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Flamenco
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Olga Pericet – Flamenco Untitled

by Robert Abrams
April 9, 2015
Repertorio Español
138 East 27 Street
New York, NY 10016
212-225-9999
Olga Pericet presented "Flamenco Untitled" at Repertorio Español. She should have called it "Flamenco Liberated".

Much of the show seemed, to my eye, to be a series of experiments grounded in traditional Flamenco while also diverging from tradition. I might call it contemporary Flamenco, if I didn't think the label "contemporary" was highly problematic in general. The show was, certainly, often unexpected relative to what I understand to be Flamenco norms (starting with the photo on the cover of the printed program, which showed Ms. Pericet in a traditional Flamenco outfit, giving no clue away about the innovation to follow). For instance, Flamenco dancers often seem to grow stronger as they grow older, unlike dancers in many other forms. Ms. Pericet comes across as a young dancer. (I think she is relatively early in her career, but there is some confusion on this point that I am trying to resolve.) Sometimes her youthfulness worked against her, but then, sometimes it worked. Overall, my impression was that sometimes Ms. Pericet's dancing was good, but when it clicked, she was very good. In the early numbers of the show, her dancing clicked multiple times. So, enjoyable, with flashes of potential. Later numbers in the show were consistently very good. She wasn't on the same level as Sara Baras yet, but in time perhaps she could be.

And then. And then the show came to the last number. Ms. Pericet was dressed in a black pant suit with a black Bolero jacket with gold adornment intended to look like coins. Now her hair was loose, flowing down her shoulders and back (before it was in a tight braid). All rooted in traditional Flamenco, but simpler. Modern. Her dancing seemed looser now too.

Before, Ms. Pericet often seemed doll-like. That's not bad, just unexpected in Flamenco where the norm is grounded power. Now in the last number she suddenly seemed less doll-like. Different from her dancing before, and different from what one might expect in traditional Flamenco. Bare arms. Liberated. Not a traditional Flamenco image, but it worked because she seemed to be confident without overthinking her dancing. Her movement had almost a West Coast Swing sensibility, with more stamping. Or an emerging rock star, if a rock star danced Flamenco.

I wouldn't call her dancing in this number virtuosic, so much as a subtle flow for the whole number. Consistent and extended subtle flow is as difficult to achieve as isolated virtuosic leaps, aerials and such. Subtle flow is a hallmark of certain styles of dance, like West Coast Swing, in contrast to, for example, Lindy Hop. Subtle flow is as difficult to describe as it is to achieve – Ms. Pericet had it and it was beautiful.

This was a style of Flamenco that doesn't need a dancer to mature. This style of Flamenco felt very true to herself, so it worked to her strengths and her stage of her career. (I would also love to see other Flamenco dancers with a range of experience try it to see what happens.)

As the number went on, Ms. Pericet grew into a relaxed, extended abandon.

Here, clearly, was a Modern woman.

Sometimes as a critic, all I ask for is one number that is truly superior and without doubt. This was it.

And as no small bonus, this style of Flamenco has the potential to create a bridge between two seemingly unrelated dance styles - Flamenco and Swing - in much the same way that Swango bridged Swing and Tango. The dance community is often very fragmented, so anything that even might bring us together is a good thing.

***

While I was ecstatic about the last number in the show, and only enthusiastic to varying degrees about the rest of the show, I feel there were many parts of the show that were worthy of continued development. While there are likely many possible directions the show could take, I would suggest that Ms. Pericet collaborate with a playwright. A narrative might add drama, and give Ms. Pericet something to dance against and with, to find ways to sharpen the show. A narrative can also be thought of as an Aristotelian Action, which could be a useful way of thinking about melding a plot line with dance. She might want to add a second dancer for similar purposes. This wouldn't be to change the show so much as to intensify what is already there: Ms. Pericet's dancing felt true to herself - if she could find ways to be more so she might be able to lift the entire show up another level.

Overall, "Flamenco Untitled" was worth attending for the dance, the live music, and the dance and music together. The last number was brilliant. Ms. Pericet was expressive, conceptually and kinetically (both in the rhythmic, sonic ways one expects of Flamenco dancers, and sometimes in silent footwork like a top ballet dancer too). I have no doubt her next show will be as talented, inventive and thought provoking as "Flamenco Untitled" was, and probably more so.

A dancer can only be helped by a great space. Repertorio Español is a beautiful, intimate theater. Especially if you have an interest in Spanish culture, my experience watching "Flamenco Untitled" suggests that Repertorio Español's future productions will be worth consideration too.
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