A FLAIR FOR FLAMENCO
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.”
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.”
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 Theater. In 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.