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Bonnie Rosenstock
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Performance Reviews
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Olga Pericet's 'Untitled' Goes Beyond Convention

by Bonnie Rosenstock
November 6, 2015
Repertorio Español
138 East 27th Street
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I thought of a great title for this article, “The Many Moods of Olga Pericet.” Then by chance, I saw that The New York Times review of her show carried the same headline. On one hand, it was fortuitous that I did, or I might have been accused of plagiarism. On the other hand, great minds, as it goes to the very heart and soul of this dynamic bailaora who defies definition.

Pericet commenced her 90-minute program "Untitled," dressed in a black form-fitting unitard with a white toreador jacket that opened at the armpits to allow freedom of movement. She was accompanied by her accomplished three-piece ensemble, guitarist Antonia Jímenez and singers Ismael Fernández and José Angel Carmona, who also played mandolin. The only prop on the intimate stage was a suspended overhead lamp with one light bulb, whose glare was somewhat blinding. Thankfully, it was turned off for later dance numbers.

Pericet’s footwork was peerless. Her supple torso undulated and grew even longer as she mimicked the movements of a toreador about to make her kill. She deftly used small castanets, which made an interesting clear sound. This, and the last dance, a reprise of sorts, also in black unitard (with a different toreador jacket) were the most riveting and satisfying dances of the evening.

Pericet doesn’t only perform Flamenco, but is also a renowned master of Spanish classical dance, “Escuela Bolera,” or Bolero, which was invented in Spain in the late 18th century. (Distant Pericet relations are also great practitioners of this discipline.) The dance is accompanied by guitar, vocals, the use of castanets and apparently, eye-popping dresses. Pericet performed two light-hearted Boleros wearing a coquettish smile, twinkling eyes and a billowing red tutu that looked like it had exploded around her body. Her castanet work and dancing were superb, but one can understand why it has been overshadowed by the more dynamic, passionate Flamenco.

She also performed a sublime Flamenco with a fringed manton (shawl) that was as big as she was. She flung it around with ease, creating glorious shapes around her body and in the air. Covering all bases, the versatile Pericet did a traditional long-train (bata de cola) number, but it wasn’t as strong as this serious, elegant dance necessitates.

Pericet has a commanding larger-than-life stage presence, so it was a surprise to see how petite she is. We talked one-on-one (in Spanish) in her cramped dressing room, hemmed in by her bright costumes. I asked her how she felt after the performance. I told her that I felt exhausted, yet exhilarated. For her, it was like floating. “Like you are in a trance, there’s no reaction, everything feels clean. It’s a gift from my soul. I bring everything and enter into another place. I don’t really know what has happened.”

Why did she choose to entitle her show “Untitled”? She told me that Flamenco is very structured in the sense that it’s very traditional, “puro” or “purista,” but not up to date. “There are limitations that I think are good, but like all arts, you shouldn’t close it. We should have it open according to the times in which we live,” she said.

She continued, “It’s my personal style, so I didn’t want to give it a title. I wanted to leave it open to the imagination, according to the emotions that I see. [The production] has an essential dramatic thread but not a particular theme. I wanted it to be, let it flow. It’s especially good for New York. Each person who sees it can put on their own title.”

One of the hallmarks of Flamenco is improvisation within the structure, and so it is within Pericet’s original choreography. “I always need to leave space for improvisation. There are times when I need it,” she acknowledged. “First, because not every day is the same. Since there are solos, it allows me to do this. Flamenco is very passionate, very in the moment, spontaneous, alive, like a jazz session. It’s an art that has a great deal of communication. Even in very fixed parts, if I need it, I say ‘my space’ and whatever happens, happens.”

There are marked cues for the singers and guitarist, but she gives them the liberty to take their space, too, “so it flows,” she said. “If a person comes more than one time, they will see within the structure of the show a lot of different things happening.”

When I was in Madrid in June there was a month-long festival, “Suma Flamenca,” an incredible gathering of the finest musicians, singers and dancers. People told me that Pericet, 39, was one of the most interesting and innovative performers. Born in Córdoba (southern Spain), she knew when she was eight years old that she wanted to be a dancer. “It was in the streets,” related the 18-year Madrid resident.

Unfortunately, I missed her one-night-only, full-scale, 14-member production of “Pisadas” (translated as footprints or footsteps). The theme was the liberation of women over the customs, popular festivals and rituals that hold them back.

“The show was about how to break the limitations that are put on women, the lives they have to live simply because of customs and traditions,” she related. “In many arts, especially in Flamenco, there is machismo which limits women.”

Pericet has proven that for her there are no limits, and no title to define or confine her.
Olga Pericet, 'Flamenco Sin Título.

Olga Pericet, "Flamenco Sin Título.

Photo © & courtesy of Paco Villalta

Olga Pericet with her company, from left to right. Guitarist, Antonia Jiménez Arenas; singers Ismael Fernández and José Angel Carmona Manzano.

Olga Pericet with her company, from left to right. Guitarist, Antonia Jiménez Arenas; singers Ismael Fernández and José Angel Carmona Manzano.

Photo © & courtesy of Paco Villalta

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