Creativity…Comedy…Class. These three elements make up the revolutionary Flamenco dancer – Olga Pericet. Originally from Spain, Pericet is a master of both Classical Spanish dance, as well as Flamenco. In 2018, she won the National Dance Prize of Spain, and has continued to amaze audiences across the globe.
In her most recent performance at the historic Ford Theatre, Pericet presented an autobiographical story of her personal struggles, memories, and dreams. La Espina (which in translation means “The Thorn”) was an intricate combination of theatre, music, and movement that left the audience feeling…curious. Curious to understand more, curious to understand why. The tagline to this title was “The thorn that dreaming of being a flower OR The flower that dreamed of being a dancer.” As you can see – even the title sparks curiosity!
If you have never seen Olga Pericet, picture a doll, whose remarkable balletic technique and hypnotizing castanets leave viewers mesmerized by her grace as she floats and spins across the stage. And if you have seen her perform before, then this is exactly what you would expect to see at her performance. Perciet opened the show with a classical Spanish piece… which abruptly got interrupted by shoes being thrown from all sides of the stage! Naturally, the audience was shocked by such an unexpected turn of events. Pericet removed her ruffled skirt at this point and stayed on stage wearing black leggings, a leotard and street shoes. She then began an extended comic episode, in which she was imitating other dance styles, making jokes, and ultimately, collected all the shoes that were thrown on the stage into her pants. The audience laughed, the audience applauded, but the audience was also a bit confused.
This was not traditional Flamenco. This was not what people expected to see when seeing a show advertisement of a beautiful woman in a majestic bata de cola. So what was she doing? Why was she doing this? Personally, as a dancer, I can appreciate and understand that times are changing, and with those times, dance is also changing. Artists have stories to tell and points to make, and they do it through their art. Actors do it through their films/plays, dancers do it through their movements, and musicians do it through their music.
By the way, a word about the music – this show consisted of excerpts of recorded music, as well as live Flamenco accompaniment. Pericet had two incredible guitarists (one of which was female), two soulful singers, and one powerful male dancer. Again, using recorded music for a live Flamenco show is contradictory to what Flamenco is, but Pericet was not afraid of breaking this tradition. The set decor was disturbingly creative, as well. There was a very large thorn branch on stage for the entire duration of the show, which Pericet interacted with at certain points in the show. Sometimes she would hang things on it; other times she would get tangled in it. But this thorn definitely seemed to be a recurring motif of the show. Besides the branch, the company utilized tables, chairs, and props to create a new “scene” for almost every number. The transitions were flawless and all the performers stayed “in character,” to illustrate that the musicians/singers were also personalities in each story.
It seemed like there were multiple plots intertwined into one main idea – transformation. In every scene, the element of struggle was evident, whether it was a love struggle between man and woman, or an internal struggle within the artist herself. Some numbers ended happily, while others ended with a death scene. The increased amount of dramatic events in each number was a bit hard to follow and comprehend. Did each piece relate to the one prior, or were they all separate representations of moments of Pericet’s life? The common denominator seemed to be that the resolution of each of these struggles would lead Pericet to transforming herself into a new person.
Psychologically speaking, the idea makes sense. We all go through certain experiences that help us learn, overcome, grow, and transform into (hopefully better) different versions of ourselves. I think that Pericet’s creativity is brave but rebellious, tasteful but strange. Appeasing lovers of Flamenco with a show like this is risky because “Flamenco snobs” (if you will) probably would not understand her ideas. They would not approve of the untraditional and unconventional ways of performing this art form. But in Pericet’s defense, being different is the only way to be known, respected, and truly make a difference in the world of art. If an artist has a message to deliver, and he/she can find an avenue through which to deliver it, then I believe people should be open-minded and willing to take a new perspective on an old tradition.
We often think about what makes a good dancer differ from a great dancer, or a good show differ from a great show. Why do we even go to watch shows? Besides the obvious answers such as technique, expression, etc., I truly believe that a great dancer, or great performer, rather, will be able to make the audience feel something. Whether that feeling is joy, anger, sadness, confusion, inspiration, or disgust, if the performer made you feel a certain way, then they did their job. Olga Pericet’s technique is exquisite, her movements – masterful, and her performance – impressive. Everyone who saw this performance will surely remember it, and that is what makes it a great show, and her a great performer. Ole!