Review – Olga Pericet – 2012 Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival

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To break in this year’s Flamenco Festival at Sadler’s Wells, I scheduled a visit for the one night Olga Pericet was to grace the stage. I didn’t know who she was, but how much the better to see a new face than just to relive the pleasures of the familiar!

The show started with a barefooted woman in a frilled skirt sat uncomfortably on a chair at the front left of the stage, her knees and arms raised, looking very much like a doll with limbs akimbo. As the music started, she eventually began spinning her hands in the swirls I associate with beautiful guitar runs, little circles of musicality that eventually were also taken up by her feet.

Then a black garbed man approached her and began to move her around to the music, making her seem more Copellia-like than ever. He held her up by the shoulders so she could do amazingly fast entrechats – her feet a blur in the air – then tossed her over his shoulders as if she had no genius of her own at all. He was caring, though, very much seeming a Dr Coppelius (or Pygmalion) in love with his porcelain creation.

Next we moved into some guitar and singing – lovely – and “the doll” appeared (now clearly to me Olga and not another dancer, but still stunningly petite in comparison to the six or so men singing, clapping, and playing guitar behind her). Dressed in red with a buff floral shawl wrapped around her, she looked both all joy and all business. The dance, though, seemed very much designed to show off mastery of shawl-work, with every move in the book (wrapping the ends around the wrists, swirling it around the body, tossing an end around the shoulder just so) done as if checking off a list. This was to the expense of showing better emotional connection to the music or (nearly entirely) good footwork – it seemed workmanlike to me and lacking in spirit. Except – there was one movement fairly early on where the fringe, as it flew out around her wrists, suddenly reminded me of the feathers of a fighting bantam rooster. At the end she went for showing off her dancing more, and I felt her and her accompanists working together, but otherwise this section left me a bit dry.

Without notes, I can’t provide a complete order of events, but the modern dancer returned a lot, and I feel between his dancing and the low key scenery (two curtains), we were given a well-designed, satisfying evening. His final turn came when Olga returned in a sparkly, black bata de cola dress, the long train somehow looking like the hood of a cobra. And the man danced like a character from some Almodovar movie who had become obsessed with a flamenquera, worshipping her skirt and every bit of flamenco about her, while being entirely unaware of the human being beneath the dress.

He disappeared and Ms Pericet got on with the important business of the evening, dancing with this long and heavy lump of fabric following her everywhere. Again, I felt like she was working through a lot of display of technique without doing enough dance; a problem as it should not be the props driving the dancer.

This said, I still feel like Ms Pericet came of as a dancer of considerable charisma, at her best in the middle section with a short dress and nothing more than her own moves to show off. She has to step away from her props and let her own music drive the dance; but with her good sensibility as a creator of an evening of performance and her innate skills as a dancer, I feel certain she will be well worth seeing dance in the future.

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