Artist Spotlight: the ACP talks to Lisa Botalico

September 4, 2020

by Arts Council Marketing Team


For Lisa Botalico, whose life is in constant action mode and revolves around being with people, she was “completely shocked by the shutdown.” With time, she grew used to it and adjusted to a new way of life. 

Quarantined at home with her husband and son, Lisa — who founded the Arts Council’s flamenco program in 1999 and has taught since — spent her days alone in her home studio. She immediately started to choreograph a dance that she had been planning on before the shutdown — a flamenco alegrias, which is upbeat and joyous. 

“But, I soon abandoned it in favor of a solea por bluerias, which deals with feelings of loneliness, mixed with despair. Once I got started working on it, I simply could not stop and would get up in the morning and immediately got to work. It was a very cathartic experience that got me through the worst of the initial isolation. After finishing the choreography, I completed another dance which is less intense, yet more wistful. Since then, I have come full circle, and tackled the happy, alegrias with a sense of hope.”

Lisa choreographing in her garage during the shutdown.

The hardest part of the shutdown for Lisa was not being able to plan ahead. Before everything came to a halt she was dancing, teaching, performing, and rehearsing – seven days a week. She was planning performances, and as Assistant Director of Alborada Spanish Dance Theatre, was looking forward to celebrating the company’s 25th anniversary year of events. However, she does admit the “time off the treadmill has actually been a cherished and rare gift of uninterrupted time to create and contemplate.” 

She also mastered the art of teaching flamenco via Zoom. 

“At first I had no intention to teach virtually. But when I accepted that this was not going to be over soon, I realized that my students and I needed to connect. Thanks to Erin’s [Armington] encouragement we set up the classes and I was delighted to see so many students participating. The amazing thing was having students who moved far away now able to be ‘in’ class. Everyone’s passion for flamenco comes shining through virtually.”  

Lisa and friend Libby, socially-distanced while rehearsing!

Starting September 16, Ms. Botalico will be offering in-person classes for beginners, intermediate, and advanced flamenco students. Classes will be held in the spacious Solley Theater, with social distancing, masks, sanitizing in-between classes, and temperature checks upon entry. 

“I can’t wait to experience the collective energy of the students with this first glimpse of normalcy!”

In-person classes for adults:

In-person classes for youth:

And for those who’d rather learn flamenco from home, Lisa’s newfound virtual expertise will be featured for one more round of online classes beginning September 22.  

Online classes for adults:

Who is your biggest dance inspiration?

“Though I studied with many great flamenco instructors, there is one who continues to inspire and influence me the most: Manolo Rivera. I consider him to be my mentor, infused life into art and art into life with his creative use of imagery and movement through dance and choreography.”

What are some of your fondest flamenco memories?

“For many years flamenco dancers and teachers would converge on the grungiest, rundown four-story building on 8th Avenue and 46th Street which had a dozen studios for rent by the hour. Called Fazil’s, it was run by a Turkish taxi driver and was filled with flamenco and belly dancers seven days a week. Despite peeling paint and no heat, the sounds of castanets, zills (finger cymbals) and pounding feet resounded with creativity and energy. Sadly, the building has been torn down.”

“Spanish dancers often use large silk shawls called mantons as props. Back in the 1980’s the only way to buy one was to go to Spain, but I needed the shawl right away for an important dance. Amazingly, I found one in a flea market in New York City which I bought from a vendor who was from Ireland! When I performed by first Solea, with it, I received a wonderful review from the New York Times. 

Any other thoughts?

“I would like to thank the Arts Council of Princeton for supporting my live (and virtual!) flamenco dance program. Since 1999, the Arts Council has given me this very special opportunity to share flamenco with the public and students of all ages.”

Lisa Botalico is currently Assistant Director/Principal Dancer/Choreographer of Alborada Spanish Dance Theatre; toured the USA as Artistic Director/Principal Dancer of La Compañía Folklorica Latina for the National Theatre of the Performing Arts and shared the stage with flamenco greats including Jose Molina, Maria Alba, Manolo Rivera and Carmen Salao. She is the featured dancer on NJN’s Emmy Award winning program, The Spanish Guitar and her photo appeared in the exhibit 100 Years of Flamenco in NYC at the Library for the Performing Arts Lincoln Center. NJ performances with Alborada include: NJPAC, New Brunswick PAC, Morristown Community Theatre, Crossroads Theatre and George Street Playhouse. Choreography collaborations include: Roxey Ballet’s Carmen, Nrithyanjali Institute of Dance’s Journey through Genre; Outlet Dance Project at Grounds for Sculpture and Europium Dance TheaterIn 1999 she founded the Arts Council of Princeton’s Adult and Children’s Flamenco Dance Programs and was their 2014 Artist in Residence and was also Artist in Residence at Princeton Day School and The Lawrenceville School. She teaches for Princeton Dance and Theater Studio’s conservatory dance program, Union County College Continuing Education Program and formerly Princeton and Rutgers Universities’ recreation programs and has presented flamenco dance labs at Rider University.  With Alboarada she conducts arts in education workshops and assembly programs for Young Audiences of NJ and Morris Arts. In 2019 Lisa was nominated for a Best Choreographer Perry Award by the New Jersey Association of Community Theaters for Zorro, the Musical with PinnWorth Productions at the Kelsey Theater. 


26 Responses to Artist Spotlight: the ACP talks to Lisa Botalico

  1. Debbie Lingel

    Lisa is a phenomenal dancer, choreographer, teacher, and friend. I started taking classes with her four years ago and I feel so lucky to be one of her students! I am a music teacher and Lisa’s classes have inspired me to be a better musician and teacher. I wanted to share flamenco with my students which led to a residency a few years ago where Lisa was a guest artist for my 3rd grade classes. It was so exciting to have Lisa at my school and to be able to dance with her and my students!

    Lisa is such a passionate teacher and performer and her classes always inspire me. I am so grateful to the Arts Council and to Lisa for continuing virtual classes during the pandemic. It is something that gives me hope during these difficult times. Thank you!!!

    • Lisa Botalico

      Thank you for all your support of my classes and performances, Debbie! It was a complete joy sharing flamenco with your school a few years ago. I will always remember how excited the students were sharing what they had learned in the final performance for the entire school and friends and family. It is also such a joy teaching you. As a wonderful singer and musician, you bring a unique perspective to learning flamenco which is so rooted in rhythm and song. I am looking forward to continuing on Zoom classes with you, but am also looking forward to seeing you dancing in person again in the future!

  2. Cathy Carr

    What can I say. Lisa (“La “Chiquita” as named by my Mom) is truly a Flamenco Treasure. Her passion for Flamenco is infectious and is exquisitely demonstrated in her highly innovative and uniquely creative choreography. Lisa is such an inspiration. I feel blessed to not only have her as my teacher,but also as my friend . Thanks to the Arts Council, the zoom classes were certainly a welcome change in this crazy pandemic time to continue to learn the many facets of the Flamenco art form with this Flamenco Gem. Ole’ Lisa.

    • Lisa Botalico

      What can I say to you too, Cathy?
      You have been such a big part of my flamenco journey over the years.! You are always willing to jump into my creative process, experimenting with me on new ideas for choreography or staging. We have performed in so many different situations together from muddy fields to senior centers, to nursery schools, to big theaters with Alborada and always to the Arts Council’s annual events: Open House, Communiversity, Three Kings Day Celebration and my Artist in Residency events in 2014! Looking forward to getting back to our live performances. I know you live by what my mother always told me: “Keep on dancing and celebrating your life!”

  3. Sharron

    Lisa’s passion is evident in everything she ever does ~ her performances her choreography her teaching. Lisa is one of the best teachers I have ever had ~ she can handle a class of many different levels and make corrections suited to each student’s style of dance. We would be lost without her

    • Lisa Botalico

      Thank you, Sharron! As one of my original students 20 years ago when I started teaching for the Arts Council, your love of dance has been such an inspiration to me and all the students. You have also shared my flamenco journey as a student and performer, supporting my creative process in class and on the stage. You were with me for so many Arts Council events including our wildly successful first flamenco “happening” performance in the old Arts Council loft, with standing room only; and also for our sold out Juerga performance at the temporary Arts Council’s Princeton Shopping Center location; and my Artist in Residence performance in the Solley Theater. I am looking forward to many more years of dancing with you wherever and whenever we have the opportunity again!

  4. maryanna paolinie

    I have been with Lisa for about 15 years and I am proud to be her fan, her student, and her friend. She is a remarkably gifted artist with limitless passion, energy, and multi-faceted talents. She is dedicated to her craft with professionalism and to her students with patience and understanding. During art’s dark hour during the pandemic quarantine, I am impressed how she began online instruction. It really showed the irrepressible ingenuity of the human spirit to continue; even when all was bleak. Coming from the business world, I have little outlet for expression. Therefore, I am immensely grateful to both Lisa and the Arts Council for bringing us this beautiful and cultural art form.
    With much gratitude,

    • Lisa Botalico

      Maryanna, I am so happy flamenco has provided you an outlet for your personal expression! Flamenco is such a perfect medium for dealing with the stresses of the business world. It has been a joy to teach you all these years. Your perseverance and dedication has been an inspiration to us all. Thank you for Zooming all these months. Looking forward to dancing with you in person this week!

  5. Grace

    There’s no one like Lisa in her ways to teaching and not to mention her incredible talent as a Choreographer, Artist and Director. You can begin with nothing – Skill and confidence – and end up as performing professionally in her productions if that’s your dream.

    • Lisa Botalico

      Thank you, Grace!
      We have indeed shared so many special dance experiences in classes and performances!
      Your sense of humor and spirit has brought so much joy to our classes. I hope to see you dancing again soon!

  6. Keiko Yamada

    1 year has past since I started to learn flamenco with Lisa at Art council.
    Lisa’s lesson is energetic and passionate!
    I am so grateful to Lisa and Art council, because I got a chance to meet her and other students!

    • Lisa Botalico

      Keiko, it has been such a pleasure meeting you and teaching you! You have made so much progress. Thank you for taking the Zoom classes and the summer camp too. I am looking forward to seeing you dancing again in person next Friday!

  7. Tessa Sherman

    These on line classes have been a life saver for me! Thank you, thank you to Lisa for having the passion and grace to be able adapt to online teaching so that she could extend her studio into my home!
    I have been a long time student of Lisa’s and absolutely love her. Her energy pushed me physically to greater technique and her creative spirit challenged me in new directions; – then I moved away to North Carolina 4 years ago. I really missed my flamenco and couldn’t find another “Lisa”!
    In this trying time of being shut down, there is a good thing to come out of it for me:
    I have been able to continue my flamenco journey! It has meant so much for me to be able to continue the connection with Lisa and all my other flamenco friends that used to be in my class! Suddenly I had class to look forward to again! I had steps to practice and a goal to work toward! Wednesdays have been the bright spot in my week, kept me sane and given me an expressive outlet. We are a community with a unified passion for this dance form.
    Thanks so much to the Arts Council and Erin for making this possible! It has meant so much to me!

    • Lisa Botalico

      Thank you, Tessa!
      One of the highlights of the Zoom classes has been seeing you “in” class again. Your special energy and passion for flamenco “zooms” out to us virtually in every class.
      Tuesday afternoon Zoom classes will continue AND we also hope to offer a hybrid option for the in-person Wed night class.

  8. Jan Bhaskar

    I would love to add a comment about Lisa, and how she has enriched my life, and many others, with her fierce passion for flamenco and her committed nurturing of the art form. Ever since I began taking lessons with Lisa, her classes became the highlight of my week. There is something addictive about gathering with similarly obsessed individuals to practice the joy of this dance form, under the tutelage and guidance of a person like Lisa, who lives and breathes flamenco!
    Lisa, you are truly a force of nature and the zoom classes were most definitely a lifesaver!
    Although the online classes can be sometimes quite challenging for the pupils and particularly the teacher, we became accustomed and adapted. (I have always loved your use of imagery, humor and emotion when explaining the nuances of a particular movement, and it is particularly effective for this method of teaching, when we can’t necessarily rely on a mirror for self-correction.)
    Yoko put it very succinctly, there are many of us who must dance to live, and thanks to your inspiration we were able to get through this isolation without going completely insane.
    Thanks to the Arts Council for making it happen!

    • Lisa Botalico

      Words can’t express how grateful I am to read your words, Jan!Nor can they express how grateful I am for the dedication and passion you and all my students bring to your dancing and to our classes. At this time in our lives it is so important to stay connected by channeling our emotional consciousness into self expression through art. We are lucky because Flamenco is the perfect vehicle for sharing personal and collective emotions. See you in class very soon!

  9. Libby Ramage

    I first came upon Lisa and flamenco while working in the office of the original arts council building in the mid 90’s. Her black skirted students would descend on us with a lot of loud music and thumping energy…..
    Later in 2006, while teaching a Saturday morning children’s class at the temporary arts council at the Princeton Shopping Center, I finally saw up close what the art form was and her fantastic teaching. The rest is history. I have been a devoted student ever since. Lisa has led me on a journey that has impacted my own art making as well as the experience of movement as a tremendous creative process through the beautiful music of flamenco. Ole!

    • Arts Council Marketing Team

      What wonderful memories. Thank you for sharing, Libby!

    • Lisa Botalico

      I am honored to be part of Libby’s flamenco journey. Flamenco is not just a past time, it is a way of looking inside one’s self through a new lens. Libby is a great visual artist who has been able to translate her understanding of flamenco into her art. She collaborated with me when I was Artist in Residence in 2014, integrating her live painting and projections into my choreography. We have continued to explore possibilities over the years and I am looking forward to many more collaborations. We are both very grateful to the Arts Council for providing this incredible opportunity to us.

      • Anonymous

        I have been remiss in not expressing my heartfelt gratitude to the arts council for giving both Lisa and I opportunity to share our creative collaborations. I’m especially glad that they support Lisa’s flamenco programs. She is such a gifted choreographer and creative producer that we all benefit from these performances. Thank you Erin for facilitating the zoom classes to keep us going!

  10. June Fialkowski

    I started dancing flamenco with Lisa when the lessons were offered through Union College. At the time I was newly retired and looking for things to keep me busy. Although I had no idea what flamenco was I figured I like to dance so I would give it a try. I was totally hooked after only a few lessons. Lisa’s enthusiasm was evident from the very beginning. She was then and is now a phenomenal teacher.
    It’s been five years now that I’ve been taking lessons and thanks to Lisa I can even take her intermediate classes.
    When the pandemic hit l was worried that it would be the end of my flamenco lessons. My thanks go out to the Arts Council and Erin Armington for arranging for Lisa to teach virtually and for arranging classes in Solley theater.
    Most of all many many thanks to Lisa Botalico. Ole! Lisa! You are truly an inspiration to all of your students?

    • Arts Council Marketing Team

      June, this is so lovely. Thank you so much for sharing your story and for your kind words. Ole!

    • Lisa Bottalico

      Thank you, June!
      It has been a joy watching your progress and passion for flamenco shine through. Looking forward to teaching you in person soon and virtually as well.

  11. Yoko Ito

    For me, Lisa’s zoom classes’re light of hope during the self quarantine.
    I am thankful to her and Art council for giving us who need dance to live !!

    • Arts Council Marketing Team

      Thank you Yoko! Keep dancing!

    • Lisa Bottalico

      Yoko, I am always so happy to see you in Zoom classes! It has been so special to be able to keep dancing “together” virtually during the quarantine. It was also so great seeing you in summer camp and I am looking forward to our in person classes next week.