselves as painters. When we first realized in rehearsal that the pine tree would actually “weep” we all got shivers.

      All the dancers shared the collaborative journey too, giving me the ability to try many different approaches to the staging. We worked as a team deciding what message was most important for all of us to convey and deciding how best to accomplish it.

      The task of making all this work in the intimate Solley Theatre was the final challenge. I wanted the audience to feel like they were in a cave, engulfed by the fires of the passion of the dance, music and art. In fact, the audience not only heard our feet on the fantastic wood floor, but they could also feel the vibrations of our feet, adding another layer of texture.

      I had a revelation while I was performing in the open dress rehearsal. The intimacy of the theatre had transformed the performance out of the realm of a concert and into the realm of performance art.

      • Camille Walthall

        Congratulations, Lisa, on an outstanding program, Finding Light through Fire! It was a wonderful blend of dance, music and art. From beginning to end, the evening was impressive!