Lee Otterholt, born in the US of Norwegian-American parents, lived and worked most of his life in Norway as a professional dancer, dance teacher and choreographer. In Norway he founded and led the Center for International Folk Dance in Oslo, Norway. He was a professor of folkloristic dance at the Norwegian National College of Ballet and at the University College of Oslo. He was responsible for the establishment of 4 still-active folk dance clubs and 3 performing groups in Norway. He led these groups to festivals all over Europe. He also produced teaching materials (videos, books and CDs) on folk dance for use in the Norwegian school system. He has a professional education in choreography and was one of the choreographers of the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway in 1994.
The last 20 years Lee Otterholt has been active on the international scene, teaching international folk dance (“Balkan and Beyond”) at festivals, workshops and camps in Europe, the US and Asia and leading folk dance cruises and tours to many part of the world. He moved to the US, to Laguna Beach, California in 2003. There he founded and led the international folk dance performing group “SYRTAKI,” and he is the lead singer in the BalkanBeat band “Zimzala.” He teaches regularly at local folk dance clubs in the area and teaches his own recreational folk dance group every Wednesday and Sunday evening at Laguna Woods. He is the chairman of the Laguna Folk Dance Festival. In 2015 he received the National Dance Award, presented at the San Antonio Folk Dance Festival.
Lee’s teaching emphasizes style: dancing well, not just “getting the steps.” Whenever he can, he also tries to bring improvisation, self-expression and spontaneity back into the folk-dancing traditions where these elements are a central part of the tradition. And he never loses sight of the fact that we recreational folk dancers dance because it is fun, and because these dances mean something to us – just as they were fun and meant something to the village dancers before us!
Zeibekikos performed by Lee Otterholt 2011